Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore, pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”Matthew 9:37-38
I have heard this passage preached many times over the years. I don’t remember every single message, but often it was at a mission’s conference where the emphasis was to encourage people to be missionaries. While it may not have always been clearly stated, the implication was that to be a missionary or ”laborer in the harvest” one has to go to a foreign land. Of course, it would also be articulated that not everyone is called to go. After all, some need to stay and provide financial support so that others can go.
I am not throwing stones at those who preached these messages. I am sure that their desire was to see more believers proclaiming the Gospel. They were no doubt burdened for the many lost and saw the great need for more laborers.
However, the message that was often communicated led me to a wrong understanding of my role as a believer. I thought that when it came to God’s mission there were two different types of Christians. The first group were those who went as missionaries and lived in some far-off country. To give a military analogy these are those serving on the frontlines. The second group were those who supported the frontline. They support those on the frontline and of course, pray that God would raise up more laborers. Little did I realize that my understanding was completely wrong.
Unfortunately, this wrong thinking was not unique to me. This mindset is common in the church. Over the years I have heard many comments from Christians that affirm this false understanding. This wrong view has been affirmed by multiple studies and surveys that show a continued decline in the percentage of Christians who believe that it is their responsibility to share the Gospel.
This wrong thinking is an attractive deception as it justifies our failure for not taking responsibility for the lost near us. We think that by praying for missionaries or giving money to support them that we have done our part. Wrong! Just because you are not in a foreign land does not mean that you are free from God’s command to go and make disciples. In fact, in this passage Jesus does not name a specific “harvest” location. The actual context of Jesus statement about the need for more laborers was his observation of the great need of those who were near him.
And Jesus went throughout all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.Matthew 9:35-36
Every believer is a missionary. A missionary is one that is sent on a mission. It does not matter where in the world you are located. If you are believer, you have been sent to proclaim the Gospel. You do not have to travel overseas to make disciples. There is a great need for a Gospel witness right where you are. There are people all around you who do not know God.
Our thinking needs to change. We have all been sent. We have all been called to be on the frontlines. This does not mean that we shouldn’t be supporting others. In fact, the Bible is clear that the church is called to do both. We are supposed to support one another. This would, of course, include supporting international missions. However, we are also to engage the lost right where we are. The harvest is right here. The beauty of the church is that, when it is functioning as it should, while it builds itself up it is able to better accomplish its mission to make disciples.
How about you? How do you view your responsibility when it comes to God’s mission? Are you praying for God to send out laborers while ignoring the reality that you yourself are called to be one of those laborers? Are you engaging with lost people and working to advance the Kingdom of God right where you are? There is a harvest all around us. Instead of making excuses or hoping others will go on our behalf, let’s roll up our sleeves and get busy bringing in the harvest.