Then Jesus said to his disciples, "The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.” Matthew 9:37-38 NIV
Last Friday I wrote about our need for a “Kingdom Vision”—that is, our need to know what God wants us to do. We all need God’s direction, don’t we? Church planters and parents, mission leaders and bishops, business owners and entrepreneurs. In Matthew 9:35-10:8 Jesus modeled some of the steps we, too can take to receive and develop a Kingdom vision in all we do.
Last week, we looked at these steps that Jesus modeled in receiving vision:
- Get involved in Jesus’ Kingdom ministry (Mt. 9:35): Rub shoulders with secular people, share the Good News and pray. Do what Jesus did everywhere, with everyone, at all times!
- Open your eyes as Jesus did (Mt. 9:36): Slow down enough so that you can watch people and see them as they really are and as compassionately as Jesus saw them.
- Allow God to burden you with a specific need (Mt. 9:36): When Jesus saw the crowds, he was literally “moved in his guts” because they were “harassed and helpless.” What burden has God placed on our hearts for the people we see?
Such conviction leads to the next step Jesus models in receiving and developing a Kingdom vision:
- Pray for God’s divine diagnosis to meet that specific need.
Then Jesus said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the LORD of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field." Matt. 9:37-38 NIV
Jesus had a divine diagnosis for what he saw. It was very simple: Big harvest, not enough workers. Out of that divine diagnosis came the action steps: the prayer for more workers and the calling and empowering of the disciples.
When we see a need, or we feel a burden, how often do we stop, pray and wait for God’s diagnosis? I learned this lesson the hard way while I was studying for the California Bar Exam. It is a grueling, three-day test, many fail it, and anxiety runs high. Like most people, I was spending the two months before the exam reading, memorizing, going to classes up to 12 hours a day. During the second month of preparation my back and neck froze up and I was in agonizing pain.
Fortunately, Julie, my wife, and I were living in Pasadena where Agnes Sanford was also living. Agnes Sanford was one of the pioneers of healing ministry in the Episcopal Church (if you haven’t read The Healing Light it is well worth the read). Julie called her for me and asked if we could come over for prayer. We were surprised when she asked if she could come over and ask us some questions first.
And so she did—teaching us that we don’t just rush into prayer without first discerning carefully what the real need may be. For me, beneath the physical distress was a great deal of fear of the test and anxiety about the future. Yes, we prayed for physical healing, but not before receiving the “divine diagnosis” of the need for grace, faith and some healing assurance of the future in God’s hands. And, yes, the physical healing followed almost immediately.
When we see the need and feel the burden, how often do we pray and wait for the “divine diagnosis” before rushing in with an action plan? Wouldn’t we actually save time in the long run by developing an action plan based on prayerful discernment rather than a series of “false starts”?
- Invite others into the Kingdom Vision, and equip them to carry it out.
Jesus called his twelve disciples to him and gave them authority to drive out evil spirits and to heal every disease and sickness. (Matt. 10:1 NIV)
In the leadership retreats sponsored by the American Anglican Council, we focus on the need that all leaders have to draw others into the vision—just as Jesus did with his disciples. There is often a temptation to think of leadership in a more hierarchical way. Sometimes clergy can feel as if they have the burden of Moses to go up to the mountain alone and then deliver the vision to the people below. Sometimes with that burden comes the expectation that people will simply salute and carry it out.
Sometimes that may be God’s will. But it doesn’t seem to be the way that Jesus operated. He spent three precious years focusing much of his time on raising up, discipling and empowering leaders (in the plural). Jesus seems to have worked through circles of leaders that he invited into the vision. He had an inner circle of three (Peter, James and John, see Mark 5:37), the twelve disciples whom we read about in this story of Kingdom vision, the seventy-two whom he sent out on mission (see Luke 10:1) and ultimately 120 who were in the upper room praying and waiting on the eve of Pentecost (see Acts 1:15).
This morning I was blessed to speak with a Rector whose Anglican (ACNA) church is reaching over 1,500 people every Sunday morning, and thousands more in his area, through raising up and empowering lay leaders to do the ministry! There are only three clergy at this church—the rest of the ministry is done by the un-ordained, from hospital visitations to healing teams for overseas missions.
So what are we doing—wherever God has called us—to raise up, multiply and empower leaders that share the vision?
- Don’t hold back—give all that you have to that God-given Kingdom vision.
Jesus said…”As you go, preach this message: the kingdom of heaven is near. Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons, freely you have received, freely give.” (Matt. 10:7-8 NIV)
Not many instructions here. Not much preparation for mission. Instead, Jesus tells them—and us—to give recklessly and with abandon to others in the same way God has given recklessly and with abandon to you and me through the blood of Jesus, his only Son, for our sins on the cross.
As I listen to my own children—now in their 20’s and early 30’s—it is this sacrificial, reckless, extravagant giving to others through the same deeds that Jesus did in the gospels (eating, healing and telling), and with the same unconditional love, that is the mark of authentic Christianity. For them, anything less is just talk and entertainment.
Of course, such reckless giving hasn’t caught up with their pocketbooks—yet. But it’s this very spirit of reckless generosity for what Christ has done for us that David Roseberry channels in his new book Giving UP: How Giving to God Renews Hearts, Changes Minds, and Empowers Ministry. Roseberry shows the inextricable link between generosity and true discipleship—including sacrificial, financial giving to the church and its mission. “The Body of Christ is at its best and most powerful when it is at its most giving,” he says, “If we want to win the world, we have to learn how to give up.”
How can we demonstrate that inextricable link between generosity—including financial giving—and true discipleship to the next generation of leaders?
So, when God gives you and me the eyes to see the need, the hearts to feel the burden of the need, the knees to fall down and prayerfully wait for the “divine diagnosis,” the patience to fashion any action plans on prayerful discernment, the voice to call others into that vision, and hands to equip and empower others for the ministry just as Jesus did—and the radical generosity and faith to “freely give”… Just imagine what Biblical, Kingdom impact we, our families and our congregations could have on the people around us!
The Rev. Canon Phil Ashey is President & CEO of the American Anglican Council