Thursday, April 25, 2013

The missed opportunity

John 4 tells us the story of a life-changing conversation that Jesus has with a Samaritan woman. Perhaps utilizing His divine understanding or perhaps through careful observation (likely both), Jesus asks a few questions, discerns the state of the women's heart and then calls her to Himself through a gentle, seemingly easy conversation. With wonder in her eyes, the woman abandons her simple task of filling her water jar so that she can take on a greater mission: to tell everyone in her hometown that the Christ has come. In that context, Jesus declares every missionary's favorite newsletter quote: "Look, I tell you, lift up your eyes, and see that the fields are white for harvest." (John 4:35)

Given the familiarity of this story, it's easy to overlook the fact that Jesus wasn't simply trying to give us verses on which to hang our newsletters. Rather, He was giving His disciples an eye-opening rebuke. Let's take another look at this story, this time with the disciples in mind:
A woman from Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, "Give me a drink." (For his disciples had gone away into the city to buy food.) (John 4:7-8 ESV, emphasis mine)
The disciples rightly identified a problem: they were hungry. Being good servants of their Lord, they went off into the local town to get some food. Perhaps they even thought themselves very brave, since they were buying from the trouble-making Samaritans. Surely Jesus would be pleased by their willing sacrifice!
The woman said to him, "I know that Messiah is coming (he who is called Christ). When he comes, he will tell us all things." Jesus said to her, "I who speak to you am he."
Just then his disciples came back. They marveled that he was talking with a woman, but no one said, "What do you seek?" or, "Why are you talking with her?" So the woman left her water jar and went away into town and said to the people, "Come, see a man who told me all that I ever did. Can this be the Christ?" They went out of the town and were coming to him.
Meanwhile the disciples were urging him, saying, "Rabbi, eat." But he said to them, "I have food to eat that you do not know about." So the disciples said to one another, "Has anyone brought him something to eat?" Jesus said to them, "My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to accomplish his work. Do you not say, 'There are yet four months, then comes the harvest'? Look, I tell you, lift up your eyes, and see that the fields are white for harvest." (John 4:25-35 ESV, emphasis mine)
Upon the disciples' return, however, they found Jesus chatting it up with a local woman. This was shocking for several cultural reasons, but they chose not to ask about it. Instead, they began placing rations in front of Jesus, persistently encouraging Him to eat. It's then that Jesus tells them that they've missed the point.

The disciples were focused on a particular need: getting food. It's not a bad thing to need food - but it's not the point of their journey. Had they rightly understood their mission, they'd have looked up from the goods at the Samaritan marketplace and discovered a whole town full of people who were absolutely primed to hear the good news. It wouldn't have been a hard sell; all it took was a local woman (who was likely of ill repute) to rather inaccurately declare, "Come see a man who told me all that I ever did" and to ask, "Can this be the Christ?" The fields were white - no further work was required but to reap. Yet the disciples missed the opportunity for a spiritual harvest in favor of some morsels that would only leave them hungry again. (cf. John 4:13)

As fundraisers, you and I will be tempted to miss the very same opportunities.

Fundraising is about raising funds. But fundraising for the sake of the gospel is about the gospel first and fundraising second. We would do well to seek the former without neglecting the latter.

If you're meeting with a donor and he's bearing his heart to you, don't worry about going "off the script." Close your notebook, put aside your financial needs and love him. (Phil 2:4)

If you're calling someone to get a support appointment and she begins to weep for lost family members, leave behind your small goal of reaching quotas. Pray with her. Read Scripture to her. Weep with her. (Rom 12:15)

If you focus your efforts on fundraising, you'll surely get funds. If you focus your efforts on the Lord, you'll get Him - and everything else you need.
"Therefore do not be anxious, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you." (Matt 6:31-33)