The church is always in need of gospel workers/missionaries. This article shows that the church must understand that compassion is at the heart of mission work—mission work and pastoral care go together. The church must also pray for gospel workers. This is the call of the Lord Jesus in Matthew 9:37.

Source: Faith in Focus, 2013. 2 pages.

Harvesters Needed

There’s nothing new under the sun, and one thing that is definitely not new is the need for gospel workers. Two thousand years ago Jesus identified that as the critical kingdom issue, and things have not really changed. The harvest is still plentiful, the workers are still few (Matt 9:37).

The harvest is certainly plentiful. That does not mean it is easy to win people to Jesus but it does mean that now is the day of salvation. We are privileged to live in the era between the first and second comings of Jesus when the good news of salvation through him alone is being spread to the ends of the earth. We live in the day of grace. We live in the time when God is saving many people from every tribe, nation, language and people. We live in the age of missions.

We also live at a time when human need has never been greater. Despite all the advances in science, technology, education and lifestyle that are hallmarks of our time, people have never been more in need of truly good news. Even in the most affluent suburbs and cities people struggle with broken relationships, depression, guilt, fear and loneliness. Many people are deeply troubled by past abuse, by present relationship breakdown and by a constant sense of meaningless in life. Almost never do we read of crime being reduced, of jails having fewer people in them, of more marriages lasting longer, or of addictions being on the decline. Trouble seems to escalate, not diminish. And on a global scale we are more aware than ever, through endless media access, of situations of injustice, oppression, war, ethnic discrimination, famine, disease and natural disasters.

These troubled last days are, however, the days of gospel advance. They are days of mission activity and kingdom harvest. The needs are not only endless but the potential is enormous. There is huge scope for the gospel message of hope to bring the kind of change that nothing else can secure. The harvest is all around us – in our families, commu­nities, workplaces and neighbour-hoods.

But the workers are few. The number of people equipped and deployed to spread the gospel, preach the Word, plant churches, reach the lost and disciple the nations is pitiful in comparison with the need. Even within our Reformed denominations the need for workers is great. We have too few people training for ministry to keep pace with the status quo, let alone advance the work of the gospel through church planting, team ministries and overseas mission initiatives.

Jesus’ statement about the need for more workers, however, is bracketed by two tremendously important perspectives. First, it is preceded by his compassion for people. “When he saw crowds, he had compassion on them because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd” (Matt 9:36). Jesus did not have mission and pastoral care in two different baskets requiring two different kinds of people. He saw them as one and the same issue. Lost people need a shepherd; broken and desperate people need loving pastoral care. Mission and pastoral care belong together.

Gospel harvesters are therefore raised up as the needs of people are pressed against their hearts and they see the importance of loving, befriending and helping those with massive needs. Mission must proceed with a large pastoral heart for people and pastoral work must always lead to seeking lost and needy sheep who need the gospel above all else. The kind of workers we need are people who care deeply about the gospel and about people; who love mission and love people; who have a heart for evangelism and for edification, for Word and for deed. We need pastors, preachers, church planters and ministry leaders who have the loving shepherd heart of our Saviour, and who are passionate about his mission of seeking and saving the lost.

At the backend of Jesus’ statement about harvest workers there is a second vital perspective. The foremost action to be taken is prayer! “Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.” The field is his field. The harvest is his harvest. And the workers must be raised up and sent by him. Our responsibility, then, is to pray. Pray that God would raise up a generation of leaders for the advance of the gospel. Pray that God would lay on the heart of many people the priority of the gospel. Pray that God would stir in many hearts a passion for evangelism. Pray that God would give to many future church leaders a large and loving heart for people.

May I urge you to join us in praying for more gospel workers? We have the privilege of training pastors and ministry workers of many kinds. But we can only train those God raises up. We can only equip those God is sending into his harvest field. We would love to be training more people – we know that our churches need more workers and the harvest field is ready and waiting. So pray for missionaries to be raised up from your church. Pray for the young men in your church, that out of them God would raise up some preachers. Pray for your church, that it may be a sending church. Pray for those who are currently training, that they may be well equipped for the vast work that lies ahead of them. And please pray for us as we chip away at our vision of “raising, equipping and supporting a generation of leaders for the advance of the gospel.”

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