Summary: Second of a four part series on how our church cares for our community through the ministry of our members.
In a small Texas town, Drummond’s bar began construction on a new building to increase their business. The local Baptist church started a campaign to block the bar from opening with petitions and prayers. Work progressed right up till the week before opening when lightning struck the bar and it burned to the ground.
The church folks were rather smug in their outlook after that, until the bar owner sued the church on the grounds that the church was ultimately responsible for the demise of his building, either through direct or indirect actions or means. The church vehemently denied all responsibility or any connection to the building’s demise in its reply to the court.
As the case made its way into court, the judge looked over the paperwork. At the hearing he commented, "I don’t know how I’m going to decide this, but as it appears from the paperwork, we have a bar owner who believes in the power of prayer, and an entire church congregation that does not."
This morning, as we continue our series on becoming disciples who care for our community, we’re going to focus on the power of prayer and how God often calls those who are praying to participate in the answer to their prayers.
Last week, we began to see how that we as a body are already caring for our community through the people that God has placed in this body. And as we began to look at some Biblical principles to guide us in that process, we saw that Jesus described His followers as being like leaven, salt and light. And we discovered that all three of those pictures reveal that we are to permeate our culture without having the culture change us.
This morning, we’re going to move on to the second Biblical principle that should impact how we care for the community – the principle of participation. Our primary passage this morning comes from Luke 10. Let’s read it out loud together:
After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them two by two ahead of him to every town and place where he was about to go. He told them, "The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field. Go! I am sending you out like lambs among wolves.
Luke 10:1-3 (NIV)
Let me give you a brief background and then we’ll look at some principles that we can draw from this passage.
It is now about six months before Jesus will go to the cross. His ministry has moved from the area of Galilee south and east to Perea, the area east of the Jordan River, as well as Judea. As we’ll see in a moment, Jesus had previously selected twelve apostles to go ahead of Him and prepare the way for His ministry. But as the task became more urgent with His impending death on the cross, Jesus sends out another seventy-two followers to go and prepare the way for his final six months of ministry.
There are three important principles that we can draw from this passage that will provide Biblical guidance as we participate in the disciple making-process by caring for our community.
1. We need to view the harvest from God’s perspective
If these words of Jesus sound familiar, they should because He uttered the same exact words before he called the twelve apostles. That encounter is recorded for us at the end of Matthew 9 and the beginning of Matthew 10:
When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, "The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field." He called his twelve disciples to him and gave them authority to drive out evil spirits and to heal every disease and sickness.
Matthew 9:36-10:1 (NIV)
I think one of the reasons that we don’t understand the importance of making disciples is that we don’t see the harvest like God does. We tend to look at these passages where Jesus speaks about the harvest and think about all the souls that are out their waiting to hear the gospel so that they can be harvested into God’s kingdom. But, at best, that’s only part of the imagery.
We don’t have time to explore this fully this morning, but both the Old and New Testaments use the picture of a harvest to describe the final judgment of those who have chosen not to commit their lives to Jesus. Let’s look at just two examples:
’Let the nations be roused; let them advance into the Valley of Jehoshaphat, for there I will sit to judge all the nations on every side. Swing the sickle, for the harvest is ripe. Come, trample the grapes, for the winepress is full and the vats overflow - so great is their wickedness!’