If The Christian Church Was An Apple Picking Society, What Kind Of Apple Picker Would You Be?

Original post at davidjoannes.com

 

apples003

Warning: Get ready for a massive shift in perspective!

This witty story helps make sense of the ridiculously lopsided allocation of Christian workers to unreached peoples in the 10/40 Window. [CLICK TO TWEET]

For more frustrating statistics on missionary work in the 10/40 Window, see Chances Are, You Don’t Care and The Great Imbalance Of Global Missions.

Orchard Parable: The Society for the Picking of Apples

Once upon a time there was an apple grower who had acres and acres of apple trees. In all, he had 10,000 acres of apple orchards.

One day he went to the nearby town. There, he hired 1,000 apple pickers. He told them:

“Go to my orchards. Harvest the ripe apples, and build storage buildings for them so that they will not spoil. I need to be gone for a while, but I will provide all you will need to complete the task. When I return, I will reward you for your work.

“I’ll set up a Society for the Picking of Apples. The Society—to which you will all belong—will be responsible for the entire operation. Naturally, in addition to those of you doing the actual harvesting, some will carry supplies, others will care for the physical needs of the group, and still others will have administrative responsibilities.”

As he set up the Society structure, some people volunteered to be pickers and others to be packers. Others put their skills to work as truck drivers, cooks, accountants, storehouse builders, apple inspectors and even administrators. Every one of his workers could, of course, have picked apples. In the end, however, only 100 of the 1,000 employees wound up as full-time pickers.

The 100 pickers started harvesting immediately. 94 of them began picking around the homestead. The remaining 6 looked out toward the horizon. They decided to head out to the far-away orchards. [CLICK TO TWEET]

Before long, the storehouses in the 800 acres immediately surrounding the homestead had been filled by the 94 pickers with beautiful, delicious apples.
The orchards on the 800 acres around the homestead had thousands of apple trees. But with almost all of the pickers concentrating on them, those trees were soon picked nearly bare. In fact, the 94 apple pickers working around the homestead began having difficulty finding trees which had not been picked.

As the apple picking slowed down around the homestead, Society members began channeling effort into building larger storehouses and developing better equipment for picking and packing. They even started some schools to train prospective apple pickers to replace those who one day would be too old to pick apples.

Sadly, those 94 pickers working around the homestead began fighting among themselves. Incredible as it may sound, some began stealing apples that had already been picked. Although there were enough trees on the 10,000 acres to keep every available worker busy, those working nearest the homestead failed to move into unharvested areas. They just kept working those 800 acres nearest the house. Some on the northern edge sent their trucks to get apples on the southern side. And those on the south side sent their trucks to gather on the east side.

Even with all that activity, the harvest on the remaining 9,200 acres was left to just 6 pickers. Those 6 were, of course, far too few to gather all the ripe fruit in those thousands of acres. So, by the hundreds of thousands, apples rotted on the trees and fell to the ground. [CLICK TO TWEET]

One of the students at the apple-picking school showed a special talent for picking apples quickly and effectively. When he heard about the thousands of acres of untouched faraway orchards, he started talking about going there.

His friends discouraged him. They said: “Your talents and abilities make you very valuable around the homestead. You’d be wasting your talents out there. Your gifts can help us harvest apples from the trees on our central 800 acres more rapidly. That will give us more time to build bigger and better storehouses. Perhaps you could even help us devise better ways to use our big storehouses since we have wound up with more space than we need for the present crop of apples.”

With so many workers and so few trees, the pickers and packers and truck drivers—and all the rest of the Society for the Picking of Apples living around the homestead—had time for more than just picking apples.

They built nice houses and raised their standard of living. Some became very conscious of clothing styles. Thus, when the 6 pickers from the far-off orchards returned to the homestead for a visit, it was apparent that they were not keeping up with the styles in vogue with the other apple pickers and packers.

To be sure, those on the homestead were always good to those 6 who worked in the far away orchards. When any of those 6 returned from the far away fields, they were given the red carpet treatment. Nonetheless, those 6 pickers were saddened that the Society of the Picking of Apples spent 96% of its budget for bigger and better apple-picking methods and equipment and personnel for the 800 acres around the homestead, while it spent only 4% of its budget on all those distant orchards.

The 6 pickers knew that an apple is an apple wherever it may be picked. They knew that the apples around the homestead were just as important as apples far away. Still, they could not erase from their minds the sight of thousands of trees which had never been touched by a picker.

They longed for more pickers to come help them. They longed for help from packers, truck drivers, supervisors, equipment-maintenance men, and ladder builders. They wondered if the professionals working back around the homestead could teach them better apple-picking methods so that, out where they worked, fewer apples would rot and fall to the ground.

