Then Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every sickness and every disease among the people. But when He saw the multitudes, He was moved with compassion for them, because they were weary and scattered, like sheep having no shepherd. Then He said to His disciples, “The harvest truly is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.”
Matthew 9:35-38 NKJV
I can’t begin to tell you how this passage has impacted my life. We began writing and teaching some basic Bible curriculum back in the 1980’s in our little upstate New York church. We had some people who wanted a Bible school to help them feel prepared to minister to others., but they were resource-challenged. As I labored in prayer over the need in our region, asking the Lord to send more trained workers to help us, He spoke to me so clearly, “Train your own.” So, we did. I began writing courses. The original 8 courses were called “Believers Equipment Program.”
A few years later, as I sat at a stop sign in Mesa, Arizona, I was thinking about this passage, and praying the prayer that Jesus prescribed. In that moment, the Spirit of God spoke to me so clearly about the state of the Church: “The problem is not a lack of fannies in the pew. The problem is a lack of laborers to the harvest.” I was immediately reminded of the commission to “train your own.” For more than 30 years, we have been doing exactly that. The name has changed to “Faith Ministry Training Institute,” and the curriculum has been expanded to include special training in areas of leadership and ministry. I am more convinced than ever that:
- The Lord still uses the same methods: going about all the cities and villages, preaching, teaching, and healing.
- The Lord is still moved with compassion for those who are weary and scattered, without a shepherd. If I allow myself to feel His heart, I will be moved as well.
- There is still a huge harvest available. While we bewail the decline in church attendance, that is not our problem. The shortage of motivated and equipped laborers is the issue.
- The call to disciples is two-fold: Pray for laborers and be willing to prepare them for service.
- The local church is the primary agency of God’s work in the earth. It has always been so.
Re-reading our text, we notice the very next verse, “And when He had called His twelve disciples to Him, He gave them power over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal all kinds of sickness and all kinds of disease.” (Matthew 10:1 NKJV). Jesus didn’t stop with a call to prayer. Thank God for prayer. But without the next step of equipping the willing, it is a prayer with only half an answer. God answers that prayer by touching hearts, turning the oblivious into the willing. Our commission is to equip the willing so they can be effective laborers. We do this by working with and through local pastors and churches to help train those God puts under their care.
If compassion is moving you to seek training, or to help train others you, take a look at our website for Faith Ministry Training Institute, or contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org. (Disponible en Español.) Let’s move those fannies out of the pew and into the harvest field!