One of my favorite memories of Lorne Sanny is a story he told regarding an Admiral in the U.S. Navy. After rising through the ranks of Ensign, Captain and Commodore, he served for many years as an Admiral in the Navy. Over the years, the other personnel noticed a strange habit of his each time he came to work in the morning. He would take a key out of his pocket, and unlock a small drawer in his desk. He would then reach into the drawer, take out a small slip of paper, read it, place the paper back in the drawer, lock the drawer and put the key back in his pocket. After doing this he would then go about the business of the day. Every day without fail he continued this routine. As Admiral of the ship, no one dared to ask him what this was all about, but they were filled with curiosity. The day came when he finally retired and to their surprise, they discovered that he had left the key to the drawer on top of the desk. Excitedly, they gathered around the desk in his office, opened the drawer and found the following note: Remember, starboard is right, port is left. As an Admiral of the U.S. Navy, it is critical to remember these six words. Lorne uses this story to remind us that as disciples of Jesus Christ, it is critical to remember another six words; harvest is plentiful, workers are few.
The harvest is plentiful. It is very common to hear complaints about the harvest. We hear about the increasing problem of the secularized society. We are told the harvest is poor because of the changing world views of many. We even label them as Generation X, or Y to help us understand, in part, lack of response to the gospel. The Lord’s statement, however, when he saw the crowds as harassed and helpless, was that the harvest is plentiful but the workers are few.
The workers are few. I wonder if we really believe this statement of the Lord’s. Our churches seem to be full of pastors, assistant pastors, youth workers and those in charge of discipleship ministries. Most of us are deluged with fundraising requests from a myriad of Christian organizations. Some of these are inner city in scope, others focus on various ethnic and culture groups, and still others from a wide range of world wide mission organizations. Are the workers really that few? Many followed Christ, and placed their trust in Him. He met with five hundred disciples after His resurrection, but only seventy (or seventy two in another account) were declared to be workers; those actively involved in the harvest of souls for the Kingdom.
The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Churches have had various responses to their actual belief in Christ’s words. One church had a retreat for its elders, appointed committees which met for a six month period of time, reported again to the session, and developed a mission statement. Another church looked around the nation, and sent teams of individuals to study the methods of several growing churches, hoping to change their own church by adopting the methods of others. Still another decided to recruit widely within the church to fill various designated responsibilities, largely without regard to gifting or qualifications. There is nothing inherently wrong with committee functions, learning from others, or recruitment to the Lord’s work, but it falls far short of the Lord’s method of addressing the problem. “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.’ “ (Matthew 9:37-38)
“Ask the Lord of the harvest.” Most of us assume that the Lord is going to do things without our asking. An example of this is in the Lord’s prayer: “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done.” We forget that our asking is an integral part of His kingdom coming and His will being done. We also read in Revelation 7:9, “After this I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb.” When we read this, are we content with nodding our head, thanking the Lord for this promise in the future and going on to the next verse? Such a response to God’s promises stands in stark contrast to the action of Daniel as described in Daniel 9:1-3, “In the first year of Darius son of Xerxes (a Mede by descent) who was made ruler over the Babylonian kingdom-in the first year of his reign, I, Daniel, understood from the Scriptures, according to the word of the Lord given to Jeremiah the prophet, that the desolation of Jerusalem would last seventy years. So I turned to the Lord God and pleaded with him in prayer and petition, in fasting, and in sackcloth and ashes.” Daniel did not assume on a promise. He sought the Lord, in repentance for his people, saying in verse 19, “O Lord, listen! O Lord, forgive! O Lord, hear and act! For your sake, O my God, do not delay, because your city and your people bear your Name.”
Soon after the Navigator ministry began in 1933, Dawson Trotman began meeting with others on a California beach at 5:00 AM each morning. Looking at some of God’s promises in Isaiah they spread out a map and placed their fingers on each country in the world and asked the Lord to send out workers into His harvest field in those locations. There are now active workers in more than one hundred nations. The lives of the succeeding generation of disciples are touching many other countries on the globe.
Since the harvest is plentiful, and the workers are few, let us therefore be diligent in asking the Lord of harvest to send out workers. Are we asking for workers in our neighborhoods, our churches, and our cities? Are we asking for workers in each nation, tribe, people and language? The harvest is plentiful, the workers are few. The Lord has placed the solution to this problem in our hands. Let us be diligent so that we would be found faithful in that which He has called us to do .