We hope that with the series “The Harvesters,” you will be introduced to many different followers of Jesus who are striving to make disciples of Jesus out in the world; whether you’re in the military, a missionary, a scientist, a stay-at-home parent or anything else under the sun. Check out the full series here and may you be encouraged to do likewise in your own “fields of harvest.”
TELL US WHO YOU ARE AND WHERE YOU’RE LABORING IN THE HARVEST?
Ashley and Steve Smith. We have six wonderful little children between the ages of 10 months and 6 years old. We currently live in Washington, DC on a small military base in the city.
I find that I am easily drawn to thinking about large programs and worldwide efforts to achieve some large objective, such as, “the harvest.” Jesus’ own commands to make disciples of all nations and to serve as a witness to his kingdom to all nations both seem to encourage this perspective. However, if I hope to impact generations of men and women or to fulfil Jesus commands to reach the nations, I have to first reach one person. Jesus has recently been encouraging Ashley and I to clearly define our local efforts and stay there. For us, because I am in the Army, it works out to be the small base where we live. This focus then helps us answer other questions, like, “where will we go to the grocery store?” We try to stay local to increase the chances of interacting with the same people repeatedly so that we can learn how to love them well.
WHAT TYPE OF PEOPLE ARE YOU REACHING FOR JESUS?
I feel more comfortable saying that we are *trying* to reach our neighbors! We live in a relatively unique military community, which consists of members of every military branch in generally equal ratios. Our natural leaning has been to spend time with other families in a similar stage of life, which generally means that we spend time with mid-career, married couples who have small children. Our more intentional efforts have been focused on the small population of single members of the military who live in the barracks on base.
WHAT IS THE HARDEST THING ABOUT BEING IN YOUR HARVEST PLACE?
When Ashley and I met and married, we both had the opportunity to spend a significant amount of time working with incredibly healthy discipleship focused ministries in North Carolina, Georgia, and Washington state. I do not think that I can overemphasize how much of an impact those communities had on how Ashley and I currently think about loving our neighbors and making clear lordship decisions to focus our time and energy on God’s Kingdom. I am so thankful that we sacrificed early in our marriage to focus on learning from the men and women in those communities.
Once God called us away from those established communities, however, we had to figure out the mechanics of loving people without the benefit of a full-time minister supporting us while also maintaining a consistent rhythm of events to which we could invite people. We tried attending churches, in the traditional sense, but found that those cultures seem to focus so much on the events which occur on Sundays and Wednesdays, that people do not have much time or energy left for connections in everyday life. I have come to the hesitant conclusion that God’s kingdom advances through discipleship despite our organizations, not necessarily because of them.
About two years ago we came across a podcast on Into the Harvest in which Andrew interviewed Al Engler. This led to a series of conference calls with Al, in which he helped two other men and I think through some important tactical questions. I think Al’s perspective on reaching our neighbors and making very practical decisions around everyday life to that end has been the most helpful recent addition to our toolkit.
WHAT IS THE HARDEST THING ABOUT BEING IN YOUR HARVEST PLACE?
The hardest thing about being in the harvest sits somewhere between everyday life and everything else. I do not think there is anything uniquely hard about where we are working. I would imagine that anyone trying to live on this earth as an Ambassador of the Kingdom of Heaven would experience very similar challenges.
For Ashley and me, it seems that the day-to-day challenges of raising our children and remaining faithful to our work outside of the homes takes so much time and energy, that we often feel overwhelmed. This in turn forces us to consider our priorities and how those priorities in turn impact our everyday decisions. We must consistently consider how we can simplify life in order to focus time and energy on loving people. It then impacts almost everything: where to live, our children’s activities, our own hobbies – everything. Our broader culture places a premium on excellence in children’s activities, on comfort, convenience, and other values which do not necessarily align with a life committed to God’s Kingdom if we pursue them outright.
At the its best, our culture tries to encourage us to find some sort of balance. Living a life in the harvest, however, requires that we go about our time on earth as a living sacrifice with one priority (Romans 12.1- 2 and Matthew 6.33). Ashley and I both struggle to remain content in the face of our own sinful desires when the life God calls us to conflicts with those desires and requires continued dependence on his grace to accept his call.
WHAT HAS SURPRISED YOU THE MOST ABOUT BRINGING JESUS TO PEOPLE IN EVERYDAY PLACES?
I have been most surprised by how a faithful God continues to be. Faithful to teach us and to answer the challenges and difficulties He gives to us, as we seek His guidance and lean on His grace.
WHAT HAS ENCOURAGED YOU THE MOST ABOUT YOUR WORK (IN THE HARVEST)?
Personally, I have been most encouraged by watching my wife engage in her calling in a way that deals with her own failures and shortcomings while growing, maturing, and loving the big and little people in her life so incredibly well.
Second, God has brought a small group of people into our lives that has been incredibly encouraging. We are all in busy phases of life with small children and demanding careers, but we all are learning and growing together.
Finally, I am encouraged by a God who takes the little I have to offer and uses it to multiply His grace in my life.
DO YOU DO CHURCH IN THE HARVEST? HOW DOES THAT LOOK DIFFERENT/THE SAME AS WHAT WE TRADITIONALLY SEE AS CHURCH TODAY?
We have been through so many iterations of trying to answer this question. I would love to find the right mix of activities that settles this dilemma!
Currently, we are meeting every other Friday night with a group of other families to study the Bible together and pray. The men and the women from this same group meet separately on Saturday mornings to pray together before children wake up.
One of the men from our community is spearheading a small bible study in the barracks, which our community has committed to supporting. Each of these events together, combined with meeting together for one on one discussions throughout the week, constitutes our “doing church”.