Seasons of Harvest - Nathan Shaw
God often speaks through natural events. There has been a lot of flooding throughout New Zealand in the last month (June 2015). New Zealand is a prophetic forerunner nation. Recently I keep hearing a prophetic announcement in the spirit declaring, "It's harvest time!" The announcement has the intensity of a trumpet sound. God announces things so that we can know the season and be ready for the season. Although the following article was originally written in 2005 it is as relevant for today as when it was first written.
Jesus said the harvest will be gathered at the end of the age. During this period more people will come to know Him as Lord and King than at any other time in history. In biblical times the whole year was ordered according to the time of harvest. The former rain softened the ground, making it ready for sowing and the latter rain ripened and matured that which had been sown.
We are on the brink of a major season of harvest. If the Israelites did not discern the natural seasons for planting and harvesting it would have threatened their livelihood. Likewise we must discern the spiritual seasons God has ordained for His church. If we fail to do this we will end up becoming irrelevant and likely even resistors of God's ultimate plans and purposes on the earth.
A Prophetic Sign
I live in the city of Dunedin in the South Island of New Zealand. On February the 7th, 2005, we experienced a brief downpour of very heavy rain on a level that is completely uncharacteristic for our region. In the short space of fifteen minutes 24 millimeters of rain fell causing millions of dollars of damage as scores of homes and businesses were flooded. It was reported that this deluge was a one-in-150 year or even a one-in-300 year occurrence for the city. Dunedin's stormwater system is designed for one-in-10 year magnitude thunderstorms, which is in line with national standards. The flash flood on February the 7th stretched this system, which is over 100 years old in some areas. One expert said that no city system in New Zealand is designed to cope with such flows.
I could not help but see the prophetic significance of this event and spoke of it at our Sunday morning meeting on February the 15th. The significance of this event was once again brought to my attention when a similar event happened in the North Island city of Tauranga. On May the 3rd, 85 millimeters of rain fell within the space of two hours. Residents testified that the main deluge lasted just 20 minutes. Many homes and businesses were flooded. Once again it was reported that the city only expects to get that amount of rain every 100 or more years. Twice within three months a similar event happened in two different New Zealand cities, and both cities were unprepared to cope with the downpour.
What Is God Saying?
I believe that God is about to release a deluge of His anointing upon specific cities and regions with the specific purpose of bringing in a great harvest of souls. It is imperative that we discern these divine outpourings ahead of time and prepare ourselves for them. If we fail to discern and prepare, that which was intended for great blessing can end up causing devastating destruction. Are we really ready for God to move in an unprecedented way?
I believe much of the church is only prepared for a one-in-10 year outpouring of God's Spirit. Significant moves of the Spirit have come and gone throughout much of the 20th century. We must be ready for something which will greatly eclipse even that which we presently consider unusual and extreme. To do this we must understand the correct relationship between structure and spontaneity.
Structure and Spontaneity
Our God is a God of both structure and spontaneity. The spontaneity of God is seen clearly as He spoke creation into being. But not only is God's creation diverse and colorful, it is also incredibly structured. Only modern science has begun to reveal the complexity and intricate structure of all living things. In the prophetic sign we have been talking about we can also see both spontaneity and structure. The spontaneity of creation is expressed and made known in the sudden and unexpected deluge of rain pummeling the earth. The importance of good structure is seen in the inability of the stormwater system to cope with the deluge.
In relation to God's end-time harvest of souls the church must focus on both the spontaneous movement of God's Spirit and the structures that are necessary to disciple huge numbers of people in the ways of the Kingdom. In this matter the wisdom and anointing of Apostolic and Prophetic ministry is crucial.
Apostles and Prophets
It is more and more widely agreed that God is restoring the ministry of the Apostle and Prophet within His church. Now we must also learn to trust apostolic and prophetic wisdom as God uses these vessels to build His dwelling place - a dwelling place which will be made up of multitudes and multitudes of people. Apostles particularly have wisdom in structuring the church in preparation for the spontaneous outpourings of His Spirit that they intuitively discern. There are four main ways Apostles do this work:
1. They work strategically in developing relationships and networks between and within churches and ministries.
2. They balance the foundations provided by the five-fold ministry. If a church is lacking in one or more of these foundations the Apostle will focus his time and attention on these areas.
