Home > Lessons in Serving, Theological Reflections > Harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few

Harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few

I’m heading up another youth mentorship program, this time in an area of Toronto that I am just starting to become familiar with. While youth programming and mentorship is not new to me, it has felt like a steep learning curve to quickly meet and learn the congregation and to investigate the neighbourhood. Some of what I am doing builds on last year’s program and so I am able to save time that way. Still, the greatest challenge in setting up a program that is designed to reach the unreached is to find the unreached! This area is a wealthy area and so people have cottages and places to go to on the weekends and during the summer. It is very different from the area where I worked last year where families were a little more desperate to find affordable programs to occupy their children and youth. Networking is time consuming and in all honesty often feels like a necessary waste of time! This is what I enjoy doing and I don’ t think it is actually a waste of time. What I mean is is that you spend all your time experimenting and talking with people and you never know if any fruit will come out of it.

My living room wall has my ‘to-do’ list on post it notes, ordered according to “stories” or different components of launching this program. The style of this to do list is meant for a team to tackle, yet, there isn’t really a team. Last year, I put in an insane number of hours into launching the program and I am pleased to say that my hours are not extraodinary this year. Yet. I have been taking time off – going to the beach with my cat, hanging out with the family I live with, exercising both on my own and with friends, and trying to rest up as much as possible. Still, as my to do list expands and time decreases, I am reminded that without sufficient help, this program cannot be launched.

I’m often pondering about how to increase the workers. If you had two or three more people doing the work that I am doing, it would mean that there are at least 2-3x more people connected with. It seems that in just about every setting I am in, people encourage and support outreach to families – and are grateful for the professional to carry out this good work.

I think this is a problem that the church is facing across the board. We’ve professionalized ministry – we have professional sunday school administrators, and the pastors are run off their feet. We want our churches to continue but we seem to have lost the priesthood of all believers. Last night I heard about an older man who recently passed away and eight men from his church had taken shifts to care for this man and his wife. I was surprised and responded, “Wow – that’s the church being church!” Indeed, that is pretty incredible and I am encouraged every time I hear stories of that. I’m sure the man and his wife were blessed by this care and support. I can’t help but think of the incredible witness that these men had to the neighbourhood.

I’ve had a few different conversations around special needs kids, particularly ones that will need lifelong assistance. I’ve heard pretty strong comments in my life against abortion by Christians and I have spouted these words too. Now don’t get me wrong – I’m very prolife. But – do we who pass judgement offer to help the family that carries the baby to full term? do we provide respite care for a family whose parenting is required 24/7 with medical appointments and stress? Do we support the unwed mother who doesn’t have a husband to rely on?

I think it’s easy to pass judgement. It’s also easy to pray. But getting our hands dirty in the lives of others is a totally different thing. I am grateful for the people in my life who have shed tears, sacrificed so much and who have been the body of Christ to me when I’ve needed to see “God in flesh”.

But it still catches us by surprise when we hear stories of people being the hands and feet of Christ in our world. And this is to Christians – people who already walk through the doors of our church and who we know. What about people we don’t know? People who live in our neighbourhoods but would never walk through the doors of our churches? As we leave the work of outreach and pastoral care to the professionals, how do we be the body of Christ in the world. How do we show with our lives the gospel to those who have not heard and have not seen? Or perhaps they have heard but do not believe or who have been badly hurt?

As I go into another setting to connect with the neighbourhood and with those who do not know Christ, I am reminded of how much work needs to be done and how necessary it is for  all (yes, all) of us to use the giftings God has given us to build up the kingdom of God. Every time i have a significant conversation with one person, I begin to dream of what would happen if ten more people had similar conversations. Or what if everyone in the church proper invested in one family that is not churched and show them in practical ways the love of Christ?

As Jesus says – the harvest is plentiful but the workers are few.

Lord, send us workers. Teach us how to build up workers in our midst. Thank you for those who do labour and give of their time, resources and gifts. Help us to offer all of ourselves to you, to each other and to those whom you call us to love.

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