My oldest daughter, Cecily, went on a mission trip with her college, Howard Payne University, to New York City last week and had the privilege of sharing the Good News of the Gospel, the life-changing message of hope and healing that is desperately needed in our present day world of strife, turmoil, violence, and bickering. Her mission team went to businesses to pray with people, ministered to the homeless, and endeavored to shine the light of the gospel in the Big Apple. She saw immense needs without enough willing people to meet the need. She was reminded of Jesus's words, The harvest is plentiful,but the laborers are few; therefore, pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest. (Matthew 9:37-38, ESV)
New York City is not the only place that needs people to shine the light of the gospel. Wherever God has planted you right now is a place that needs to the Good News to be proclaimed. While we have many advances in technology with numerous apps, websites, and technological wonders that help broadcast the gospel message all over the world, these things are poor substitutes for providing the personal touch that all people need. Notice that Jesus did not ask us to pray for new technology that would help promote evangelism. I truly believe that technology is a gift from God and has its place in spreading the Good News. However, it is people that are God's primary means of providing the message of hope and healing that is desperately needed today.
When Hurricane Harvey devastated our area, it was people who responded with tools, knowledge, and their presence as food was distributed, homes were repaired, and insurance forms were filed. I remember calling our LifeWay literature office to get a church literature order corrected during this hectic time. My mind was frazzled with the stress of recovering from the hurricane and was having trouble deciphering all of the information on the LifeWay website. I called the headquarters and was helped by a customer service worker who not only supplied polite and soothing words, but who went the extra mile by putting me on hold and getting the study book and looking through it to make sure that she was answering my question correctly. At that moment I did not need a website or a new piece of technology. I need a compassionate human being to provide help. Today, there are many people crying out for help. They are overwhelmed, confused, and are making bad decisions. Instead of criticizing these who are struggling, let us help them by slowing down and taking time to listen and then applying the needed gospel wisdom to help them get to a path of healing and wholeness.
You might be thinking, "I have no idea how I can help meet the need. I'm not an eloquent speaker, or teacher. I can't do mission work." Such thinking is erroneous and misguided. God will use you to bless others as you use the talents and gifts He has given you. Many Christians think that they could truly be used in ministry if they could become a full-time Christian worker by leaving their jobs and becoming a church staff member or charity worker. However, Cecily noticed that there were immigrant groups in New York City that could only be reached while they were at work. Many in this group of people were working three jobs. There was no down time for these folks to have a home visit or attend a church social event to help them get connected with God and His people. The only way these folks will be reached is by co-workers who truly care about them and who take time to get to know them. As needs arise in the lives of these workers gospel ministry can be shared by acts of compassion and by spoken testimony.
There are additional opportunities to spread the Good News. I have been involved in coaching youth sports for six years. I started by coaching my son in basketball and last year added soccer to my coaching endeavors. This year my wife, Jennifer, is joining me in this glorious adventure. The youth sports leagues are always in need of coaches and referees, but many of the churches and sports organizations have trouble getting people to volunteer. This is missed opportunity to speak love, truth, life skills, and gospel hope to youth and their parents. While I do think it is necessary to have enough knowledge of the sport to help one's team be competitive, the most important aspect is developing a relationship with the families of the players. Doing so takes some time and initiative, but it is extremely rewarding.
Often, someone will come to me in my capacity as a church leader and share an idea for a new ministry that will help us "reach the world!" However, when I ask this person to lead or to help me find a leader for the proposed ministry I have rarely ever had anyone follow up and say "yes" to the need. To reap the harvest we must have a vision, but then we must be willing to work hard! No lazy person every reaped a harvest. God is with us and will grant the necessary strength (Matthew 28:18-20), but the promise is to those who will go and not to those who merely dream about going.
Lastly, our Lord Jesus commands us in verse 38 to pray that the Lord will send out the workers. As important as it is for us to work hard and to vigorously recruit others to join us, we must begin with prayer. I confess that I have been lax in going to the Lord directly and asking Him to meet this need. Will you join me in prayer and then say "yes" to the glorious privilege of being a gospel witness to those who need the comfort hope, encouragement, and forgiveness that the gospel offers?