Then he said to his disciples, "The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field." Matthew 9:37-38
Jesus is the quintessential model of faith and our practice of missions that we are to follow. We do not have a Lord who sits aloof in Heaven, with no firsthand idea or comprehension of what it means to be a human or to serve out in the field. Our Lord served and taught, just as He calls us to go to serve and teach. He calls us to reach out to the hopeless and homeless of the world, the rich and the poor, those who know their need and those who do not. We are simply called to go and proclaim His name, just as He did.
The biggest barrier to what God has called us to be is not how people will respond to us; rather, it is finding those who will go. Jesus was confronting this biggest barrier to evangelism and discipleship both then and today-that of motivation. How people respond to His message is not our concern. We are to proclaim Him earnestly in truth and in love. We cannot be responsible for anyone other than ourselves-how we respond and how we labor to harvest His field. Our idleness in not responding to our Lord is a very sad thing. When we refuse to model Him to others, it shows that we have no compassion, no trust, no love, and no care for the One who has given so much to us though we did not deserve it.
Many times in Scripture, these two words proclaimed: Jesus went. Jesus wants us to learn more so we can serve more. Jesus modeled for us and for all generations before and to come, what ministry really is. It is not sitting in an office chair, closed off to the community and people; rather, it is directly engaging one-on-one, and one-on-many. It is going into the trenches to serve where we might not desire to go, where we may not be comfortable, or even equipped to go. Why? Because He did it for you and me. Our work is Jesus in ministry; we are to minister as we do missions. We as missionaries are to show others Christ's redemption first and foremost. He is our foundation and represents all that we are and do. He is our Shepherd, and the One Who leads us! Too often we get so caught up on our niche or idea or tend that we forget what we went to do, while the peoples around us perish when we could have been available!
The question we have to ask ourselves is, are we doing this? The lack of compassion for the lost is why many Christians do not energetically or aggressively seek to teach, disciple, or evangelize others or go to the mission field. If you feel you lack compassion or are indifferent, then allow God to teach you how to love. Allow God's Word to teach you how to teach-not necessarily in a classroom, but as a lifestyle. If you cannot teach, you can still pray, equip and support those who do the work, teaching and outreach overseas, and your ground support is just as important, for without you the rest of us can't go or do!
Are the fields ripe where you are? Do you see the urgency, the passion, and the reason to go and make our Lord known? He may not be calling you to go to Africa or India or even Outer Mongolia, but what about your co-workers, your family and friends, even those in your church?
Do you realize that a church can be a lonely, desolate place, just as a foreign missions adventure were you do not know the peoples or language well, where few find hope or friends? Do not let this happen in your church, get prayer warriors and supporters before you venture out. Our complacency and indifference are big problems to the people we are called to reach and minister too, and counteract Christ's call to us. The laborers are few; we need to realize that we are the laborers. God calls us to reach the lost, and we do not do this alone. If they are few, we are not obeying Him. Remember some reasons why people fail at this needed call. Mainly, we feel it is difficult and dangerous, and most people probably will not respond to us, no matter how much they were given first. So, if you feel rejected, it is not you that is being rejected; God is (Luke 10:16). Jesus' prime mission was to seek disciples to make His work known. Our primary mission is to do the same-to make disciples (Matt. 8:18-22, 28:18-20). Don't let your church be lonely and desolate!
If you find yourself being indifferent, having no compassion for the lost, and hurting in your church or in your life, then you have a big problem for missions. If you can't do it where you are at home you can't do it very well somewhere else. This is a problem that most Christians have, a problem that can be remedied by prayer and earnest surrender to His Lordship. If you or your church thinks, Hey, I am too busy for this. I have other important things to say and do. Or I cannot be interrupted from my comfort and complacency, consider how Jesus interrupted Himself for you. Can we really say we have compassion for the lost if we have made no effort to teach others the gospel? We have to be willing to work according to God's direction, and no other.
You Can Do It!
