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 Mentoring