April 19, 2023
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Once you've tasted Vermont maple syrup, all the store brands taste like goo! So my ears picked up one night when NBC Nightly News started talking about the troubles that Vermont maple farmers were having that year. They focused on one farmer who lived on a farm where they've been mapling for eight generations! This farmer had known that the maple trees were ready to be tapped for their valuable sap during the first week of March. But recent weather changes had suddenly thrown that predictable harvest schedule into total confusion.
The previous year, he and his son nearly lost a third of their normal maple sap because it was either too soon or too late to capture it. For all those eight generations, this family had used one time-honored method of tapping their maple trees; a spout on the tree and a bucket underneath. But there's this new technology, I guess, that enables a farmer to know when the sap is ready and to capture it in that brief window. But tubes and vacuums seemed pretty foreign to a man who'd known one way that worked all his life and for generations. But after all they lost that previous year, his son finally convinced him. His son's comment was, "It takes some coercion to get him to go along with new ideas, for sure." But the veteran farmer did it. The NBC News reporter identified why. He would do anything to keep the farm for his son. In the reporter's words, "Even if it means doing what he hates the most - changing his old ways."
I'm Ron Hutchcraft and I want to have A Word With You today about "The Cost of Not Changing."
When the method you know, and the method you're comfortable with is costing you the harvest, you change or you lose the harvest. How can that lesson be lost on those of us who have joined Jesus in what He came to earth to do - seeking and saving the lost? Jesus actually called the work of bringing people to Him harvest. And honestly, there's a harvest many believers and many ministries may be losing because we hate to change.
While North American Christians have built this massive Christian subculture, we've been losing our culture. And the lost people around us have changed dramatically. They don't know God's rules; they don't know God's Book; they don't know the religious words we use; they don't ever plan to go to any of our religious meetings. But in many cases, we're deciding what we'll do to reach them based on what we're comfortable doing; what we're used to. But since when does a rescuer decide what he's going to do based on what's comfortable for him? He does whatever he has to do to save that dying person, and it's seldom comfortable!
Listen to God's greatest harvester, the Apostle Paul, in 1 Corinthians 9:22, our word for today from the Word of God. He says, "I have become all things to all men that by all possible means I might save some." Just before this, he's told us that when he's with the Jews, he comes in a Jewish package; when he's with the Gentiles, he's as Gentile as God will allow him to be; when he's with those who need an uncomplicated presentation of Christ, he becomes what they need. All the time making sure he is never "ashamed of the Gospel of Christ" (Romans 1:16) as he said.
And Paul followed a Savior who constantly changed the package and the presentation to break through to changing audiences. But Paul and His Savior never changed the product! They never compromised their message! Like that Vermont farmer, we're harvesting the same product, but we've got to be willing to change the way we get it as much as the harvest requires.
So are you willing to change so we can bring in the harvest of lost lives? Will you, for example, learn to tell them about Jesus in their words like a missionary does in a foreign culture, and not just speak our Christianese? Are you willing to use the kind of program, the kind of music, the kind of package that speaks the language of the person you're trying to reach? Are you willing to reach them in locations where they're comfortable and maybe you're not? Are you willing to introduce the Gospel by starting with needs they care about?
We might be talking change here; it's what we hate to do the most. But the cost of not changing is much higher than the cost of changing. Because that might be souls lost forever, maybe because we wouldn't change.