Matthew 9:35-38 – “Then Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every sickness and every disease among the people. 36 But when He saw the multitudes, He was moved with compassion for them, because they were weary and scattered, like sheep having no shepherd. 37 Then He said to His disciples, “The harvest truly is plentiful, but the laborers are few. 38 Therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.” NKJV
In Matthew 4:19 Jesus said, “Follow Me and I will make you fishers of men…” From Jesus’ time to now the harvest has been plentiful but the harvesting has not always been. I’ve had people tell me that this area or that was a ‘hard area’ as a reason for the lack of growth of ingathering of souls in their community and local church. I understand that and have ministered in some of those ‘hard areas’ sometimes with more success than others. I can relate and do not question the labors of those men/women laboring in those fields. I simply say the potential ‘harvest’ is plentiful, for I believe Jesus’ words.
Through my years of ministry including leading congregations as pastor I have found that too often more attention is given to those we are trying to ‘keep’ than those we are trying to ‘reach’. I’ve seen far more ‘church swapping’ than ‘harvest gathering’ and it disturbs most pastors for our hearts burn to ‘reach the lost’ and follow the heart of our Lord who came to ‘seek’ and to ‘save’ that which was lost.
I remember hearing two pastors going at each other with the accusation of ‘sheep stealing’ being leveled. The one being accused said, “Well if you fed them properly they wouldn’t be so skinny they could crawl under the fence.” I thought you are both wrong! What fence? Do we have a fence to keep people in? Are we a prison or a hospital? Are we guarding our territory or harvesting the souls of men for the Kingdom of God? What is our purpose? Is it to have large numbers in attendance weekly or to bring in the Harvest of God? Are we Fishers of Men or Keepers of the Aquarium?
I served in one city where there were ten churches of the same denomination as ours and there were people in each church that had been in virtually all of them at one time or another. The sheep moved from one sheep shed to another, took on that brand for a time and then moved on. I do not suggest that what is needed are more evangelism campaigns or programs for ‘soul winning’ but more LIFE lived in the community that speaks that “in Him we live, move and have our being.” More LIFE that says it is “Christ in us the hope of glory.” More demonstration of the LIFE of CHRIST being manifest in our day to day actions and then I believe we would become more like the Early Church in that our daily lives would produce fruit, reap harvests, and then our Sunday gatherings would be ‘reporting times’ rather than just ‘preaching times.’
The church has a mandate to ‘go’, ‘gather’, ‘equip’, and ‘train’ not ‘entertain’. I do not mind entertainment and would never suggest that you do not need to provide ministry and functions that touch all the people attending the local congregation. I simply suggest that if we become ‘Keepers of the Aquarium’ rather than ‘Fishers of Men’ we have missed the heart of what our purpose is. My daily prayer is “Lord send forth laborers into the harvest…”
May God help us locally and universally turn our hearts to the harvest and rescue the perishing before it is everlastingly too late. May God be with you as you go through your day!