“Are you about ready to head back to the house?” I called out to my mother.
“I’m not leaving until I’ve picked this branch clean, my bucket gets full, or it starts to rain,” was her reply. My mother and I were together in her blueberry patch this particular overcast Saturday. I knew that “picking the branch clean” was my mother’s technique for picking blueberries. This simply meant she was going to pick every ripe berry off her part of the bush, leaving only the green ones behind. I glanced at her branch, her bucket, and the sky and decided the threat of rain was our quickest relief from berry picking.
Sweat and mosquitoes aside, I actually admire my mother’s leave-no-leaf-unturned-leave-no-ripe-berries-behind attitude. She knows where she’s been and where she needs to go. Her goal is clear…pick berries. I, on the other hand, have a slightly different attitude and approach. I’d rather roam through the bushes seeking out clusters of ripe berries that can be picked all at one time – preferable at eye level. I figure the birds can have the high ones and the ‘coons can have the low ones. I certainly don’t want to get scratched up reaching deep in the middle either, and forget those isolated berries hanging by themselves in hard to reach places. They can turn to seed for all I care. Basically, give me the convenient ones. This is a great strategy for my goal, which is to fill my bucket as quickly as possible.
Suddenly it occurred to me that too often we as Christians win souls to the kingdom in much the same way I approach blueberry picking. (I’ve been guilty myself.)
Let me explain.
We gladly seek the salvation of those who are at eye level, the ones we see more clearly such as immediate family members, close friends, and the lost that come to church. Sometimes we stretch a little further to reach out to colleagues and neighbors; our basic goal being to fill our “bucket” (a.k.a. church). (Should we compare the number of times we’ve invited people to church instead of to Jesus?) But we certainly don’t want to stoop too low or stretch too high or reach too deep to share the forgiving, redeeming love of Jesus. Stooping, stretching, and reaching can be uncomfortable. There are prickles deep in those bushes. OUCH! We certainly don’t want to get hurt. That’s it, isn’t it? We want our churches full of people, but we don’t want to leave our comfort zone to get them there. The fact is, most of those who don’t have a personal relationship with Jesus live outside our comfort zone. They live in Africa, Bosnia, and New York City. They live in prison, on skid row, or at the rehab center. Their skin is sometimes lighter or darker than ours. Their speech is foreign to us either because it is a totally different language altogether or because “nice” people don’t talk like that. Sometimes they are children who wiggle too much, or perhaps don’t know the “proper” way to dress for church, or maybe they ask questions that make us feel uncomfortable or inadequate.
God is not willing that any should perish, but that all come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9). He cares if the “birds” get the ones on top and if the “’coons” get the ones on bottom. They are all precious in His sight. O, that God would open our eyes to every precious soul; those in our comfort zone and those outside of it. May we be willing to stretch spiritually, bow in humility, and seek out even the one who is lost in hard to reach places. May God grant us perseverance to “pick” our communities clean, leaving no stone unturned, no soul unreached with the good news of Jesus.
"And there will be much rejoicing in heaven over even one..." (Luke 15:7)
Reworking my approach with you,
© 2004 Drewe Llyn Jeffcoat