Where no oxen are, the trough is clean;
But much increase comes by the strength of an ox.
– Proverbs 14:4
We come, once again, to that time of the year when we see the farmers hurtling around the lanes, sharing equipment and manpower to get the harvest in on those (rare) occasions when the sun actually shines! A great deal of effort is involved in farming all year around, but there are some seasons which seem to call for almost superhuman powers, and everything must take second place to agriculture.
So it is in the life of the church, in a season of Harvest, that is, of folks coming under conviction of sin and being saved by the power of the Holy Spirit. Then, there is plenty of work to do. In so seeking God’s blessing in the salvation of souls, we can be criticised, by those both inside and outside the church. Evangelism is hard toil, and time-consuming — especially if church members leave it (wrongly) to church leaders alone. Gospel work is difficult, time-consuming, expensive, messy, sometimes disappointing. The temptation to draw inwards and gaze at our own navels is pretty strong when numbers are low and resources are scarce.
But you could never run a farm in this way. Oh, the joy the farmer feels in seeing his steel trough all shiny, and the barn floor spick and span! Imagine him there sweeping every day, and polishing that trough until he can see his face in it… what utter nonsense! A working farm produces a lot of muck, be it mud … or the other type.
We can run a nice, clean ‘church’, that serves us. We can gather, doing what we’ve always done, going through the motions. We can fuss over details like rotas, or musical instruments, or cups versus mugs. Or we can move forward. Get serious about what God is serious about. Identifying consistently with a local church. Pleading in prayer. Being clear about what we believe and why. Loving one another even when it costs us something. Putting God first even when it costs us something. Being bold, and moving forward not with a view to our own limited resources, but with our eyes on the storehouse of Heaven. Brothers and Sisters — it is time to make a mess!