As we launch into 2019, we want friends new and old to have a better idea of what Into the Harvest is all about. Simply put, our goal is to help believers move the message and mission of Jesus out of the building and into the everyday places of life.
Ideas from Our Fathers
In John’s gospel, when Jesus had his conversation with the woman at the well, she challenged him: “Our fathers worshipped on this mountain, and you people say that the place where people must worship is in Jerusalem.” Jesus answered her, “I tell you the truth, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. Yes, a time is coming – and now is here – when the true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father seeks such people to be his worshippers.” (John 4.20-23)
Can’t we all relate to the woman at the well? We all have ideas of where worship is supposed to happen – ideas inherited from our fathers. Because of this, we subconsciously think of church as a place or event. This is why we hear the questions “Where do you go to church?” (place), or “What time does church start?” (event). If asked, most of us would agree that church = the people of Jesus, not the place where those people meet or the event that happens on Sunday. This impacts the way we think about the business of being disciples and making disciples. How do we shift our way of thinking so that we see things less like the woman in John 4 and more like Jesus?
The Mindset of Jesus
In Matthew’s gospel we find a situation that is GOLD in giving us insights into Jesus’ orientation and his expectations for accomplishing his mission.
To get the full effect, we need to have the backstory and the scene clear in our minds. Jesus had become a public figure and his popularity was skyrocketing. For months he had been traveling around teaching the people and doing incredible miracles. Word was spreading like wildfire about the teacher from Nazareth and people from all over were traveling to see him in person. Crowds of people were coming to Jesus and then following him around for days at a time. That’s the backstory as we come to the end of Matthew 9. Now let’s set the scene.
Make no mistake, Jesus was a man on a mission and he had a message from God that he wanted people to hear and respond to. Now imagine the scene: standing there with his disciples, they lift up their eyes and see thousands of people coming towards them. What an opportunity! Every modern pastor, priest or missionary would view this situation as a great success. Thousands of people coming to check us out and be helped.
Shockingly, Jesus saw it differently. So differently that we need to step back and make sure we grasp it. Because doing so is key to understanding his mindset.
In verse 36 we read that “When he saw the crowds he had compassion on them because they were bewildered and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.”
What we would look at with our human eyes and judge as a success, Jesus looked at and judged as a snapshot of the challenge he was up against. His goal was not necessarily for these crowds to continue to seek him out, but instead that his disciples, and others who aspired to follow in his footsteps, would see the need and then move out into the harvest as his co-workers.
Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into his harvest.” (Mt 9.37-38)
We tend to have an inward orientation when it comes to church and the way we engage in the mission of Christ. Usually we get one dynamic leader, set up a sacred space, organize events and then try to get the people to come to us so they can hear the message and be formed in their faith. In Matthew 9, Jesus and his disciples were absolutely crushing that approach! And he tells us that this inward orientation is not the solution. The harvest is too plentiful.
If we calibrate our orientation based on what we see from Jesus, it will be outward. We have been sent out by Jesus into the harvest.
Likewise, if we look to Jesus’ ministry to shape our expectations of where people are hearing the message and coming to faith, we see people encountering the kingdom at a wedding, at a funeral, at meals, and as they commute from place to place. We see it happening outdoors and indoors. We see it happening in public places like the temple and the synagogues and we see it happening in private homes. People are coming to faith and learning the way of the kingdom all over the place and in every kind of setting. The typical “sacred place” will be rarely in sight.
The expectation is that people are going to be hearing the message and coming to faith and being formed as disciples all throughout the week in all kinds of different places.
How We Want to Help
There are some common challenges we all face as we shift from an inward to an outward orientation in our approach to disciple-making and church. We hope that what we’re doing with Into the Harvest can help you learn and adapt so that you overcome these. Here are some common challenges we’ll be helping you with:
Most of us feel unprepared and unqualified for the work of making disciples and being the church. We hope to provide you with insights as well as practical skills and tools so you can move out into the harvest with confidence – or at least with courage!
You are pioneering, and pioneers have often had to face the challenge of feeling isolated and alone. But in reality there are so many others all around the world who have the same vision and we hope to be a place where you can connect with them – and with us!
Anytime you step out in faith, you’re confronting risk. Things don’t always go as we hoped. Sometimes we don’t see the results we wanted to see. When this happens it’s tempting to go back to a model where all we have to do is faithfully show up on Sunday morning. Instead, we want to be a source of encouragement to you through the ups and downs of this adventure that the Lord has sent us on.
Perhaps never in the history of the church have the Lord’s people faced so much opportunity – or so many distractions. The stakes are high. We want to help you stay focused on Jesus and stay engaged in his mission.
Do This Now!
Want to join us on this adventure? Here’s what you can do right now:
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Let’s move out into the harvest together in 2019! When we do, we’ll find Jesus already at work there.