Friday, Workers in and for the Harvest
Acts 11:19-30, 12-25, and 13:1-3
Paul’s missionary journeys began in the church of Antioch. He and Barnabas were sent out from there. It was in Antioch where the church was first comprised of Jews and Greeks, were believers were first called Christians, and where we witness the first multi-cultural church. Five leaders were mentioned, each from different areas of the world: Barnabas (Cyprus/Hellenistic Jew), Simeon (Niger/West Africa), Lucius (Cyrene/North Africa), Manaen (Herodian/Greek) and Saul (Tarsus/Hebraic Jew).
Can you imagine the different types of food at their church potlucks? Were there different languages they had to navigate? In our context, sometimes we see differences as reason for division. We don’t like or understand what someone says, so we go elsewhere. Or we stay comfortable surrounding ourselves with people like us. This year, immigration has been a hot-button issue politically. Yet, here we see in the church of Antioch, a mixture of different backgrounds, cultures, and a church started by immigrants who had to flee persecution. It was a diverse bunch. But more than anything, we are told, “The Lord’s hand was with them, and a great number of people believed and turned to the Lord.” (Acts 11:21)
In our church, I sometimes worry about where our next leaders are going to come from. Yet, I’ve also learned to trust God’s provision. He is the one who calls people to believe in him from the harvest. And he is the one who raises up leaders from the harvest. Jesus told 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.” (Luke 10:2). And as we read through the book of Acts we see Jesus doing this again and again. Antioch was a church rich in diversity. God called all kinds of people to him from the harvest. And he also raised up a group of diverse leaders from the harvest and for that same harvest.
My wife and I grew up overseas as missionary kids. I grew up in Japan and my wife grew in Argentina. Our parents were sent out on mission, just like Paul and Barnabas, to tell people the good news of Jesus. In God’s providence, now we see leaders from different countries coming to the United States to work with us. In our church we have seen God raise up church planters from Texas and Michigan but also from Nigeria, Argentina, Mexico and the Philippines. Many of our pastors from overseas tell stories of their grandparents first hearing the gospel from American missionaries. Now things have come full circle and we see them answering God’s call and joining us in His mission to North America. Praise God!!
As you think about where your next leaders will come from, remember Jesus’ words to pray to the Lord of the Harvest. And trust him. He will raise up workers and do so from every corner of his harvest field.
Lord, thank you for your provision. We see you calling people to yourself and we see you raising up workers for yourself. You are calling people from the harvest for the harvest. Help us to trust you when you say you will provide the workers we need. Keep us united in our diversity. Strengthen us in our weakness so we can pray. We know our spirit is willing, but confess our flesh is weak. Lead us by your Holy Spirit, and set aside workers you are calling. Help us to listen. Help us to obey. Thank you that you will never leave us or forsake us. We will follow your lead, Jesus. We belong to you. Amen.