Praying “for the Harvest” - Part 1
It is remarkable to believe that ANiC’s eleventh Diocesan Synod is rapidly approaching – this year at St. Matthew’s, Abbotsford BC from November 6 – 9. Bishop Charlie Masters has chosen as the theme “For the Harvest” from Matthew 9: 35-38.
Much of the teaching, workshop topics, and Bible studies will be around the theme of the urgency of evangelism, exhorting and training our parish members to be bold witnesses in sharing Jesus, and there will be concerted prayer for revival in our day and in our land. So it seemed appropriate to take our October and November prayer meditations to reflect this theme – Praying for the Harvest.
As intercessors, how are we then to pray? Where are we to begin? Let me share two passages of scripture that I believe will give us some focus for our prayers. To begin with, let’s look at the exhortation of Jesus from which Bishop Charlie has drawn our synod theme:
And Jesus went throughout all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the labourers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out labourers into his harvest.”
Matt 9: 35-38 ESV
Jesus still looks out at a broken and desperate humanity with the eyes of compassion. He urges us to entreat Him, the Lord of the harvest, to send more workers into the fields that are ready to be harvested. It is not that humanity is uninterested in God’s provision of salvation through His beloved Son. No, according to Jesus, the “harvest is plentiful”. We are to pray fervently for an increase in the number of labourers who will bring in the harvest.
What Does “More Labourers” Look Like?
This is not an unfamiliar passage to us, but what does it mean? What does “more labourers” look like in our 21st century ACNA context? That question brings us to our second scripture passage:
There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call—one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ's gift. Therefore it says, “When he ascended on high he led a host of captives, and he gave gifts to men.”…And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.
Ephesians 4: 4-16 ESV
What goes through your mind when you read this list of ministry gifts that Jesus gives to the Church?
What goes through your mind when you read this list of ministry gifts that Jesus gives to the Church? Do you see stained glass images of the apostle Paul’s barely escaping stoning during his missionary adventures? Do you see a prophet like Jeremiah exhorting a rebellious and stiff-necked Israelite nation? Or perhaps you see a prominent evangelist like Billy Graham inviting vast crowds at a crusade to come forward to receive Christ as their saviour.
A Fresh Paradigm
A growing number of our leaders in the ACNA believe that, if we are ever to seriously embrace our mandate for growth, we need a fresh paradigm concerning these ministry gifts and what they might look like. For instance, how about a 25 year old lay “apostle” who has both the vision and gifting to plant a network of new churches throughout a region under the oversight of an ordained cleric. Or perhaps, an “evangelist” who is also a mother of four but who just cannot resist sharing Jesus with everyone she meets because she has been given a burden for their eternal destiny. Or maybe it looks like a young couple that is responding to a call to move into a low-income housing project to “pastor” a prayer and bible study group meeting in their home.
we need an empowered laity to embrace the callings that God has placed on their lives.
Our historic Anglican paradigm concerning these “gifts” of people that Jesus gives “for building up the body of Christ” is that they must all emerge from years of seminary training with prolific academic degrees and wearing clerical collars. However, there is a new model, a new “wineskin” emerging. Terms like “on the job” training reflect the urgent need to offer teaching that is tailored to fit the gifting of the person called, and to provide “outside the box” methods of delivering that training. As well as more ordained clergy, we need an empowered laity to embrace the callings that God has placed on their lives.
The Privilege and Responsibility of Intercessors
The privilege and responsibility of intercessors, I believe, is to begin to pray fervently that these ministry gifts may be eagerly identified, nurtured, endorsed and released in every ANiC parish across Canada. Let us pray that the Lord of the harvest will help us recognize the gifts that He has placed in our congregations, and that parish leaders will encourage and mentor them, providing both ministry experience and appropriate training.
Let us pray also for an increased personal and corporate burden for those who do not know Jesus. Some of our leaders feel that we are on the edge of a national revival that would see thousands of Canadians encountering Jesus as their Saviour for the first time. There is also the sense that God wants to give ANiC a significant role in this coming revival. All of this begins with each of us repenting of our lack of passion concerning the lost, and praying for the heart of Jesus that we might care as He cares. May we weep over our cities as He wept over Jerusalem!
this is an incredibly exciting time to be a disciple of Jesus and an intercessor.
Dear Friends, this is an incredibly exciting time to be a disciple of Jesus and an intercessor. What a phenomenal privilege we have to beseech the Lord of the harvest to send out a tidal wave of new labourers into the harvest. May we see the fruit of our labours in prayer manifested in burgeoning new churches filled with freshly converted Christians praising our Lord and King. Amen!
Next month, we will look at two other important ways that we can be praying “for the harvest”!