Then Jesus said to Simon, "Don't be afraid; from now on you will catch men." So they pulled their boats up on shore, left everything and followed him. Luke 5:10-11
May the words and deeds of our Lord inspire and motivate you and your church for missions. Remember, everything we do is in the hands of God; we are called to follow Him, obey, and pray. These are difficult tasks, but take comfort. He owns the harvest and we will receive His empowerment and backing for the task (John 14:12). Also remember that prayer does not merely equip us for a greater work. It is the greater work!
Jesus said, "Follow Me." Jesus did not mean that they should just physically and aimlessly follow Him on the road like a puppy following a child. Rather, He meant for them to follow Him in His Way. They were set apart, challenged to know and grow in the faith, and taught their call and mission. Just as they had worked at catching fish, now they would be catching men. The word "disciple" literally means "apprentice," someone who pledges to be a "learner," to live as one believes, to do what He has taught. And, this is not just for a time or season, but for all times and all seasons as long as we are sojourners in this life on earth. It involves our accepting His call to follow, then actually living and obeying that call as continual learners and partakers as missionaries. It means being real and consistent in what we say we believe. It is about living our lives in truth so we reproduce the clarity of that truth to others around us, even in a cross-cultural context. For this to happen, we have to be willing to learn, to grow beyond our perceived barriers, and remove what is in the way of our growth and outreach. It does not stop at our conversion; that is where it begins. Discipleship is a life-long journey of growth and the practicing of His Word and precepts in all areas of life! This is the essential mandate before we venture out ourselves!
God in missions does not ask us to just seek converts. He simply asks us to disciple. Discipleship is modeling and teaching Christians the precepts of the Bible, mainly prayer, doctrine, and Christian living, which means having an attitude and heart that worships Christ. This means raising up leaders and training them to do the essential work. Yes, we are still to evangelize, but that is not our main mission and call. In missions when we evangelize, we must realize that it is the role of the Holy Spirit to bring people into an intimate relationship with God, we are the tools and means He uses. This is an act of divine cooperation, intervention and grace. He uses us as the tools, but He is the means. We are the display case of His life and work! We are to care, and share with others His love and character. We are to obey and reach out, but we cannot lead people anywhere. He is the One who leads! Our goal is to worship and model our worship to others-not just our service in our missions project or plan, but the lifestyle of a heart surrendered and poured out to His. However, with that said, when we are real and authentic in our Christian living, then we are actually doing effective evangelizing missions and bringing others to Christ even more powerfully and frequently.
How does our focus on Him and not evangelism help us be evangelistic in missions? Because, when the focus is on evangelism, it tends to be on gathering numbers for numbers sake, and this mindset is pretentious and ineffective. Out of a real, worship-centered heart will come a church plant that is also poured out in the community, a lighthouse of God's love and care to the world that is contagious. It will model Christ-like character to the community, encouraging others to surrender themselves to Jesus Christ. However, this is only the beginning. When we are worshiping Christ with our hearts and minds, we are focused on Him and motivated to be His witnesses as missionaries. Christ's work in us is what is contagious to others who are seeking Him.
When we are in missions or any ministry, we need to realize, it is not what we do, but whom we can equip. As we practice by reciprocating what we have learned to others, we will also be built up. We are called to build a network of relationships so we can build one another up in the faith through friendship and mentoring.
From the character of Christ comes the conduct of Christ-if we choose to follow Him. Then, the values of our daily walk, those which drive our behaviors, will, in turn, influence others. You cannot lead where you have not been, or when you do not know the direction to go. This is why discipleship is so essential to the aspect of being a missionary, especially a witness. We are called, not to just visualize faith and missions, but to do it, not to just read about it, but to do it, and not to just talk about it, but to do it. One cannot just think about dinner and satisfy hunger; the meal has to be gathered, prepared, and then eaten. The effective church will take Scripture and the call of our Lord seriously, gather, prepare, and then put it all into practice so we partake of His feast.
I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. John 14:12
Some passages to consider: Psalm 123:1; Isaiah 12:11; Ezekiel 30:3; Matthew 25:41; Colossians 3:5-6
© 2006 R. J. Krejcir, Ph.D. Schaeffer Institute of Church Leadership, www.churchleadership.org/