The Parable of the Combines
Mikros Vol. 5, No. 6, Nov-Dec, 1999
By Glenn C. Daman
There was once two combines. They were vastly different, as different as combines could be. One was big and one was little. The little combine always wished it was big, but the maker of combines had made it small. Some looked down upon the little combine because it was small and not big and because it did not have all the latest inventions and updates that the big combine had.
The big combine was the largest ever built. Everything about it spoke of newness, freshness and bigness. It had all the latest tools and methodologies. When it decided to find a location to park it did a survey of the wheat to fine out where was the best place in the field so that the most wheat possible could come to it. It was a wheat sensitive combine that tried to meet all the different needs wheat might have. It had a nursery for small sprouts that were just forming so the adult wheat would not be distracted when the wheat gathered together. It had exercise rooms so that the wheat could be healthy. It even had a restaurant so the wheat could come and be fed before the wheat gathered together for their special worship service where they praised the maker of wheat. In this service they sang contemporary choruses such as, “As the Wheat Panteth for the Water,” and other songs that came directly from the combine’s manual. It was a purpose driven combine that had a clear vision of taking the combine manual and making it relevant and easily understood by the wheat. Thus they had plays and skits to show how the wheat could apply the manual to their life, although some felt that in so ding it failed to teach the deeper portions of the manual.
This large combine had a number of full-time mechanics that were employed to make sure that everything was running smoothly and efficiently. Their chief mechanic was recognized throughout the country for his expertise in running combines. He wrote numerous books for the wheat, books such as “Becoming Contagious Wheat” to “Rediscovering Combines: The Story and Vision of Willow River Community Combine.” Because the chief mechanic was skilled at expounding the combine manual for others he was asked to speak at Wheat Keepers and Mechanic Leadership Conferences. He taught other mechanics how to set up a wheat sensitive combine and how to develop the wheat within you. He even started a school to train and equip other mechanics, offering academic degrees in mechanicing and other combine related subjects. Because he was so busy writing books, speaking at seminars, and running the combine he had little time to actually spend with the wheat. So he hired other mechanics to minister to the specialized needs of the wheat. They had the Wheat Education Director who as responsible to assure that the wheat was properly train on how wheat should live. They had a Youth Wheat mechanic to work with young wheat going through the difficult transition from the boot to fully headed out. The large combine had a mechanic of worship, a mechanic of counseling, and a mechanic of marriage. They even hired assistant mechanics to help the head mechanics in each of their tasks. So each part of the combine ran efficiently and smoothly.
They developed a support group for shrived wheat that did not develop properly so that they would feel good about themselves and not feel inferior to other wheat. While the wheat all enjoyed gathering together for a big celebration in the bulk tank, they found that they needed to have smaller bins for special meetings so that the wheat could develop a close community. These ‘small bin groups’ divided the wheat according to age, interests and needs so that wheat could be with other wheat like them.
But for all the greatness of size, the large combine did have its problems. Over the course of time the mechanics noticed that they were getting a lot of wheat in the header, but they were also loosing wheat out the back. This concerned them greatly. So, to become better at keeping wheat in the combine, they brought in a consultant to interview the wheat that was leaving. The consultant did seminars on finding wheat and keeping them. Because the combine was so big, many of the wheat were overlooked. They would come and go through the combine, but no one would take notice of them because they got lost in the shuffle. Furthermore, some of the wheat wanted to get involved but could not because they did not feel adequately skilled and where intimidated by the large crowds. However, many found the large combine to be a place where they could come and rest and feel good.
All in all the big combine was pleased with itself, while there were many problems, they figured at as long as they were getting more wheat in than they were loosing out the back they were happy. And so everything continued to run smoothly for this combine. When it ran, it sounded like the gentle breeze on a summer day. It sparkled in the sunlight, as it stood tall, waiting for the harvest to come.
Unlike, its large counter part, the small combine clanked and rattled as it ran. Its paint was pealed and its metal rusted. It was not the most efficient combine for many of its parts were old and some were slow to get things done. Because it was old it had not adapted many of the newer innovations. It had worked for so many years that the mechanic was reluctant to change lest it cause major problems with the combine.
There was only one mechanic to make sure that combine kept going. He did not have the education or training of many other mechanics, but he did his best, patching up the holes and oiling the squeaky bearings to keep things working. He did not write any books, he did not conduct any seminars, although he did attend several of the seminars taught by the mechanics of the big combine. But they only made him sad, for he realize that while many of the ideas of the mechanic for the big combine where good ideas, and worked for big combines, they would not work for his little combine, because, well, the little combine was just plain different and it ran differently than the large machines. He liked to read the combine manual, but found that he did not have a lot of time to read other books, for he was too busy spending time with the wheat. Besides, they were all written by the same mechanics who developed the large combine.
