Southeastern District Lutheran Church Missouri Synod
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Blog: Discerning Your Mission Field

Discerning Your Mission Field

“…Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes and look at the fields, for they are already white for harvest.” (John 4:35)
In Rivertown, a dwindling church attendance and community disconnect prompted the church leaders to rethink their mission strategy, drawing inspiration from agrarian principles. They ventured into the community, gathering insights and identifying a crucial need for career guidance among the youth. This led to the innovative transformation of their church land into a dual-purpose entity: a community garden that served as a fertile ground for both agricultural learning and career development. The initiative combined practical farming experience with career-building workshops, engaging volunteers from various professions to nurture both the land and the hearts with the love of Christ!

This strategic initiative sparked a remarkable transformation within the town, turning the church garden into a catalyst for spiritual, vocational and community development.

The Rivertown church’s story illustrates a powerful model of missional discernment and engagement, where addressing specific community needs leads to renewed church-community connections and mutual growth, proving that even in the face of decline, grace-enabling community-focused approaches can lead to flourishing outcomes.

In the context of John 4:35, Jesus is urging His disciples to deliberately and attentively observe the broader “fields” or areas of human life, indicating that they are ripe and ready for spiritual harvest.

The early church existed in a predominantly agrarian society where fields and harvests were integral to daily life and economic survival. The imagery of fields ready for harvest would have been immediately understandable and relatable to the first-century audience, signifying a time of urgency and action.

The early Christians took the command to “look at the fields” as a call to evangelistic action. They saw the world as ripe for the gospel, necessitating immediate and dedicated missionary work. The notion of fields also represented community areas or regions where the church was active. Early Christians often traveled across various regions (fields) to spread the teachings of Jesus, establishing communities of believers.

These Christians lived with an eschatological urgency, believing that the end times were imminent. The fields being “white for harvest” symbolized the need to gather souls for the kingdom of God before the final judgment and the missionary zeal of early Christians, who took seriously the commission to spread the gospel and saw their mission in cosmic and eternal terms.

How to Discern Your Mission Filed?

1. Community Observation and Assessment:

• Like inspecting fields, regularly engage with your community to understand its dynamics, needs, and readiness for spiritual engagement.

• Plan outreach efforts based on community readiness, cultural conditions, and available resources, similar to planning a harvest schedule.

2. Spiritual and Relational Cultivation:

• Ensure the “soil” of your community is nurtured through prayer, fellowship, and service, akin to soil and crop management in farming.

• Address spiritual “pests” like apathy or hostility with love, patience, and persistent gospel witness, and “fertilize” the community with acts of kindness and service.

3. Resource and Volunteer Mobilization:

• Allocate church resources such as time, people, and finances effectively to support mission initiatives, mirroring the resource allocation in farming.

• Train and equip volunteers with the necessary skills for various outreach tasks, ensuring they understand their roles and the mission’s goals.

4. Engagement and Harvesting:

• Implement evangelistic and service-oriented activities tailored to the community’s characteristics, similar to using the right harvesting techniques for different crops.

• Be attentive to the timing and methods of outreach, ensuring they are culturally sensitive and effective in engaging the community.

5. Evaluation and Adaptation:

• After outreach efforts, engage in post-mission activities such as follow-up, discipleship, and integration into church life, reflecting post-harvest handling in agriculture.

• Continuously analyze the effectiveness of mission strategies and community responses, ready to adapt and improve methods, akin to the agricultural practice of assessing and refining farming techniques for better yields.

Discussion Questions

• How can the practice of regular community observation and assessment, akin to inspecting fields, help us better understand and meet the spiritual and physical needs of our local community?

• In the process of spiritual and relational cultivation, how do we identify and address the “spiritual pests” like apathy or hostility in our community, and what role does persistent gospel witness play in this context?

• Reflecting on the resource and volunteer mobilization step, how can we more effectively identify, allocate, and utilize our church’s resources and talents to meet the specific needs of our mission field?

• Considering the engagement and harvesting phase, what principles can guide us in creating culturally sensitive and effective evangelistic and service-oriented activities that resonate with our community’s unique characteristics?

• In light of the evaluation and adaptation step, what mechanisms can we put in place to ensure continuous learning and improvement in our mission work, and how can we ensure these adjustments are in line with God’s vision for our community?