The 6 pickers sometimes wondered to themselves whether or not the Society for the Picking of Apples was doing what the orchard owner had asked it to do. [CLICK TO TWEET]

While one might question whether the Society was doing all the owner wanted done, the members did keep very busy. Several members were convinced that proper apple picking requires nothing less than the very best equipment. Thus, the Society assigned several members to develop bigger and better ladders as well as nicer boxes to store apples. The Society also prided itself at having raised the qualification level for full-time apple pickers.

When the owner returns, the Society members will crowd around him. They’ll proudly show off the bigger and better ladders they’ve built and the nice apple boxes they’ve designed and made. One wonders how happy that owner will be, however, when he looks out and sees the acres and acres of untouched trees with their unpicked apples.

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Reach people who have never heard of Jesus before! Donate to Within Reach Global today.

You may also like:

What If There Were Only 7 Churches In North America?

Chances Are, You Don’t Care

Original version appeared in Let’s Quit Kidding Ourselves About Missions, by James M. Weber, missionary to Japan, Moody Press. © 1979 by The Moody Bible Institute. Edited and revised by Howard Culbertson.

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2012 IN REVIEW

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog. I’m pretty happy with it. I am inspired to finish my book in 2013—once I awake from zombie mode because of the recent birth of my baby girl! Yes, there’s a lot of sleep deprivation going on around the Joannes household right now, but there are glimpses of deep inspiration as well. I hope to draw on that inspiration to create a book that satisfies your craving for unique missionary stories.

Here’s an excerpt:

600 people reached the top of Mt. Everest in 2012. This blog got about 2,900 views in 2012. If every person who reached the top of Mt. Everest viewed this blog, it would have taken 5 years to get that many views.

Click here to see the complete report.

Chances Are, You Don’t Care

Original post at davidjoannes.com

 

toothy
Photo by Jacob Smith

I don’t mean to be rude, but I have to be honest: the odds are, mathematically, stacked against you.

THE 10/40 WINDOW

  • The 10/40 Window is home to 6,921 unreached people groups. (Joshua Project)
  • 2.82 billion people live in the 10/40 Window.
  • 82% of the world’s poorest of the poor live in the 10/40 Window. (SGWM)
  • Nearly 40% of the world’s population live on less than $1.40 per day in the 10/40 Window.
  • Although 2.8 billion of these people live within the 10/40 Window, only 2.4% of all missionaries work among them.

MONEY AND MISSIONS

  • Annual Income of All Church Members: $30.5 trillion.
  • Given to any Christian causes: $545 billion (1.8% of our income) That’s also how much we spend in America on Christmas.
  • Given to Missions: $31 billion, (0.1%). That’s only 5.7% of the money given to Christian causes of any kind. That’s also how much we spend in America on dieting programs.
  • Money that goes toward the reached world: $26,970,000,000 (that means 87% of the money given to “missions” goes to areas with “reached” status or access to the gospel already).
  • Money that goes toward unreached peoples: $310 million (that’s only 1% of what is given to “missions”). That’s also how much Americans in 2011 spent on Halloween costumes (for their pets).
  • The $310 million (going toward unreached people groups) is only .001% of the $30.5 trillion Income of Christians. For every $100,000 that Christians make, they give $1 to the unreached. (The Traveling Team, Money and Missions)

Excitement and empathy are not enough. Compassion must be put into motion.
It’s empathy with wheels. It’s care with commitment.
Like 1040 Hub says, “It’s where passion and action meet.”

One of my Facebook friends just commented on my status the other day. “I love to see all the neat stuff you’re doing over there on the weird side of the planet!”

I Liked that comment.

It struck me.
I got it.
It was a little more clear to me.

“Your experiences determine what you see,” Craig Groeschel says, and so I write about my weird side of the planet.

Tiger named himself in English. His Chinese name will go unmentioned for security reasons. The first time met him was at The Hub, the Within Reach Global student center where we are reaching out to college kids in the Southwest part of the country.

“There’s no way I will ever become a Christian,” he told me. “I am a communist party member. I can’t believe in God.”

“That’s totally up to you,” I replied.

I’ve found that the best way to share the gospel is to let people make their own decisions instead of force feeding them Jesus on a spoon, or in Tiger’s case, chopsticks. I knew God had his radar on him anyway, and it was only a matter of time before he embraced the life of Christ. “Poor guy! He can’t escape the power of the gospel even if he tried!” I thought to myself.

But Tiger kept coming to The Hub, engaging in relevant conversations about life, God and culture. He was there every Thursday, tricking himself into thinking that he could run from reality of a powerfully good God.

