Toward a Strategy
By the Revd Dr Mark Pickles
“When he (Jesus) saw the crowds he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, ‘The harvest is plentiful, but the labourers are few therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out labourers into his harvest’”. (Matthew 9:36-38)
“Notice what Jesus seems and what he feels. When he viewed the large crowds of thousands of people, what he saw was many people who were harassed and helpless. Why— because they were sheep without a shepherd. To live in this fallen world, in rebellion against and adrift from the God who created you and gave you life is to be lost, confused and purposeless. Jesus looked upon countless numbers of people whose lives were full of burdens, strains and stresses, sorrows and pressures, anxieties and emptiness, pursuing false hopes, false dreams, serving false idols, living lives of meaninglessness and in a fallen world, victims also of the sins of others, that left them harassed, lied to, abused, oppressed and deceived. And that is to say nothing of a Day of Judgment and a Christ-less eternity to come.
“No wonder the heart of Jesus was stirred to compassion as he viewed the helplessness and the lost-ness of a teeming humanity.
“It is crucial that ministers of the gospel, live lives of close and vital unions and communion with the Lord Jesus, so that increasingly we learn to see as he sees and feel as he feels.
“Do we view crowds of people , who may be utterly indifferent or even hostile to the gospel, with compassion or resentment and irritation? When fallen people fall into sin, when a lost world demonstrates its lostness do we respond with an attitude that conveys surprise, disapproval or condemnation? This is not so much revealed by what comes from our lips but in our manner and attitude. People instinctively discern whether or not a person cares for them, whether a professed compassion is genuine or not. As our culture moves ever further away from its Christian foundations, as values, cultural norms, legislation, and accepted patterns of behaviour become more and more removed from biblical standards, there is a danger that the Church exudes a disapproving and condemning air. When lost sheep without a shepherd give ample proof of their lostness, we need rather to have the compassion of the Good Shepherd who came to seek and to save the lost.
Large Harvest…Few Workers
“But that was not all that Jesus saw as he looked upon the crowds, he also discerned that, “the harvest is plentiful.” The reason that the in-gathering was not as great as it could be was not a lack of harvest, the problem rather was a lack of labourers to gather it in.
“Of course, we can’t simply jump from Jesus’ context in Matthew 9 and apply his comment them directly to 21st century UK now… or can we? Jesus, fully God and fully man, was THE Man who could read and understand the human heart.
“Jesus on his part did not entrust himself to them because he new all people and needed no one to bear witness about man, for he himself knew what was in man.” (John 2:24-25)
“Despite the distance of time, geography and culture, the underlying nature of the human heart hasn’t changed and the effects of alienation from God remain.
“Undoubtedly, in 21st century secularised Western Europe we face enormous battles but might it be that this is a missing note in our thinking? The harvest in our day and age might not be as plentiful as others past of the vineyard and in other seasons, bu the same basic truth still remains, namely the the harvest is plentiful and that the real problem in gathering it in is the lack of labourers.
“Furthermore, Jesus doesn’t simply offer a diagnosis he also gives a solution that in essence is very simple, “therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out labourers into his harvest.”
“The need is for more labourers; the solution is to pray earnestly for the Lord of the harvest to send them.”
Excerpted from Gospel-Driven Anglicanism by the Revd Dr Mark Pickles, pages 92-93, 2017.