“Jesus made a circuit of all the towns and villages. He taught in their meeting places, reported kingdom news, and healed their diseased bodies, healed their hurt and bruised lives. When he looked out over the crowds, his heart broke. So confused and aimless they were, like sheep without a shepherd. ‘What a huge harvest!’ he said to his disciples. ‘How few workers! On your knees and pray for harvest hands.’” (Matthew 9:35-38, The Message)
The Word of God speaks to us directly. Jesus is at work in our community. He is teaching, reporting, healing diseased hearts, and hurt and bruised lives. We are surrounded in our neighborhoods by confused and aimless neighbors who do not know the meaning of life, why they are here and where they are going. There are so many people who are deceived, hurt and bruised. Yet, Jesus sees them as sheep we need to be shepherding, a harvest we need to reap for the kingdom. So, what is his strategy? How are the sheep to be shepherded? How is the harvest to be reaped? What plan does Jesus have?
“Get on your knees and pray for laborers, for harvest hands. Ask the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into his harvest field.”
When we pray this prayer we become part of the answer, for prayer is not telling God what to do, it is listening to what God is telling us to do. He is telling us to become the laborers, the harvest hands, the workers, who will go into his fields. How do we do that?
We pray for guidance and wisdom to reach out to our neighbors with compassion and share with them the good news of the love of Christ which we have received. We use every means we have been given to get out the good news: publicity, emails, invitations, social media, websites, television advertising, and mailings. If this is the business of the church then we should approach it as effectively as if our livelihood depended on it. Just as a business needs customers, need walk-ins, need enquirers, need orders, the church needs visitors, seekers, and guests, to discover what we have to offer them that will enrich their lives.
If we believe in the gospel of Christ, we will want everyone we meet to be introduced to the Savior of the world, our Savior. This means that the church budget should reflect this priority. The churches that place themselves in front of the public and communicate what they have to offer, will thrive. Those that don’t will shrivel up and die. I see a great transformation of church life in this country between those who believe in their message and use every means to get it out to our neighbors, and those who don’t. Church life cannot remain business as usual. It must push the envelope, and go out into the harvest fields. If we pray for the Lord to direct workers into his harvest field then we must be prepared for him to direct us in this way.
I play tennis and enjoy watching the top players. Invariably those who win play offensively and those who lose play defensively. The same is true of every human enterprise. Christians who play defensively will be overwhelmed by those who oppose them. Christians and churches that play offensively will win more people and reap a greater harvest. Too many churches are led by people who play defensively. They lack courage and boldness and vision to match the excitement that the Gospel has to offer. Jesus never led defensively. He even offended religious leaders!
It is when I take the initiative in inviting people to join me in a Bible Study or to come and hear a Christian speaker, or visit someone in hospital or at home, that good things happen and people are won for the kingdom, hearts and hurts are healed. But I have to take the initiative for that to happen. Why do I take the initiative? Because, as I pray for guidance, as I pray for the Lord of the Harvest to send out workers into his harvest field, I hear him bringing people to my mind and say, “Ted, do you mean so and so? If so, then you go and reach him for me. You invite him. You get alongside him. You love him into the kingdom.”