A friend and I were returning home from a weekend spent with others, who, like us, were committed to following Jesus, laboring in His harvest, and training others to do the same. We’d spent several days praying for our region of the country, sharing stories, and strategizing about how to see a movement of the Kingdom of God in our respective cities.
As we drove home, my friend and I unpacked the weekend. Our conversation brought us to a particular discussion regarding the challenges we were facing in the Harvest, and what actions we could take to overcome those obstacles. The whiteboard had been so densely packed you could hardly see any white because of all the challenges and all the ideas of how to overcome them.
Such times call to mind when Paul says, “We proclaim him, warning and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone mature in Christ. I labor for this, striving with his strength that works powerfully in me.” 1, just like Paul, we desired to have wisdom in how we were striving in the Kingdom. That said, something was missing.
The Messy Middle: Mankind and Methods
Yet, reflecting back on it, two things struck us: One, even though our methods were simple, Biblical, and reproducible, we were too few, and our strategies did not consider working alongside the rest of the Body of Jesus. Secondly, we were getting dangerously close to trusting just in those methods, rather than our Master, to advance His Kingdom.
The Few Workers Ignore One Another
As the Lord Jesus sent out seventy of His disciples to proclaim the Kingdom of God, He told them, “The harvest is abundant, but the workers are few. Therefore, pray to the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into his harvest.” 2 Looking merely at the United States, according to at least four independent studies conducted by nationally recognized experts, only about 7 to 8.9 percent of Americans believe that salvation comes through Jesus alone, that it is a gift from Him through faith alone, and that the Bible is His authoritative and inerrant Word 3. So if less than 1 out of every 10 Americans even believe those things to be true, it begs the question, how many of those few have accepted responsibility for our Lord’s message and mission, and are actively following Him into the harvest?
I don’t have any statistics to answer this, but based on my own experiences and observations, I can only guess that the number is miniscule. If I am correct, then how can we afford to pretend that any one of us (or any group, organization, ministry or church) has a monopoly on the “right” way to labor for Jesus?
If someone is prayerfully seeking the scriptures, and feels led by God to use methods that align with scripture, but are different from our own Biblical methods, should we deride or ignore them? Rather, shouldn’t we pray for, seek out, and seize any opportunity we can to work alongside others who want to see God’s Kingdom come on earth?
Let us pray for laborers, as Jesus commanded. Let us be part of the answer to our own prayer. And let us lovingly labor alongside others, who may have different methods, but are serving the same Master and have embraced the same mission. May we pray as our Lord did: “I pray not only for these, but also for those who believe in me through their word. May they all be one, as you, Father, are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us, so that the world may believe you sent me. I have given them the glory you have given me, so that they may be one as we are one. I am in them and you are in me, so that they may be made completely one, that the world may know you have sent me and have loved them as you have loved me.” 4
Method or Miracle?
Benjamin Franklin is credited with the often quoted saying, “If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail!” I certainly agree with this idea, and believe that God has ordained it that we actively participate in His harvest.
However, I also believe that our methods are never truly the answer. Rather, the Holy Spirit miraculously convicts hearts and opens blind eyes to the saving grace of our Lord Jesus. Only Jesus can rescue our lost family members, coworkers, neighbors, and friends. It is not in the cleverness of our words or methods. Our Master said that apart from Him we can do nothing, and He rebuked the Pharisees and Sadducees for using their man-made traditions to disobey the commands of God.
While there is a notable distinction between using traditions to disobey God, and putting too much stock in methods over our Master, I believe that there is a connection. We should question our hearts and in whom and in what we put our trust. We must ask if we are trusting our wisdom and persuasiveness or the power of Christ and His spirit. Let us prayerfully consider our methods, and follow Jesus’ example in all things, trusting in the Holy Spirit to lead us, but may we also hold all our methods loosely and ultimately trust in the miraculous work of our Master. Let us trust in our Lord Jesus to accomplish the task and teach others to always seek and follow Him, rather than trusting in our methods and leading others astray by making disciples who we’ve trained to do the same.
As we head out into the harvest this week, let us ask ourselves who we might be partnering with if we let go of our pride. And what could we accomplish in the Spirit if we hold our Earthly wisdom with an open hand.