Monday, July 18, 2011

The Harvest Is In The Pain

I have recently asked God in quiet desperation; 'what would it take for Australian people to come to know Jesus as Saviour and Lord?”

This question has been partly prompted by my almost daily contact with discouraged Christian leaders who tell me that reaching Australian people with the good news does not seem to be working today with the same effectiveness as in previous decades. 

I am also aware of the research regarding the metropolitan area of Melbourne entitled “All Melbourne Matters” which shows that although many of the 1700 plus Melbourne churches have a strong emphasis on evangelism an average of just over 2 persons per church per year are coming to faith.  The compilers summarise that “there are no patterns of evangelism which are clearly emerging as successful patterns for the future.”

I have been impressed with the strong link in Jesus' ministry between 'compassion' and 'harvest'; When he looked out over the crowds, his heart broke.  So confused and aimless they were, like sheep with no shepherd.   “What a huge harvest” he said to his disciples.  “How few workers! On your knees and pray for harvest hands” (Matt 9:36-38, The Message); and in John 4 when after Jesus gave dignity and showed compassion to the outsider Samaritan woman, a Samaritan village experienced revival.

Perhaps as Christians we have let the hurt, disappointments and lack of grace in our society construct walls around our hearts and bring a crustiness and judgementalism which is the opposite of the qualities grown in us through the Spirit of God as indicated in passages such as Col. 3:12-14.

“So, chosen by God for this new life of love, dress in the wardrobe God picked out for you!
Compassion, humility, quiet strength.....”  (The Message)

I believe God is softening our hearts today so that we feel the pain of the world the way he does.

Australian people generally have become very sophisticated at taking what they want from our 'events' and 'outreach programmes' and leaving the rest.  Compassion received when it is unusual and not expected has the capacity to get under people's guard and have them open up to the source of our compassion – a loving and gracious God.

After I had shared these convictions with a group of Christian leaders a young lady who ministers to young teenage girls who have been abused, several of whom have recently become Christians, shared with me her belief that 'the harvest is in the pain'.

The challenge is to become open hearted and givers of compassion, grace, mercy and justice.

Keith Farmer
Keith Farmer Mentoring

9 comments:

  1. That is so true. Spontaneous care given to even to strangers can have a powerful impact, and can lead a person to know and trust the Source of that compassion.

    The wider Church, inspired by Jesus' compassion, is the largest provider of care in our society: in community support and personal care by churches and individuals at a local level, and a vast array of welfare across the whole of society by Christian agencies. So much so it is likely our society would collapse without it. (See link below).

    However, with all the people the Church contacts through its caring, research indicates very few of these come to faith and are welcomed into the life of the Church.

    It would seem the future of the Church will depend on finding ways to encourage Christians to be spontaneous in both caring and sharing their faith. And for churches and Christian agencies to become intentional about inviting those they care for to find their hope and help in Jesus and in a caring Christian community.

    see: "The Vital Place of Church to the City" at www.transformingmelbourne.org (based on the "All Melbourne Matters" research report also available on that site)

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  2. The stats show that most people receive Christ as children. I believe we are now reaping the consequences in adult evangelism where children have not even heard the basics of the gospel as children.

    I have found much greater response from adults becoming christians where they have had some Christian exposure as kids (eg through Catholic school). I fully agree that pain is one of the causes that gives people an openness to Jesus, as they actually realise their need in life. Compassion and love motivate us to care as Jesus would to those in pain.

    However, I have helped several people of find Christ as adults, some through times of pain (eg divorce). However, several others are quite together without any pain, but also realise their need! However, these have almost without exception had some exposure to Christ as a child, even if not a very alive one.

    Can we empower Access ministries to provide more CRE teachers into all those schools that are legislatively open to the Christian message being taught to the children, but where there are inadequate volunteers? It is my belief that this is where we have lost sight of the big picture as a Church in our outreach to Australia. But it is still not too late!

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  3. Thanks Concerned Mum I sooo agree with you. I'm a huge advocate of CRE in schools (Australia) and yet we seem to find that we can't get enough Christians to go into the schools to teach the kids of Gods Love & Forgiveness , What an indictment on us as Christians , while we're preoccupied in our churches praying for people to come to faith, we don't seem to have time or see the value in teaching our kids in our local schools of Faith in a Loving God. I'm sure we could do it if we could see the huge potential it has when it comes to salvation, even as adults in later life. God have mercy & Grace is amazing to us. I hope we too be filled with His compassion for souls, Young & Old.

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  4. Too much focus on social gospel & not enough evangelism. Non Christians can't see the relevance. Try this instead
    http://www.shednight.com/events
    Very culturally relevant, & no "church" to put up with.

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  5. Megan, Willow CreekJuly 20, 2011 at 9:59 AM

    Thanks so much for your thoughts and suggested links! We are big fans of Chaplains and CRE Teachers. We can all look for moments everyday to share God with others, the challenge for me is to take those moments!

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  6. The harvest is in the pain, but there's the catch. Our churches are full of broken hurting people, so we are better at breaking and hurting people, than healing them in Christ. Church people have a bad name well earned. Before getting more through the doors of our churches, it is very important to gently bind up and love the hurting Christians we already have, so that when they have spiritual health, they can bring compassion and healing to others, both inside and outside our churches. Then churches will become known for God's Grace and love. Many people like Jesus because they like love. If our churches are filled with Jesus love, our churches will fill.

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  7. I believe there are many people who have or would like to engage with Jesus but feel disengaged with the body. I believe it's time to rethink what BEING church means rather than focussing on how we DO church. Jesus told us to make disciples not churchgoers. If the motivation and heart of our corporate gatherings is right; people will come. If ALL members of the body exercise our gifts by ministering to all we come into contact with; we will be living the Gospel. Christine Schreiber

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  8. What does God's compassion really look like? How is it different to the world's compassion?
    I really believe few people will find Jesus thrugh our compassion / social justice if what we do looks no different to the worldly-based compassion and social justice programs of our time.

    I'm thinking God's kind of compassion is a combo of Grace and Truth, flowing out of love for mankind and we need to embrace His kind of compassion.

    The woman at the well was shown GRACE (acceptance even though she was a sinner) but also TRUTH (the woman was bold enough to respond to Jesus truthfully when she could have chosen to lie, and Jesus highlighted her honesty and proceeded to tell her his knowledge of her life) ... truth on the wings of grace.

    It is so much easier to just give grace-based compassion and hope people find truth in it and convert, but it seems heart-felt conversions are very rarely found this way. I guess it ought not be surprising really since Jesus didn't model this way to us.

    Jesus's compassion is not without Truth, but worldly compassion lacks the Good News. It lacks the testimony of God's interactions with His creation and it compromises absolute truth with worldly wisdoms.

    When we act with the world's form of compassion we are likely to cheapen God's grace and extend our grace from the sinner to the sin also, compromising God's truth and thus lead precious few to Christ.


    If Christ-centred compassion is going to change our nation, it had better be Christ Centred: It had better contain the Good News. It had better not sacrifice biblical truth and it had better not cheapen God's grace.

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  9. Amen to anonymous on July 22. To add to this, our compassion which is done in Jesus name and including Gods truth, for Gods purposes, in Gods manner... the compassion we give can not be as a technique which will "bring people over". It has to be done because it is a natural overflow of Gods nature - His love filling our cup and then naturally overflowing to others. When this happens, it is God who creaes the moment by His Holy Spirit when another is "quickened" to realise that God is real and they need to fnd the "way" to him (Jesus). Geoff

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