The little combine did not move very fast. Sometimes when it was harvesting wheat, it would get plugged up and it would have a hard time letting new wheat in. When this happened the mechanic would have to stop and make adjustments and soon it would be moving again. But for all its difficulties in getting wheat into the combine, very little of it went out the back. Instead, the wheat would grow to full maturity and bring forth other fruit, for that is what the small combine did best. It was not the fastest at cutting wheat, but it did an excellent job in caring for the wheat once it was in the combine.
The small combine was not a place of rest for the wheat. Instead, it just put the wheat to work, helping to keep things going and helping it harvest more wheat, for in the small combine, everyone had to work if the combine was to keep going.
Sometimes the little combine would have problems and many thought that it would finally stop working. Some said that the little combine was old fashioned and not modern enough, that it was too much stuck in the past. Whenever changes where needed and new innovations added, it was at times very difficult and took a great deal of work. But somehow, with the help of the mechanic and some careful instructions from the manufacturer, the little combine would chug along.
The one thing that the little combine had going for it was the fact all the wheat was personally known by the mechanic. Because there was not a big tank full of wheat, each kernel knew every other kernel and each one felt an important part of the combine. They helped one another and each received special attention from the combine. When one of the kernels became shrived because of drought, the little combine would carefully nurse it back to health so that it became full and plump again. The small combine was more than just a combine was; it was a community where wheat belonged, where each individual wheat was important and cared for. The wheat enjoyed being together, especially because it enabled them to learn and grow from the different ages. The young learned to value the wisdom of the old wheat and the old enjoyed the enthusiasm of the young.
The little combine gathered all the wheat together to celebrate the one that designed it, they would sing many of the old songs of the wheat. They sang songs like “The Combine’s One Foundation” and “Wheat, We have met to Worship,” not because they necessarily liked these songs better than the new choruses, but because these were the songs the wheat who went before them sang. When they sang these songs, they remembered these seeds and celebrated the many harvests that came before them. In all this the little combine learned that the harvest is not about the combine, but about the wheat. It is not just a matter of getting wheat into the combine but helping the wheat to grow and mature so that it would yield forth more wheat. The mechanic also learned that to be a mechanic one must not just love the combine, but he must love the wheat and be with the wheat.
As time went on, the autumn winds began the blow and the wheat turn from a deep green to a golden brown. Harvest time had come and the fields were ripe unto harvest. As the summer days grew short, the wheat grew more and more ripe, remaining in field, waiting for someone to come to it.
The big combine began to harvest wheat. With all its mechanics and well-adjusted parts, it harvested wheat effectively and efficiently. But there were many places the combine, because of its size, could not go. There were little fields up narrow roads where the big combine could not get. The distances were too great and the fields much too small. Even in the big fields, there were areas where the large combine would miss. Because of its size, it would miss wheat in ditches and draws because the header could not get low enough to harvest.
The little combine, on the other hand, went into these fields and began to harvest wheat. It went slow and sometimes it would even stop to make repairs or fix problems that arose. It clanked and clamored along, needing continual prodding from the mechanic, who at times despaired of the little machine. It was not the most efficient and it did not always go smoothly, but still it harvested wheat. As the days grew cold and the wheat continued to ripen, the little combine plodded along, harvesting wheat and developing wheat to maturity. It went up the narrow rocky roads where the large combine could not go and harvested the small fields of wheat. It went in the ditches and draws, where its small header could reach the shorter stocks of wheat. Although the fields were small and the stocks short, the wheat was of the highest quality, with nice big kernels. Because of the quality of the wheat in these little places, the maker of combines would use the seeds from these small fields to plant the next crop in the big fields.
And so the little combine learned, it is now how big you are or how grand you appear or how many wonderful programs you have that counts. Rather it is your participation in the harvest and the fact that you have done what the maker has designed you to do. It also learned that the size of the combine does not determine the quality of wheat. Even the smallest of combines can harvest some of the most productive and fruitful wheat.
It realized that the greatest work it could do was to be what the maker ordained for it to be so that when people saw the combine the saw the one who made it. The little combine, while not the biggest, nor even the best, did do one thing; it helped harvest the wheat and thus it did what the maker designed it to do.
“Do you not say, ‘Four months more and then the harvest’? I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest. The harvest is plentiful but the combines are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out combines into his harvest field.” (John 4:35; Matthew 9:37-38).
Mikros A NEWSLETTER WRITTEN FOR SMALL CHURCH LEADERS
Mikros (the Greek word for small) is published bi-monthly by the Institute for Small Church Heath. Dr. Glenn C. Daman, editor. The newsletter may be obtained free of charge through e-mail by contacting Dr Glenn Daman or may be downloaded from the web site. Permission is granted to copy the newsletter for distribution provided it is furnished free of charge. All rights reserved.