Being a forensic scientist, I admittedly don’t watch television series that depict my profession. Now I understand that in these shows, criminalistics is dramatized to be entertaining in a story line that can be completed in an hour. I also know that the public doesn’t realize that DNA analysis can’t be completed on a gas chromatograph mass spectrometer, or that acid fumes are not the common cause of meth lab explosions. But seeing a criminalist skilled enough to do the work in one hour of television, it takes ten people months to do in real life, makes me a little crazy. As a former colleague of mine, now producer of a popular forensic drama said, “This is television-if you want real life, watch a documentary.” And that is the point—television is not real life. No one person can do ten peoples’ jobs. Each has a skill set that complements the others. Patrol officers respond to and secure the crime scene. Detectives do the investigative leg work, take people into custody and interrogate suspects. Crime Lab responders document and collect evidence. Criminalists evaluate and examine evidence and report findings. The District Attorney’s Office coordinates prosecution once charges are filed. My point is the criminalist, as talented as they may be, cannot do everyone’s job. They can only do their own job.
Likewise, in following the Great Commission, each Christian is called to do what God has given them talent, initiative, resources and opportunity to do.
When I was very young, my parents took our family to hear Billy Graham speak. He was holding a crusade at the old Balboa Stadium in San Diego. I was only 1 ½ years old back then in 1964, so any memories I might have of being there are probably more from watching later crusades on television. Nonetheless, anyone who’s seen this event knows that the hallmark of any Billy Graham crusade is the stream of people who make their way to the center field and give their lives to Christ.
Evangelistic outreach started right after the birth of the Church and continues today. For example, the Billy Graham Evangelical Association still sponsors these events, even though Billy Graham himself has retired. In California, Harvest Christian Fellowship sponsors annual crusades in Anaheim and other large cities. And in recent years, technology has allowed on-line audiences to exceed stadium audiences at these events. According to their web site, Harvest Ministries has reached a staggering number of people.
Since 1990, Harvest Crusades has put on large-scale evangelistic outreaches around the United States and in Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. More than 5,006,000 people have attended a Harvest Crusade event in person, and more than 421,800 people have made professions of faith in Jesus Christ.
Billy Graham, whose ministry began in 1950, has preached to an estimated 215,000,000 people, and has led countless millions of those to Christ. And these are just two such ministries—there are many others with similar missions.
But such a public display of response to the Gospel message may leave some of us feeling that our own efforts fall short in comparison. Although we’ve shared the Good News, we’ve never been the one to “bring someone over the finish line” so to speak. To be honest, I haven’t personally led anyone to Christ by praying the sinner’s prayer with them. And knowing my propensity for weepiness at such a moment, I doubt I could do it without blubbering like an idiot. However, a few years ago an old friend approached me at our high school reunion, telling me that he’d been waiting years to share his amazing conversion testimony with me. After years of drug and alcohol abuse, he’d hit rock bottom. When he cried out to God that no one cared about him, the Holy Spirit said that I had been praying for him, mentioning me by name. He repented of his sins, and surrendered his life to Christ. I was grateful to hear the story, and humbled that God allowed me a “behind the scenes” look at my prayer life, showing me that my prayers do matter to him. It is always encouraging to see evidence of God using us for his glory. We share this story and many others in our book, Held by God, just for that purpose.
When the Apostle Paul wrote to the Church at Corinth, he explained that God is the master builder of the Church. We are all given different jobs to do to assist in that endeavor, but it is the Holy Spirit who brings people to a place of repentance and salvation through Jesus Christ.
What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe—as the Lord has assigned to each his task. I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow. So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. The one who plants and the one who waters have one purpose, and they will each be rewarded according to their own labor. For we are co-workers in God’s service; you are God’s field, God’s building. 1 Corinthians 3:5-9, NIV
Public speaking is not a talent that I possess, which is why court testimony is the worst part of my job. I’m one of those people who get nervous when a meeting leader insists that we go around the room and introduce ourselves. If God had wanted me to be a public speaker, he’d have made sure my mind didn’t go blank when a room full of people all turned simultaneously to listen to what I had to say. However, my job does provide me with a decent income which has enabled me to purchase START Bibles that are given out to new believers at Harvest Crusades. I’ve also had the privilege of partnering with the radio ministry of Thru the Bible which broadcasts the sermons of Dr. J. Vernon McGee worldwide. I have volunteered in the kitchen during women’s events at my church, and have shared my testimony in the book I co-authored with my sister. God has not given me an outgoing personality or the gift of voice projection, but he has given me a heart for service and the blessings of a good income that can be used for his glory.
Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. And God has placed in the church first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, of helping, of guidance, and of different kinds of tongues. 1 Corinthians 12:27-28, NIV
Yes, not all of us are called to reap the harvest like Billy Graham or Greg Laurie. Some of us are called to be seed planters, while others water and cultivate the sprouting seeds. This means that while the Holy Spirit may use the well-recognized harvesters to bring people into the Kingdom, it is only after he’s used the efforts of countless others to help prepare the people for that time of conversion. All of our roles are important in his work, not just the high-profile ones. In a conversation with his disciples, Jesus confirms this.
Don’t you have a saying, ‘It’s still four months until harvest’? I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest. Even now the one who reaps draws a wage and harvests a crop for eternal life, so that the sower and the reaper may be glad together. Thus the saying ‘One sows and another reaps’ is true. I sent you to reap what you have not worked for. Others have done the hard work, and you have reaped the benefits of their labor.” John 4:35-38, NIV
God’s word never returns void, so each time we share the Gospel with another, we are planting a seed. When we contribute our time, talent, and resources to faithful ministries, we water the seed. And when we pray over the people in whose lives the seeds of the Gospel have been planted, we cultivate the sprouting seeds. God may give us an opportunity to teach Sunday school, volunteer at a Rescue Mission, or assist with a prison ministry. He may open doors for us to go on a missions trip, coordinate Vacation Bible School, help usher, drive people to a crusade, or help build a new church for a community in Haiti. Some of us may be given a passion to teach Bible study, or become a prayer warrior who bathes every new encounter in heavenly petitions. Whatever the task he calls us to, he will give us the strength, the wisdom, and the resources to be salt and light in this dark world.
The grain cannot be harvested without the faithful planting, watering, and cultivation of the seed. God uses all of us to bring in the harvest.
On the journey toward Home,