3 weeks after I met him, I asked, “So Tiger, do you believe in God yet?”

“I don’t believe in God, but I trust him.” he told me. “I don’t think he exists, but I feel him,” he continued in self defeating rhetoric. “I am not a Christian, but sometimes I pray to God.”

“I think you’re closer to becoming a Christian than you realize,” I told him with a roguish smile.

A few more weeks passed. Tiger began to realize God’s radar was zoning in on him. We began to see him transforming. “Yep, only a matter of time,” I thought.

After 10 months of sharing life with him, Tiger told us he wanted to become a Christian.

After The Hub English Corner, we found a quiet place in the back room, and prayed together. The atheist’s journey would end that night. A new young man was formed on the 22nd floor of our student center.

Soon after, he began telling his friends about God. He would lead discussions about how Jesus transformed his life. Chinese students listened amazed and confused at his life change.

A few weeks later, we baptized him in a lake at the foot of a thousand year old city.

An atheist turned evangelist. You’ve read stories of that before in Acts, and the 29th chapter is still being penned.

Barry, from the Yi tribe, had a similar story.

Lorna was talking to a group of 11 girls under the shadow of an ancient pagoda as the sunset turned pink and orange on the far horizon of a town 3 hours west of The Hub student center. The girls listened intently, but Barry kept interrupting her.

“I don’t believe in God! Let’s change the subject.” After 20 minutes of his constant interruptions, Lorna finally got fed up. “Why don’t you just shut up and listen!” she said boldly.

The lights clicked on.
A spiritual moment.
Something broke.

Barry gave his life to Christ that night, and couldn’t explain what happened, except that “I feel God’s presence right now,” he said.

Within a month he had led 21 of his friends to the Lord!

These are the stories of the 10/40 Window, where religion is suppressed, or worse, illegal.

But the forward progression of God’s life transforming movement can’t be bottled.

Brother Fu, who got saved after being set free from writhing on his dusty village floor in demon possession, agrees.

And Brother Li, who drunk punched our Within Reach Global local missionary after he shared the gospel in his village. He got saved 10 months later, attended Bible school and literacy training, and is now a missionary to his own people group.

  • All missionaries in the world (Catholic, Protestant, etc.)    419,500 foreign missionaries
  • All missionaries in the reached world    316,500 foreign missionaries (75.4%)
  • All missionaries in the unevangelized world    103,000 foreign missionaries (24.6%)
  • All missionaries in the unreached world    10,200 foreign missionaries (2.4%)
  • Full time Christian workers in the world    5.5 million workers
  • All Christian workers in the reached world    4.19 million local workers (75.9%)
  • All Christian workers in the unevangelized world    1.3 million local workers (23.7%)
  • All Christian workers in the unreached world    20,500 local workers (0.37%)
  • The ratio of unreached people group workers to total unreached world is: 1 missionary for every 278,431 people
  • There are 95,000 Evangelical Christians for every one unreached people group. (The Traveling Team, Missionaries and Workers)

in yao village
Photo by Jacob Smith

I have circuited most of Southwest China. I have eaten dog and cat and other, shall we say, “unique” delicacies. Not necessarily because I love the pungent taste of puppy and kitten so much. Not because a bowlfull of live grub worms is particularly delectable either. It’s because when you spend the night in the poorest of the poor tribal village, and they serve you the best they’ve got, it’s hard to turn down a meal and make your impoverished host lose face.

“Eat whatever is set before you.” I remember Jesus’s command, pull up my sleeves, and dig in.

They have never heard the name of Jesus. I know because when I ask, they question if “Jesus” is a brand of soap, or a medicine they’ve never heard of.

The reality of their status as an unreached people group gets under my skin. Or should I say, it really pisses me off. It makes me jealous.

“Why should anyone hear the gospel twice, before everyone has heard it once?”
~C.T. studd

I have traveled to too many unreached people groups to number. And after all these experiences, it is clear to me that God is still jealous for them to have a witness of the gospel.

“And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world, as a testimony to every nation, and then the end will come.”
~Matthew 24:14

Hasn’t God put a stipulation upon himself, that until every tribe, people, and linguistic ethnic group has had the opportunity to hear the message of salvation, he cannot return?

I think yes.

And so, I pray that the things that break the heart of God would in the very least, prick mine as well.

I am a statistic just like you. But I pray that the things revolving around our personal experience will not distract us from God’s overall plan of redemption, namely, that every people group on earth has the chance to hear about him.

I mean, seriously, in the 21st century, and 2 billion people have never heard of Jesus? That’s just not fair.

