1. The Harvest Field—includes all those persons and groups who have not yet believed in Jesus Christ and therefore need to be reached with the gospel. They are a mission field. They may include nominal Christians who are not active in their faith and do not currently participate in regular Christ-centered fellowship. Demographic research will help to objectively measure cultural realities. Here are some good areas to look at:
- Population statistics
- The number of families versus singles
- The number of owners versus rentals
- Levels of education
- Blue collar versus white collar professionals
- Average income
- Turnover rates
2. The Harvest Force—includes all those persons and groups who follow Jesus Christ and therefore have the gospel to give to others. They are a positive force in harvest work, as evidenced by the fact that they attend a Christian church on a regular basis. (While church attendance certainly lacks as a definition of effective Christian witness, it best serves our purposes of assessing the number of people in a region who have an understanding of the gospel and who are entrusted with the responsibility to convey that message to others.)Research should certainly focus on understanding the community and culture around you.
An understanding of the particular geography around your church plant is also vital to your planning. Where people live (neighborhoods or villages), where they work, how they meet and relate, where they go to school, physical lines of and barriers to communication (roads, bus routes, rivers, mountains), technological infrastructure or lack there of, as well as social services are all relevant points of information. (Logan and Cole, Beyond Church Planting, p 150)
It has been said, “You can reach people you can relate to.” After completing initial research into the harvest field, it is important to compare the church planter to the community to be reached. A mismatch of the community and the planter can often hinder the effectiveness of starting a new church.
The authors of Beyond Church Planting emphasize ways to interact with the community and relate to the people.
- Observe the people God is calling you to reach. Try sitting and watching, walking or driving. God will give you discernment and wisdom to know what your style of ministry needs to be, and your strategy will emerge.
- As you get to know the people God is calling you to reach, listen for attitudes, interests, and needs. These are the clues you need to discover what God is calling you to do.
- As you observe and listen and interact, you will collect soft data and understanding. When led by the Holy Spirit of God, this information can help you understand what style you need to have in church, so that you can relate appropriately to people, so that they come to know Christ as their Savior and Lord.
- The apostle Paul changed his dress, his diet, and his forms of communication to be able to reach people (1 Cor 9:19–23).
- There is no need to market yourself. The ultimate person who modeled relational communication and incarnation was the Lord Jesus Christ. When God became a man and lived among us, he took on Jewish culture and form. He grew up in Galilee and even learned a trade. All of that is a demonstration of “incarnational” ministry.
Good research of the harvest field is essential to relating to people and reaching them with the gospel. Good research of the harvest must precede missional activity. Also see: Missional Strategy #1: Prayer!
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