Daniel Im in NO SILVER BULLETS: 5 Small Shifts That Will Transform Your Ministry quotes Charles Spurgeon saying, “Every Christian here is either a missionary or an impostor. Recollect that. You either try to spread abroad the kingdom of Christ, or else you do not love him at all. It cannot be that there is a high appreciation of Jesus and a totally silent tongue about him.” He goes on to say, “that man who says, ‘I believe in Jesus,’ but does not think enough of Jesus ever to tell another about him, by mouth, or pen, or tract, is an impostor.”
Daniel Im is making the point that the Christian who is focused on his own maturity may never go beyond himself. We may grow in our head knowledge of theology, doctrine, and apologetics but also neglect telling others about Christ. Maturity that does not result in being a missionary witness is false Christianity. There are many Church members who participate in Bible studies but never translate their knowledge into sharing their faith.
How do we get beyond the church walls to engage with people and invite them to join us in this journey of discovery and becoming what we are meant to be? How do we take seriously the plight of those who have no faith or have a faith-deficit? I am impressed by the words of Jesus: “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.’” (Matt 9:36-38)
First of all, he saw the condition of the crowds. They were harassed and helpless. They were harassed by the challenges of the workplace, the culture, and the demands of life. Is that not a description of those we know and love? Whether they are young with children who have multitudes of needs as they grow up, relate to their peers in school, face social expectations, and the seduction of appearances and popularity with an uncertain future in front of them: higher education choices, career decisions, love interests, marital possibilities. Young parents have to navigate all the demands of their children, the schools, and their leisure activities. Or whether they are aging, with multiple physical problems, with financial challenges, and the ending of employment usefulness. They are harassed on every side and feel helpless in the face of fewer and fewer choices available to them. Their children are not as able to be of much help since they are scattered to all four winds and not nearby and they are preoccupied with their own problems. The media may portray an affluent society that is the envy of the world but the reality is that most people are struggling to survive.
Jesus was clear-eyed enough to see the crowd as it really is, and it moved him to compassion. He entered into their suffering and was moved to help them. Our 20/20 Vision at the Chapel states that we want: TO DEVELOP MATURE CHRISTIAN DISCIPLES WHO COMPASSIONATELY RESPOND TO THE NEEDS OF OTHERS. We are here, not just to take care of our own needs, but to reach out to respond to the genuine needs of others. Jesus said after reaching out to a very wealthy man, Zacchaeus, “The Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost.” (Luke 19:10) You may not have thought that this wealthy tax collector was harassed and helpless, he seemed self-sufficient and powerful. Jesus saw into the heart of the man and had compassion on him. We too, in our relationship with others, can discern the hunger of their souls, their search for meaning in life, their need for hope, and their dissatisfaction with the success they have achieved. We can share the bread which satisfies. We can point them to the one who turns the water of life into the wine of rejoicing.
Lastly, Jesus urges us to pray for workers to harvest souls. Prayer for witness and evangelism precedes, undergirds and enables any successful effort on our part. We pray for what is important to us. Is the crowd important to us or could we care less about them and their condition? Pray for those around you. Pray for your families and friends. Pray for opportunity to point them to Jesus. Pray that the Holy Spirit would open their eyes to their need and warm their hard hearts. Pray that the Lord will send his witnesses into their lives. Pray that you would be able to compassionately respond to the needs of others.