My wife Donna and I are co-leading a Missional Community group in our home church, which is aptly named Church of the City. This vibrant local church, now numbering about 300, intentionally meets in rented spaces. They view their gatherings as subordinate to their missional communities, now numbering 15. At an annual training event for missional community leaders, our teaching Pastor, Matt Naismith, said this: “Follow your evangelists”. He went on to explain with words something like this, “Evangelists will lead you into the harvest and your pastors will preserve the harvest.” I thought about my own ministry, and then about the transition that we (Fellowship International) are making from the primary focus of church planting, towards a new primary focus of disciple-making movements, which empower National workers and leaders to join us in the harvest fields.
As I continue to lead our mission through this change, I am pleased to hear others speak into our shift. Matt’s words were an example that parallels our shift. Church planters tend towards preservation, while evangelists tend towards expansion. Of course this shift, as in the comparison of pastors and evangelists, is completely gift-based and Holy Spirit-dependent. I am wrangling over words.
Jesus calls us to pray for workers. They are labourers with various skills committed to the back-breaking work of harvesting the fields. I have watched teams of men and women cutting the harvest by hand. Some skill is needed, but primarily their focus is the task. Harvesting, trained or untrained, requires one to bend their back and do hard labour. Without the effort there is no reward. As the saying goes, “No pain, no gain.”
Jesus saw the need and responded with compassion. He then calls us to pray. Apart from compassion, which motivates prayer, there will be no increase in the field force.
Compassion: Wandering sheep without a shepherd; it is an emotional, gut wrenching response to felt need. Forty percent of our world is unreached. The need is huge. God yearns for a greater harvest in our generation.
Response: Pray to the Lord of the harvest to send out workers.
I know that we cannot harvest by our own plans, or shifts in our paradigm (as good as they prove to be). Rather, I must commit myself to do what Jesus did and call others to join me. This requires that I be moved by compassion. I must stop shielding my heart from the agony of need that I see. I now perceive calling others to pray as teaching them to pray. We must fuel our partners with examples and appeals, as well as Scripture. We must state and restate the obvious need and accompany it with emotionally-fueled stories of compassion locked into God’s heart. Pray to the Lord of the harvest to send out more workers.