Jesus was going through all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every kind of disease and every kind of sickness. Seeing the people, He felt compassion for them, because they were distressed and dispirited like sheep without a shepherd. Then He *said to His disciples, "The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. "Therefore beseech the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into His harvest." (Matthew 9:35-38 NASB)
This is an important text to consider and a simple reading of it may reveal some areas of failure in American Christianity, especially within the Church growth movement, and prosperity movement. Jesus is traveling as an itinerate preacher from synagogue to synagogue preaching the gospel of the kingdom (repentance and faith). Moreover He is healing sickness and disease. I have labored much over this on this blog, but it is critical to see the balance of Christ’s ministry, teaching and preaching the Gospel and service to the sick and in need. It is always both and. If you neglect proclaiming the gospel you are a humanist service org, and if you neglect service you are a resounding gong. We read that Jesus sees the people and has compassion on them... what people? The distressed and dispirited... In response to what He sees He tells the disciples that the harvest is plentiful and to seek God to send out workers. Who is the harvest? The distressed and the dispirited.
The reason I say this text has serious implications to American Christendom and particularly the Church Growth movement is that in most Growth focused ministries it is not the distressed and dispirited that are harvested. People take surveys, find the growing areas, look at financial statistics, and so on, then they plant a church where it is most likely to grow. Look! The Church is not about growing, it is about harvesting. Jesus did not say look there is fertile soil, go plant... He says there is a harvest go pluck. Again, in our strategizing we look for people who will be able to financially support growth, once that is shored up we will go to the distressed and dispirited, and we end up harvesting the wrong crop into our barn.
Does God desire that those who are affluent be redeemed? Well He certainly does not take pleasure in the death of the wicked, but if He desires the affluent, spirited, and non-distressed to be redeemed, He will redeem them thru the witness of the Church going to the distressed! Our job is to seek conformity to Christ in all things, and that includes serving and seeking those whom He commanded us to serve and seek. I could ramble on forever on this. For instance, we go all seeker sensitive, should we be the seekers of the lost. We know from scripture that no one seeks God, but instead that God seeks them, and He sends us into the harvest for that.
I have to end here due to time.