“Lord of the harvest, please send workers! My community is ready…I just need help! In Jesus’ Name, AMEN!!!”
Has this been your prayer? I actually prayed this on the roof of my home everyday last week. Pastoral ministry is a grind. We are misunderstood. We want, need, desire short cuts… only to realize… there are none. We must make disciples. And those disciples must make disciples that make disciples as well.
Lessons I have learned (mostly the hard way)
1. Never stop praying.
Prayer is always the first thing to go from our schedules, but it is the only thing that will get us through the “work” we are called to. Remember when Jesus was preparing His disciples to start the Church after His death and resurrection, he taught them to pray. One place in the Gospels, Luke 18:1, we see that He (being Jesus) knew that they would want to quit, but the remedy to quitting according to Jesus is prayer. Look it up. The Persistent Widow isn’t a story about how God hears our prayers. It is a parable about how we talk to God! And we talk to God, so we won’t quit.
2. Never leave your “anchor points.”
You have to have anchor points in your teaching to your disciples that are simple, easy to remember and easy to repeat out loud (or in your head). I refer to them as my “one hit wonders.” It is the only song I sing, and I sing it the one thousandth time the way I sang it the first time. This is difficult. Yet necessary. Think about all of the times where Jesus had to repeat Himself with His disciples because they didn’t get it. For our disciples in Baltimore, we have a couple of specific anchor points.
3. Never leave your people in fear.
“Do not be afraid” is the most repeated command in all the Bible. When was the last time your people heard you tell them to, “Not be afraid?” Jesus brought salvation! This is good news! This sets us free to live and not free to fear. Sending a missionary into a city (urban area/place of density) can be overwhelming, so we must never stop reminding people to “not be afraid.”
4. Never forget your disciples are maturing, NOT MATURE.
Defining maturity is tough to do in a paragraph, so let me share this: pastors like to fish in the freezer section and pick up their deacons on isle 7 (God’s number). Maybe I am an anomaly, but that was my story for many years in ministry. We don’t want to bring the “fresh out of the sinful sea” fish right into our churches. We want them “cleaned up” first. We don’t want to put in the years of “hard work” to train up disciples and leaders; we want mature ones from the start. WE MUST love the lost and WE MUST do the hard work of disciple-making knowing that we all are maturing in Jesus and no one is expected to be fully there yet. We will suffer. We will get discouraged. We will doubt. We will be betrayed. We will make mistakes. Yet…we continue in the faithful walk together. This requires time. Not one hour but many hours. So, I teach in our gatherings and I visit all our small groups (as often as I am able) and repeat anchor points. I tell them to not be afraid and to keep praying. I take people with me where I go and eat, a lot.
5. You can’t separate discipleship and evangelism.
Discipleship must be repeatable and by definition it should be a life worth wanting as your own. Live your teachings in such a way that others want to live your life and teach what you teach.
Developing missionaries to serve in our communities and around the world starts with us. Do we pray? Do we have a calling that we are anchored to because we know it’s what the Father asked of us? Who is reminding us not to fear? Do we see the Holy Spirit maturing us?
Questions I ask myself
1. How do I follow Jesus today where I live, learn, work and play?
2. Have you taken your “Daily Window” time (prayer rhythm modeled after Daniel)?
3. Where is my disciple on the relationship pathway (The relationship pathway is as follows: foreign – familiar – friend – follower – faith – family.)
Overwhelming realities we face in ministry
1. The overwhelming presence of darkness (the brokenness of the world is invasively present in daily life)
2. The overwhelming environments when you are new to a city
3. The overwhelming tasks for family and ministry
Now… pray to the Lord of the harvest to send those laborers and then get up and go make some disciples in His Spirit’s power, and don’t give up!
Published September 13, 2016