26 April 2011

Jesus Gives Practical Instruction Toward Making Disciples

Luke 10:1-12

Jesus very clearly states the problem in proclaiming the essential news to the world,
"The kingdom of God has come near to you."

"The harvest is plentiful, but the money is few."  Sorry, typo.  "The harvest is plentiful, but the buildings are few."  Whoops, my bad.  "The harvest is plentiful, but the marketing is few."  Rats!  Thank you for your patience.  "The harvest is plentiful, but the harvest isn't really that plentiful."  OK, OK.  I'll put away the popular Revised Slandered Version of the Bible and will now get out the real thing.

Jesus is quite clear, as disturbingly often as he is, about the main challenge this embryonic movement is about to face.  "The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few."  The main obstacle is not lack of funds, lack of buildings, lack of interest, lack of need, lack of skill, etc...  The main obstacle is lack of workers.

My wife works for an agency that has brought many people to faith in Jesus.  They do so by meeting women and some men at a pivotal point in their lives.  They are pregnant and they don't want to be.  Many of these women are in a relationship where they are being used for their body.  Many of these women are being pressured by their baby's father and by their own family to kill their child so that things can go back to the way it was before.

One of the wonderful programs this agency has is a mentoring program.  These women, who have never had any examples or formal parental training, meet with a wise Christian woman who help them transition from caring only for themselves to caring for the sons or daughters they have been blessed with.

In the past month, Michelle's ministry has seen Hindu, Buddhist, Muslim, and Agnostic women longing for a wise, Christian woman to mentor them.  Is there any better description of a ripe harvest?  However, there is a real danger in this harvest not producing its yield.  Why?  Because Michelle's ministry is short of wise, Christian women who are willing to put in the time to mentor these women in need.  In other words, "The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few."

As tempted as I am to rant as to why, despite the number of Perth churches, there are still few laborers, I will seek encouragement from what Jesus does.  What is the solution to lack of workers? 

First, prayer.  Our Father is always working.  What is our Father doing today?  He is enriching soil, ripening the harvest, and sending out workers.  Whatever our Heavenly Father is doing, it is enriching soil, ripening the harvest, and sending out workers.  This is a prayer our Lord wants us to pray.  This prayer is one of his commands, "Father, please send out workers into your harvest field."

Prayers of this nature is always accompanied by action.  There are seventy or seventy-two workers about to go into a harvest field of thousands and beyond that, millions.  After asking his workers to ask his Father to send workers into the harvest.  Jesus sends out workers.  Will these workers be enough for the vast fields of the world?  No.  They need more workers.  Where will those workers come from?  It's clear that the additional workers will come from the harvest.  Just as Jesus went out into the harvest field and gathered these seventy, the seventy are now ready to go out into the harvest field and gather more workers.  The harvest becomes workers.

Before I start listing the practical instruction to these workers and to those of us who have been commissioned to work for the Lord of the harvest.  "I am sending you out like lambs in the midst of wolves."  Our boss gives us another warning to his workers that this work deserves hazard pay.  Not everyone will greet followers of Jesus with laurels and hearty handshakes.  In fact, many will be greeted with torches and pitchforks.  "We like things the way they are.  It works for us.  Shut up.  Get out.  Or else."

In a post-Christian culture, where many of us are lamenting the apparent lack of interest and some outright hostility toward Jesus and his church; as I list off Jesus' practical instructions toward making disciples, I wonder, how close are we following Jesus' clear, practical instructions in how to make disciples of Jesus Christ?
  • He sent them in pairs.  There is no such thing as a lone ranger Christian.  Yes, we hear about Paul but he had Barnabas and Silas.  And, I'm sure for the other sent ones of our Lord, it was the same.  We are not to go alone.  We cannot do it alone.  It is not good for man to be alone.  All of Christ's workers are to be part of a team.
  • Carry no purse, no bag, no sandals.  The workers will be paid as the work is being done.  As the harvest is being harvested, the Lord of the Harvest moves the newer workers to care for the older workers.
  • Greet no one on the road.  If you are sent to a location, go to that location.  Don't be distracted or delayed.  The Lord has sent you for a reason.  They need help.  Go directly to give that help.  Trust that the Lord is constantly working.
  • Go to a house with a greeting of peace.  The Lord of the harvest has been working on his harvest longer than the worker has been aware of the harvest.  If the house is peaceful and hospitable, praise the Father for his work and go in and do yours.
  • Remain in the same house.  Do not move about from house to house.  The Lord's workers are to do their work in one house.  The Lord's workers are not door to door salesmen.  Why?  Remember, you are not the only worker.  The harvest becomes workers.  You are not the only person who needs to live by faith, others must learn to as well.  Other houses will come to faith through the work of your hosts.
  • Eat and drink whatever they provide.  As was pointed out in an earlier post, eating and drinking with people is one of the most underestimated, simply profound rituals children of God can do with each other.  In doing this, we proclaim that we are not above anybody.  We relax and talk together as we all enjoy the blessings of the Lord. This is why God sent the vision to Peter.  As our older brother and fellow worker, Paul said to the church in Rome, "For the kingdom of God is not food and drink but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit."
  • Cure the sick who are there.  The love of Christ compels us to give much needed help to those who are considered helpless.  The Lord's workers give hope to the hopeless by exhibiting the power that has lifted us up.  The way of the world says people have value based on quality of life.  The way of the Lord says people have value based on who made them.
  • Say, "The kingdom of God has come near to you."  This is the message that Jesus proclaimed.  This is the message that Jesus wants his followers to proclaim.  This is Jesus' thesis statement.  If you were to boil Jesus down to one sentence, this is that sentence.  When people come to believe that this is true, the harvest has been reaped.
  • To those who do not welcome you, proclaim in the streets, "Even the dust of your town that clings to our feet, we wipe off in protest against you.  Yet know this:  the kingdom of God has come near."  Whether people accept or reject, the message, the reality, remains the same:  The kingdom of God has come near.  This is why this is good news for some and bad news for others.
How close does the 21st century church come to these clear instructions?  If we differ from this, we must ask why?  And are those legitimate, spiritual reasons or unwise decisions that should never have been made?

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