The Staying Nature of God

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Roots

Second-class citizen

Perhaps like me, you have never felt a call to international ministry. Living in a family like ours, that emphasizes the ends of the earth like we do, can be tough. I have never lived internationally (does the summer I spent in the San Fransisco Bay area count?), so it is easy to feel like a second-class denominational-citizen.

With us always (& everywhere)

The going-to-the-nations part of the Great Commission is obvious, and typically the part emphasized. But at the end of the Great Commission, Jesus promises his presence wherever we may find ourselves. “I am with you always” (Matthew 18:20) It isn’t necessary to fly off to some far-flung corner of the world to find Jesus at work. 

Staying nature of God

Jesus is present, and at work, right where you are. The place you already live is the most obvious, and maybe overlooked, place to start ministry. Scholars and teachers have convinced Christians of the sending nature of God (the missio Dei). Perhaps more emphasis is needed on the staying nature of God (the incarnation). 

Staying in one place

There are amazing examples of fruitful ministries which have resulted from people staying in one place. Several I know personally are the late Chuck Smith, founder of the Calvary Chapel movement. He didn’t start there until he was 40, but labored for over 50 years at the same church. Wayne Gordon moved to the Lawndale neighborhood of Chicago over 40 years ago. He is still there. My pastor, David Riemenschneider, came to Bloomingdale in 1978. I believe he has the longest tenure of anyone in our network of churches.

Simply sticking it out

Perhaps you are praying that God would bear more fruit where you are. His answer to that prayer could be through simply sticking it out. What if all God needs to produce a harvest is get you to stay put?

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Maybe We Are Praying All Wrong

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Fields White Harvest

Jesus Prayer Request

Jesus made a prayer request to his followers. He said, “Ask the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into his harvest.” (Matthew 9:38) People get this request for more sending all wrong. Jesus did not request prayer for the harvest. The crop is ready. Nor did Jesus say there is a problem with the workers. The problem, in his mind, was that the workers were not in the right place. His request was for workers to be launched into the harvest.

Plenty of Ripe People

There is not a problem with the number of people ready to welcome the good news. People want to hear the gospel. They are harassed and helpless and want leadership. The most successful person you know, has problems. The person you think has it all, is harassed by something and feels helpless about something. There is no lack of people ripe for the help and hope of the gospel.

Plenty of Ready Workers

There is not a problem with the number of workers to help. The workers are few in the harvest field, not that too few exist. They aren’t in the right place. The workers are there, they need to be sent out. The problem is the workers have not been released and launched. Jesus said to, “Ask the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into his harvest field.” The issue is there are not enough workers sent out.

Compassion Is the Place to Start

For Jesus, it started with compassion. The story is, two verses earlier, “When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.” (Matthew 9:36) Praying that more people come to our services or more people share their faith is not most important. I am not suggesting it is wrong to do that. However, it may not be the place to start. Praying that more people are filled with compassion is the place to start. Could the reason be we are not seeing more workers in the harvest is a lack of love?

No Compassion, No Crop

The Father is in charge of the harvest, according to Jesus. He emphasized the Father is “the Lord of the harvest” and that it is “his harvest field”. So God brings in a crop where he pleases and as he pleases. Perhaps it doesn’t please him to bring the harvest to our ministries because he knows we will not love them well. If our schedules are full of the right programs and our teaching is full of the right doctrine, but our hearts are not full of compassion, why would God direct people our way?

Maybe We’re Praying All Wrong

Maybe we are praying Matthew 9 all wrong. We don’t need to pray for a good crop or more workers. We should be praying that the workers we have are launched.

I thought of 3 ways that can launch more workers into the harvest:

  1. Stir up compassion.
  2. Tell people your vision.
  3. Take more risks with people.

Stir up Compassion

Tell people about the needs around them. We can’t create compassion in people, but we can stir up compassion. I think this is what was meant in the passage, “Let us consider how we might spur one another on to love and good deeds.” (Hebrews 10:24) We are trying to do this in the year-end campaign. We can highlight the reality people are living in. We get shielded from the hurt and pain many face. But, compassion can be stirred as we remind people of the common problems we all face.

Tell People Your Vision

Tell people of the opportunities you see. Four years ago, my pastor, David, mentioned a vacuum he saw in our church. A lot of people between the twenty-somethings and the senior saints were falling through the cracks. He asked if I’d be interested in organizing something for the thirty-somethings. I had no idea this was a need, even though I am a thirty-something. Jamie and I have plenty of friends and are spiritual self-feeders, so we didn’t see the need. That conversation launched a new ministry and for the past four years we’ve organized classes and dinners for this group. I would have never been sent if David had not mentioned the problem that he saw. Don’t assume people see what you see.

Take More Risks

Give people a chance. This is what Jesus did. Jesus had a process of people development. The record we have of his ministry, doesn’t reflect three years of busy meandering, without purpose. He was on a mission and part of that was to develop people to continue that mission in his stead. The only way to do that was to give people a chance. The next passage after this statement of Jesus to send workers, is about the twelve disciples being sent (Mt 10). Were they ready? No way! But Jesus gave them a chance.

The Request Is about Launching

Ask the Lord of the harvest to show you ways to send out more workers into the harvest field. Ask him to show you creative ways to stir up the compassion within people. Ask him to show you specifically whom to talk with about the opportunities you already see. Ask the Lord of the harvest whom you should give a chance, even if you don’t think they are ready.

Title Signature Screenshot Cartoon 2015