Jesus said that the harvest is plentiful but the workers are few, which still seems to be true of the mission field and church today. In this article, Stan Self offers 7 ways to foster a climate of listening for God’s calling within the local church.
Our Lord directly and unequivocally instructed his followers to pray for one specific need—workers for the fields white unto harvest. If we are not intentional in including that need in our individual and corporate prayer life, we risk hindering His work around the world.
As I visit churches throughout the United States to assist them in discovering and advancing their unique missional calling, I find very few that are praying for and expecting God to call missionaries from within their congregation. They seem oblivious to the directive Jesus gives to His followers in Matthew 9:38 to “pray to the Lord who is in charge of the harvest; ask him to send more workers into his fields.” I have also witnessed occasions where God calls someone and the congregation is surprised and sometimes even saddened at the prospect of having one of their own leave the church to minister some other place.
Clearly, Jesus connects the fulfillment of the need for workers in the harvest fields with prayer by His followers. Could he enlist the needed workers without that prayer? Of course, He could. However, He does tell us to pray and any attitude or action that dismisses His instruction could have a negative effect on the advancement of His kingdom.
One of the primary reasons for the absence of prayer for workers is a failure to create a climate in the church that elicits such prayer and the expectation that God will respond. Believing that every local church should be praying for and expecting workers to be called from their midst, let me to suggest the following seven ways a church can begin to create an atmosphere for that to happen:
1) Pastors should pray regularly, specifically, and publicly for God to call workers for His harvest field out of the church family.
Jesus is still Lord of the harvest. He is still calling laborers and the congregation needs to see, hear, and live in that expectation.
2) Include world awareness in preaching, teaching, newsletters, bulletins, church displays, the website, and other communication devices that are used.
Too often, out of sight, and hearing, is out of mind. Remind people of the need for God’s redemptive work in current events and the spiritual/social realities people face.
3) Illustrate sermons and teachings occasionally by using experiences of missionaries.
This assumes relationships with missionaries exist such that stories are readily available.
4) Present mission/outreach in the children’s and youth curriculum and provide opportunities to put that teaching into practice.
Awareness of God’s mission should be provided early and often.
5) Provide short-term opportunities to get involved.
It’s important that members of the congregation to be involved in real-time, hands-on mission work locally, nationally, and internationally.
6) Bring missionaries into the church to share their calling and ministry with the congregation.
Give them more than just a platform from which to speak; give them an opportunity to interact and build relationships within the congregation.
7) Have the children and youth leaders present mission work as a viable career option.
All young people wonder what they will be when they grow up. Most will never think of missions as a future job without the church informing them.
These are only beginning steps. However, if taken, there is little doubt a new awareness and attitude will arise and the church will reach a point of eagerly anticipating His callings and rejoicing when they occur.