Do we Grasp the Nature of Working in the Harvest Field?
Early in my ministry, I talked to an orthopedic surgeon and told him I couldn’t imagine how daunting it would be to surgery on someone. I was stunned by his reply. He stately flatly that what he does is not nearly so great a responsibility as what I do as a minister! That day I learned a little better the extraordinary responsibility of tending to souls.
How much training would you like your surgeons to have? How much preparation should an airline pilot get? Or for that matter, how much preparation should the engineers who design the planes have? What equipping do we think a person should have if they are going to research new medications? Don’t you want even school teachers and university professors to know what they are talking about and maybe even know how to teach well?
What, then, about those who want to change the world in Jesus’ name? Whether ministers or not. How important is the role of guiding people toward God compared to the jobs just mentioned. Those jobs are really important, by the way, and I have no desire to lower the bar of training for them. But I do believe my orthopedic doc friend was right—there’s no work where more is at stake than directing people toward God.
Jesus said that if the blind lead the blind, both will fall into a pit. The pit in the parable is a hole in the ground but ultimately, spiritually, the pit will be the great abyss, and we dare not inadvertently lead someone into it. Too much is at stake in guiding others spiritually for us to engage in it unprepared. By the way, standing back in fear and allowing them to stumble into the pit on their own is no better.
So the work the Lord has entrusted to us is extremely important, but changing the world like Jesus is also quite difficult. The Lord calls us to get involved with people and talk to them about things that may sometimes feel threatening. We are on call to do our Master’s bidding 24/7, whenever he may give us the opportunity. We are also up against our own self-consciousness and insecurity about the poor reputation Christianity has developed with many people. Without adequate training, most modern Christians, would probably call it quits after less than an hour of actual work in the harvest field.
Perhaps even more than these matters, however, our task is difficult because we are opposed by a powerful Enemy. Satan is not an annoying little pest. He is a serious rival. He is “a strong man,” “the prince of this world,” and “the god of this age.” Scripture lists at least twenty-five specific, destructive ploys he is capable of doing to support his cause, including deceiving people, blinding their minds, and sifting them like wheat. He is fully committed to steal, kill and destroy.
Because of the importance of our work and the power of our enemy, thorough preparation is called for. I realize we have God on our side. I realize God can work through weakness and can cover our mistakes, just as he did with the twelve. If that were not so, none of us could be involved. Still, in His divine wisdom, God made changing the world a cooperative effort between him and us, and his Son saw fit to offer substantial equipping to those who would work with him in his field.
In view of the importance and challenge of changing the world like Jesus, Empowering Subjects unashamedly calls participants to considerable preparation. The call is to immerse oneself for three months into a concentrated environment of reading, study, prayer, reflection, writing, discussion and taking some actual steps. The action steps start small and gradually grow more challenging, though never demanding inappropriate behaviors like confronting strangers or using “lines” on people. The steps are absolutely indispensable, though, because if nothing changes, nothing changes. We need to strongly emphasize the absolute necessity of acting on what we are learning, because of the prevalent but mistaken notion in most church environments that listening constitutes learning. It does not.
In light of the chaotic mess of our world, the tremendous importance of changing it like Jesus, and the significant challenges to doing so, then, how much preparation do you think the average church member would need before going to work in the harvest field? How much training would you personally be willing to do? Would you be willing to “leave behind” some of your “nets” for three months of learning to “fish for people?” If you want to experience the sacrifice, joy, and fulfillment of changing the world like Jesus, there will be a cost. But there will also be great reward. That’s the opportunity Empowering Subjects provides.