Luke 10:2 “Therefore said he unto them, The harvest truly is great, but the labourers are few: pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he would send forth labourers into his harvest.”
Are you, like me, frequently overwhelmed with the unending work of the ministry? How about when you consider the really big ask of God to preach the gospel to the entire world and raise up the next generation of disciples who will need to do it all over again? Too often we-starting with me-get ourselves in trouble when we mismanage that frequent stressor of a serious labor shortage; this complex often takes on the profile of cynicism, burnout, carnality, or even a gradual “deconversion or decalling.” (Each of these prayerless coping mechanisms only further exacerbates the labor problem!)
Bill Hull, in his classic “The Disciple-Making Pastor, encourages us to take that sensation of being overwhelmed and transform it into a prayer for multiplication:
Jesus described a troubling situation when He said there was too much work and too few workers. The need outnumbered the workers: workers for evangelism, to meet physical needs, to support those in emotional turmoil, and many more. What concerned leader hasn’t been troubled by the hurting people who have no one to help them and the large number of willing people ready to be harvested who lack harvesters?
Not much has changed in this regard since Jesus spoke those words. The world’s present needs far outweigh the workers to meet them. This is frustrating and perplexing. Karl Barth wrote, “Perplexity comes to us simply because we are ministers.” Jesus voiced a simple solution: pray for workers to enter the harvest.
In the face of vast unmet need, compassion forces the concerned Christian to make choices. Jesus advocates a twofold choice: First, make yourself available for work in the harvest field; second, pray for God to send others into the harvest. Pray, because it’s God’s harvest field. Pray, because only God can convince someone to work in His field. Pray, because no one can recruit enough personnel from his sphere of influence alone. Pray for workers to enter the harvest field from all over the world.
Jesus said, “Make disciples” but “pray for workers.” The difference is that God desires every Christian to be a reproducing disciple. But for a disciple to determine that he will give a lifetime of labor takes a divine tap on the shoulder. I am not saying a disciple is less serious than a worker; I am saying there are some differences of degree rather than kind.
The differences between a disciple and a laborer are experience and conviction. A laborer may or may not possess the experience, skill, and bone-deep conviction that will make possible a serious commitment to reach and minister to others. When Jesus commissioned the Twelve, He did so with high expectations. But He waited two years before challenging the Twelve to go out and labor without His direct involvement. Prayer is the most effective recruiting tool that leaders possess. Jesus encourages us to ask, to petition our Father to send more laborers.
Leaders can employ various recruiting tools: entertainment followed by an appeal; guilt stimulation followed by an appeal; calling in favors followed by an appeal; arm twisting followed by an appeal; and old reliable, the tearjerker film or story followed by a tear-jerker appeal. These are common, but not commanded recruiting techniques. The various appeals mentioned above are prefaced or followed by the obligatory prayer. But how common is the organization that uses prayer as their primary recruiting method? Honestly, I don’t want to know; I would find it too discouraging.
I do not argue against the use of other methods in addition to prayer, but against the use of other methods as primary means of recruiting. To make prayer primary, issue a general call of the congregation to prayer. This means putting forth effort to organize prayer groups or meetings that are specifically tied to a need. Thoroughly school the church populace in why you have chosen the prayer method over others.
Just this morning, as I am finishing up this post, I received a convicting/confirming reminder that prayer will take me much further in resolving the labor shortage in my local church than any other initiative I can manufacture. A dear, gifted family that, at one time served in leadership in our fledging church and moved out of state, is headed back our way and super-pumped to begin serving again in expanded areas that truly need workers uniquely like them! (By the way, this specific family and move has been on my prayer list almost since the first week after they moved away.) Praise the Lord for answered prayer to get the work done that I will never accomplish alone. May God help us recognize that multiplication is key to our divinely-sanctioned mission and prayerful supplication is the only healthy, productive response to the labor shortage all around us. Who could God enable us to multiply our influence/calling through if we would stop whining and worrying and start praying? The solution to the overwhelming harvest has always been and always will come in the form of ANSWERED PRAYER…period!
Hull, Bill. The Disciple-Making Pastor (pp. 178-180). Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.