Matthew 9:36 When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. 37 Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; 38 therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”
Jesus’ heart was and still is breaking for people who suffer from being disconnected from their loving Heavenly Father, “sheep without a shepherd.” Life for these sheep was NOT good! They were “harassed and helpless,” left to live empty, directionless, purposeless lives on this planet.
The gospel (the good news) that Jesus preached was not “the minimal requirements for getting into heaven,” but that God’s kingdom is here now and available to “whosoever will” step forward in response to God’s invitation. It is the good life on this planet, under the care of a Good Shepherd, who cares for His sheep, protecting them from harassment and helplessness. His sheep are never alone and they are well fed and well protected. It is the ultimate “good life,” living in the Kingdom of God.
Jesus is also saying that there is a work to do, because the harvest is plentiful! There are plenty of people who need to be invited into the kingdom of God, and there are few who are willing and able to reap the harvest. This is the application for the church, whose agenda is to equip people to do the work of harvesting.
So what is the action point for God’s people, for God’s church? Pray! God cares about the harvest, so let’s not pray wimpy prayers, “God if it be your will,” when it clearly is God’s will! So we pray boldly and expectantly that people will respond with a heart to work in bringing in the ripe harvest that is all around us!
What are the guiding principles for willing laborers?
Jesus is Lord (we are simply under-sheperds of the chief shepherd)
Mark 1:7 And he preached, saying, “After me comes he who is mightier than I, the strap of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie.
I will never feel adequate in ministry. I am only adequate because of Christ in me. My life is my ministry as Jesus lives His life through me. I will never take people further than Jesus takes me spiritually.
2 Corinthians 12:9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.
Ephesians 3:20 Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us,
Jesus must first work in me before He can work through me.
Building Ministry Teams
Jesus invited the Twelve to join Him on his mission to build God’s church.
Mark 1:17 And Jesus said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you become fishers of men.” 18 And immediately they left their nets and followed him.
Jesus spent three and a half years equipping the Twelve to be a “servant leadership team,” who could provide the spiritual leadership that the church would require once Jesus left this earth. Jesus led them to become “fishers of men,” something not one of the Twelve was looking to become on their own.
Ministry – the act of expressing compassionate service.
Mark 1:40 And a leper came to him, imploring him, and kneeling said to him, “If you will, you can make me clean.” 41 Moved with pity, he stretched out his hand and touched him and said to him, “I will; be clean.” 42 And immediately the leprosy left him, and he was made clean.
The leper wasn’t a potential leader, but simply someone with a great need, a person who needed to be compassionately touched by God. Jesus touched lepers one at a time.
Even Socrates understood the need for compassion and love when he sent a student home to his parents with the note, “I can teach him nothing, for he loves me not.”
It is worth noting that “people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.”
Ministry leaders who understand the priority of expressing love, showing compassion for people, always seem to have flourising ministries, even when their organizational/administrative abilities are lacking.
Discipleship – the act of preparing compassionate laborers.
Mark 3:13 And he went up on the mountain and called to him those whom he desired, and they came to him. 14 And he appointed twelve (whom he also named apostles) so that they might be with him and he might send them out to preach
There is nothing wrong with the church that discipleship cannot fix! The key to overcoming apathy and lack of motivation is discipleship. When we understand that discipleship is about life-change, about becoming more like Jesus, about becoming the kind of person described in 1 Corinthians 13, then we are on the right track. We must understand that discipleship leads us to become “good people” who are experiencing the “good life,” that results from choosing to live in God’s present kingdom under the watchful care of the Good Shepherd.
Dallas Willard had this right when he suggested that life transformation is possible when we order our lives after the life practices of Jesus (not the legalistic Pharisees). We experience the benefits of living in God’s Kingdom as we submit to Him as King, where His effective will is being expressed.
Ministry Events – the act of using tools to reach out to the harassed and helpless.
Mark 4:1 Again he began to teach beside the sea. And a very large crowd gathered about him, so that he got into a boat and sat in it on the sea, and the whole crowd was beside the sea on the land. 2 And he was teaching them many things in parables, and in his teaching he said to them:
Just as Jesus drew large crowds to present the good news, special events are simply tools, a process for showing compassion to people who are in need of a Good Shepherd.
Our biggest need in the church, is to pray for laborers, workers who are willing to become laborers in God’s harvest field, and then to train and equip these laborers to be effective in ministry.
We still don’t have enough laborers for the rich harvest field all around us, so we continue to pray, asking, seeking and knocking, trusting that God will raise up an army of servant leaders who care for the harassed and helpless sheep.
How do we continue to stay focused on praying and laboring in God’s ripe harvest field?
We must remember what is at the heart of life under the Good Shepherd, a life of worship, our highest calling and what we will be doing throughout eternity.
Revelation 4:8 And the four living creatures, each of them with six wings, are full of eyes all around and within, and day and night they never cease to say, “Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come!”
Revelation 4:11 “Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created.”
Revelation 5:12 saying with a loud voice, “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!” 13 And I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, saying, “To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!”
The corporate worship experience is only as strong as the private worship experience that takes place during the week. We cannot live on one big meal a week, just as we cannot life on one big worship experience a week.
We must teach people how to worship God privately! To give Him the full focused attention that He alone deserves!
- Time alone with God.
- Provide ways of expressing worship of God.
- Teach about corporate freedom to worship God.
- How does God want to develop my heart for worship?
- How can worship become more a part of our private AND corporate ministry?
At the heart of worship is the attitude that Jesus expressed, “not my will, but Thy will be done.” As people worship God in His glory, it naturally leads to a desire to honor and glorify God, and what better way to do that, than by laboring in God’s ripe harvest field. To God be the glory, the Good Shepherd who cares for His sheep.