“Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.” – Matthew 9:37-38
Why are the workers few i today’s church?
1 – Ecclesiological reasons
The focus of cultural Christianity is “going to church” not “living on mission” so we created a system and culture where you can be perfectly fine and faithful with zero connection to mission.
2 – Giftedness reasons
God gifts his people and not everyone is a gifted evangelist (Eph 4:11 has more than one gift). Often, people avoid tasks and responsibilities they aren’t very good at to focus on their strengths. I get why that is the case but we can all use our talents toward the mission. The shepherd is needed so that when the evangelistically gifted go out and bring people in, the new people have someone to shepherd them. The gifted teachers can also teach the new people. We just need to consider how our gifts fit the mission even when we aren’t the tip of the spear.
3 – Employment/business issues
We created a professional class of missionaries. That’s okay but we also need to communicate that the mission is done by more people than that. God calls more people than just the professionals to be on mission. The cultural Christianity idea is that people come to church and give and they expect others to do what God expects everyone to do.
4 – Personality issues
Personality is similar to giftedness. Some people are introverts and it kills them to meet new people. So evangelism is one of the last things they want to do. But what if we considered how our personality might actually advance the mission? The introvert can still be a friend to someone who comes for the first time and has no one to sit with or they might be a great teacher to teach new people the basics. The introvert doesn’t have to go out and find people but could be ready to receive people as they come.
5 – Disobedience
This is the hard one. Some times we just aren’t willing to do what Jesus said to do. Period.
Ecclesiological and employment issues are corporate paradigm/cultural issues on the organizational level. They have to be fixed on the same level in which they exist – the corporate level. A new culture with new (biblical) expectations needs to be formed. That takes years but it is important work. The giftedness, personality and obedience issues are issues we can all examine for ourselves and make shifts on a personal level to get more of us out on the mission field.
Last, a note of hope – Jesus said the harvest is plentiful. Often our working assumption is that the harvest is not plentiful, so why try? But the harvest is plentiful if we are willing to go out to the people who need Jesus and start building relationships and trust, study with them, encourage them, pray with them, and encourage them. Then see if God makes it grow!
All we can do is sow and water but too few people are even doing that.
What would you add to the list? Let us hear from you in the comments.
PS – Isn’t it interesting that Jesus told his disciples to pray/ask the Lord to send out workers rather than telling them to go out as workers? My opinion is that Jesus said this because if you tell them to go out they won’t pray for more workers/seek/develop more workers but if you tell them to pray for more workers…you can only pray that so many times before you figure out you are one of the workers!
And yet: What makes us think we need to be gifted? Acts 8 says nothing about “giftedness.” They went everywhere, proclaiming the word… Simple.
Sometimes we make too much of the “giftedness,” to such an extend that excuses are heard “I have no gifts…” What about the quietness described by Peter as a way to win people? No words needed – just a lived-out faith in the presence of others/
I agree with the reasons you’ve listed, plus I’d like to add two more. First of all, as to the giftedness; many Christians are clueless when it comes to spiritual/grace gifts. Some believe that the supernatural power the gifts conveyed were only meant for the early Church and went away with the end of the Apostolic Age. I can’t find any scriptural proof to support that theory. Acts 1:4-8 seems to indicate that this power would be required to be effective witnesses to the ends of the earth.
Secondly, I think that the idea of becoming more Christ-like (end goal of discipleship), is a process that can neither be mass produced or accomplished merely in a classroom setting. Using Jesus’s example as a prototype, we can see the small group method and hands-on training as the method he used. Few churches that I’ve had experience with will go the extra mile to try the Jesus approach. It’s one thing to tell folks what they should be doing. It’s something else to take the time and effort to actually “equip the saints for the work of ministry, to build up the body of Christ.”
Disobedience is my personal hinderance… but that doesn’t explain God refusing to put on his “big god pants”. In USA’s henotheism, there actually is a power encounter battle going on. While Stone-Campbell flavored disciples have often been Scots Enlightenment enculturated out of any metaphysical/supernatural dimensional interaction with the natural world, the immigrant populations moving into our cosmopolitan cities come from culture where animism, ancestor worshipping, idol/demon/territorial entities. spiritisms, etc. are the norm. to wit:
while you stretch out your hand to heal, and signs and wonders are performed through the name of your holy servant Jesus
23 After they were released, they went to their own people and reported what the chief priests and the elders had said to them. 24 When they heard it, they raised their voices together to God and said, “Sovereign Lord, who made the heaven and the earth, the sea, and everything in them, 25 it is you who said by the Holy Spirit through our ancestor David, your servant:[h]
‘Why did the gentiles rage
and the peoples imagine vain things?
26 The kings of the earth took their stand,
and the rulers have gathered together
against the Lord and against his Messiah.’[i]
27 “For in this city, in fact, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the gentiles and the peoples of Israel, gathered together against your holy servant[j] Jesus, whom you anointed, 28 to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place. 29 And now, Lord, look at their threats, and grant to your servants to speak your word with all boldness, 30 while you stretch out your hand to heal, and signs and wonders are performed through the name of your holy servant[k] Jesus.” 31 When they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God with boldness.
Giftedness largely comes down to congregational leadership not discipling/mentoring
homes are for community building / evangelism … and yes, Jesus does own your stuff and he can tell you to risk it Luke 16:9
I’m going for a snack now because apparently my blood sugar is low.
The gifted or talented may set the pace, but they are not supposed to replace everybody else. Consider this, if I don’t have the gift of mercy does that mean I can be a jerk? Or if I don’t have the gift of liberality does that mean I can skip the offering?