3. They equip churches with the right resources, tools, systems and infrastructure.
4. They move beyond outward structure to address the hidden structures of the heart.
The ministry of the Prophet is also extremely important. Scripturally it can be seen that these two ministries work closely together. The Prophet is instrumental in awakening the church to heavenly and spiritual realms as well as giving strategic revelation about the destiny, function and placement of individuals, churches and even nations. Prophetic ministry can often be dramatic and exhilarating. Apostles, however, will not be satisfied to simply bask in the glories that the prophetic ministry unlocks and releases.
The anointing that prophetic and revivalist ministries release can so easily be perceived as the ultimate and the end rather than a foretaste and preparation for that which is yet to come. Whereas the Prophet may give a brilliant architectural picture of the house God is building and begin to prepare the materials needed, the Apostle will endeavor to use the momentum of this revelation and anointing to actually build God's dwelling place.
It is a human weakness that we often revel in the announcement of some new initiative but then draw back when it comes to the hard work required to bring it to pass. Apostles labor long and hard and with meticulous accuracy to build the church according to divine specification. They have powerful spiritual tools to do their work but can only work effectively where people have come to trust the wisdom of their strategies and methods.
The Apostolic Task
As has been said, God intends to release an unprecedented outpouring of His Spirit and bring in a great harvest of souls. The Apostle knows He must prepare the Church for the outpouring. This is not easy if prophetic ministry has not first awakened people to the full extend of God's plan. Apostles discern where present structures are inadequate. Sometimes their task involves building that which is non-existent, sometimes it involves improving that which does exist and sometimes it involves destroying present structure to make way for something completely new.
Nobody wants to put a lot of time and energy into updating a storm water system that seems to be more than adequate to cope with extreme whether patterns. It takes a lot of time and effort to build even a stormwater system that can cope with a one-in-10 year event. We don't appreciate it when the structures we have set in place are seen to be inadequate, afterall a structure which can cope with a one-in-10 year event is a good structure, just not good enough for that which is coming. Good is often the enemy of the best.
Mature apostles are not overly critical of previous foundations or present structures. They acknowledge the good foundations that have been laid by past and present leaders and build upon them. They are too busy building that which they know they are to build to waste time criticizing faulty structures. Apostles think vastly different to those who are given to the maintenance and even limited improvement of that which already exists.
Whereas the structure that copes with natural rain is a stormwater system, the structure that contains and utilizes God's rain is relationships. The church is a building made up of people. Our connections to one another are as critical as those which connect the materials in a building and make it one structure. Most of the Apostolic writings in the New Testament address issues of relational connectedness. These writings fall into two categories: Those that help bring relational connectedness where it is limited or non-existent and those that address breaches in relational connections that do exist.
To bring about true relational connectedness involves dealing with hidden issues of the heart. Just like a stormwater system is hidden and out of sight, so the issues that prevent relational connectedness are often hidden deep in the heart, beneath the outward and visible surface. Apostolic and prophetic ministries have a way of exposing and surfacing these issues. They are more concerned about the hidden structures of the heart than they are about outward appearances and will address issues that others may consider irrelevant to the outward progress of the church. When transformation comes to the deep hidden areas of our hearts we are able to handle the torrents of God's anointing destined for our times.
It is significant that James and John, two of the great Apostles of the early church were called to follow Jesus while they were mending their fishing nets. Jesus called them to mirror what they were doing in the natural by becoming fishers of men. An important aspect of the apostolic ministry to which Jesus was calling them would involve mending and preparing the nets of human relationships. The church is called to be a net. The strength of the net is determined by the strength of relationships within the church. Strong relationships within individual churches will not be sufficient for the coming harvest. To contain this harvest will require strong relationships between churches and ministries.
Jesus was the greatest Apostle that ever walked the earth. His ministry was focused on preparing a small group of men with the apostolic wisdom that would enable them to gather and keep a great harvest of souls. This harvest began on the day of Pentecost with the repentance and baptism of 3000 people. Apostolic wisdom cannot be taught from a text book. For Jesus' disciples it was understood in the refinement of relating in close proximity with Him and with each other.
Are We Ready?
These are days of unprecedented events. If we correctly discern that which God is about to do we will be forced to respond with sobriety rather than just excitement. If we are not prepared the nets will break and much of the harvest will be lost. Let us do everything in our power to submit to apostolic wisdom and prepare for a great harvest of souls.
© 2005 & 2015 Nathan Shaw.
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