In 1976, there were an estimated 17,000 unreached people groups. As of 2012, there were only estimated 6,921 unreached peoples. The statistics are changing because Christians are beginning to see the bigger picture. (Joshua Project)

I know of only one way of changing the mathematical chance that I don’t care: it’s simply to care.

Care with commitment. For some that means with your wallet. For others it means with your hands and feet.

“In the vast plain to the north I have sometimes seen, in the morning sun, the smoke of a thousand villages where no missionary has ever been––villages whose people are without Christ, without God, and without hope in the world.”
~Robert Moffat, 1795-1883, missionary to Africa, father in law of David Livingstone

Put wheels on your empathy.
Be a voice for the voiceless.

The 10/40 Window will not be home to unreached people groups forever, because we’re going to get up and do something about it.

Get involved with reaching unreached people groups at 1040 Hub.

bong and shoed

I DON’T SPEAK AMERICAN CHRISTIANESE

Okay I admit it, I am confused. Maybe a little more than that. I am stupefied and astounded at the strange conversations of American churches and Christians.

I read a lot of blogs. I catch the latest and greatest debates on hipster pastor Mark Driscoll’s Calvinism versus the Arminianism world; Rob Bell’s love heaven and Francis Chan’s rebuttal on hell; the Mayans’ Armageddon, and the left, right and Christ of political conversations in the Church.

“Who would Jesus vote for?” Wait, heaven is a democracy, right?

Every side has a scripture to back up their claims, every party adamant about their views. What I don’t hear much of as hot controversial discussions are what I consider the more important of Jesus’s last commands, namely, go, therefore, and make disciples among every people, tribe, tongue and race. I mean, they’re on the table, but hot topic? Nah, not really.

That won’t get your blood pumping, now will it?

It’s all a tough pill for me to swallow. Really? Is this what matters? Are these the conversations of a vibrant, growing church, or are they the products of the supposed post-Christian era of America?

Out of content, I know, but Death Cab For Cutie’s lyrics seem apt anyway: “It’s like a book elegantly bound but in a language that you can’t read just yet.” I sense the anthem of that lyrical melody sung to me by millions of western Christians, good-hearted and sincere, to be sure, just slightly skewed in my humble opinion.

Or worse, irrelevant and ridiculous. But can I really be that honest here?

Here’s the problem—and perhaps somewhat of a disclaimer for my contemplations: I grew up my adult life outside America. Though I was born and raised in a Christian home in Arizona, I was bit by the mission bug early in life. At age fifteen, I went on my first mission trip to Russia with Teen Mania Ministries. The following year, Hong Kong and China, followed by India. At age eighteen, I bought a one-way ticket to China, and pioneered the beginnings of a mission organization my wife and I established called Within Reach Global. So I have been out of the mix for a while, and the conversations of American Church relevancy have continued in my absence.

I speak fluent English, but I’m still struggling with my American. Especially American Christianese.

The flashing lights and big sound systems of churches in America always dazzle me. I am privy to them when I travel back to America to raise funds for Within Reach Global. I see the sexy graphics on the big screen, gaga over the sleek mic setups of well-dressed pastors, and cringe a bit at the mint church structures.

It’s all a bit too perfect for me. It’s all a tad too sterile. But, disclaimer: that’s just me.

I’m a little confused. I’m just trying to figure out if that is the kind of church that I should be planting in Southeast Asia.

A chicken scampers across the floor. Baby cries and grandma shouts. We’re doing church on the border of China and Vietnam in a small Yao village where one of our church plants is located. It’s new and raw and oh so wonderful. It’s just the way I like to do Church: with lots of background noise. The presence of God falls among a tribe that until recently had never even heard what a Jesus was. They fall in love with God. There are no lights and keynote presentations. The strumming of a guitar, slightly out of tune, and singing off key, permeates the village home.

I think the Holy Spirit can appreciate the bareness of this church. That’s not to say that he doesn’t appreciate the sincerity of believers in mid-size or mega churches as well. God loves worship in spirit and in truth, but I don’t think he’s overly concerned with brand of sound system or tech, quality of graphics and perfectly scheduled services.

“The perfect church service would have been one we were almost unaware of,” said C.S. Lewis. “Our attention would have been on God.” He also said something to the effect of “99% of all church services are but a feeble attempt at worship.” I tend to agree. We want God to show up in our services, but sometimes he is simply stifled by the program and time restraints.

Is it okay to question the validity of modern approach to Church life? Euripides thought so. “Question everything. Learn something. Answer nothing.”

I don’t have an answer. This is more of a rant than anything. But in the end, I believe God is doing a redemptive salvation work in the nations that cannot be overlooked, and most certainly cannot be placed in perfect packaging with how-to instructions that we as humans often try to do.