The Work of Harvesting

Now, as we move forward as a church, I’ve come to realize that it’s very important that we don’t just try to plan out our church in a conceptual, cerebral, manner where we attempt to design a theoretically perfect church. Our church needs to be born of experience because God is sovereign over our experiences. He has hand-crafted all of our lives as his stories (HIStory) where we can give testimony to the truthfulness of his word.

And so we are in this particular place in this particular moment in time, and it’s important for us to stop and consider where we actually are, because the Lord has placed us here. In other words, he’s preparing us. He’s intentionally taking us through stuff as a church, and as individuals to prepare us to minister to others.

And where I feel that we are as a church, we are moving from personal calling, to communal vision. The Lord has personally called each of us to be a part of this church plant. But now, is the stage where he is forming and shaping the vision for what he wants us to do as a church. And that’s why we are meditating upon this passage in Matthew 9 concerning the Harvest.

What are we trying to do as a church? We are trying to bring in the harvest.

And how do we bring in this harvest?

First, we need to know who is the Lord of the harvest (Matthew 9:37-38). That is, we need to know the absolute sovereignty of God in salvation, from beginning to end. We plant seeds, and water, but it is God who causes the growth (1Cor3). We must have this humbled understanding that we are merely instruments in the Redeemer’s hands. We can do nothing apart from Christ that will bear fruit. And so, it is vital that we remain abiding in Christ (John15). We simply make ourselves available to be used by him, going wherever he calls. And also praying, always prayerful, that the Lord would raise up and send out more and more gospel workers. See Huge Harvest.

Second, we need to have the heart of Christ who is the original harvester (Matthew 9:36): 1) Active awareness, 2) Emotional Engagement, 3) Always looking for ways to bring the harassed and helpless, the wounded and the broken to the Good Shepherd. See Heart of the Harvester.

This is the flow of ministry. It begins with the Lord, who works into our heart, which then flows out of our hands into the actual work of ministry, and that is what we see in verse 35 where we see the work of Lord.

And we see that there were four aspects of his ministry, his harvesting, which we can work in continuity with him: 1) going, 2) teaching, 3) proclaiming, 4) healing.

Now, it’s at this point, where I can generally describe each of these, but honestly, I am at a point where with some of these I am more challenged, stretched, and left wondering how to actually do these things. But let me first briefly explain or describe each.


First, there is going. We see that Jesus went throughout all the cities and villages. The word translated as “went throughout all”, can be literally translated as he went everywhere. He went to all the villages, and all the cities. All the big towns and small towns. And he was traveling up and down, moving around wherever. What does this mean? He wasn’t passive. He wasn’t passively waiting around for people to come to him. Although people did find and follow him. But he was actively traveling, and finding new crowds, new people, to minister to. You could call this outreach. Or you could say there are two models of ministry. One is attractional, that is, you set up something flashy and attract people to you. The other, is missional, where you go out to where the people are, instead of expecting them to come to you.

Which model do you think Jesus followed? In this passage, we clearly see a missional model. And that pretty much describes the entirety of his life. The Son of God did not wait for us to come to him. Instead he sought us out. He did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but instead he humbled himself to serve us (Phil 2). Or you think John 3:16, God so loved the World, that he gave…his only Son. And it is the same in the way Christ commissions the church. The Great Commission begins with the words, “Go.” We don’t wait. We go.

Now what does that mean for our church? We need to be actively praying where God wants us to go. But at the same time, I think it just means we need to go somewhere. The Great Commission, in the Greek, is literally translated, “While going…” (Matt 28:19) The idea is that you are already on the move. What that means for us, is that we have been in this season of preparation, but I think it’s time to be on the move. Whether that means Gardena, or Glendale, or wherever. Let’s go wherever the Lord leads us.

But this also means we need to be going as individuals. I’m in this mode right now of meeting whomever the Lord puts into my life. This past week, through a baseball dad connection I met with a pastor in the Glendale area for the first time. We had never met, but I was just open to meeting, to see what the Lord would make of this relationship. As it turns out, we really hit it off. We have different theological backgrounds, and that turned out to be really fun. We’ll see what the Lord makes of this relationship, but for now, we are planning on meeting once a month. The same is true with the EFCA, as I’m delving deeper into the relationships there. And through these networks of relationships God is going to lead me somewhere.

And so that is the first aspect of ministry, going.

Teaching and Proclaiming

The second aspect of the ministry of harvesting is teaching.
So we go, and what are we to do? To harvest, is to teach. This brings some clarity. There is a popular saying, “Preach the gospel at all times, and use words if necessary.” It’s an effective saying because it makes a clear point. But I think this saying is often abused so that people get this idea that teaching is usually unnecessary. As if, our lifestyle would teach enough. But if we just take a moment to consider the one person who had the best lifestyle. In fact, he had the perfect life. Jesus Christ lived the only perfect life. If there was anyone who’s life could speak for itself, it was him. And yet, right here, what do we find him doing? He found it necessary to teach.

Now, the quote is still important, because we do need a lifestyle that preaches the gospel, we don’t want to be hypocrites. But the reality is, no matter how hard we try, we will be hypocrites. Because we are still not perfect. But isn’t this the very gospel that we preach? That God loves, and forgives, and saves sinners like us? If we waited until our lifestyle was a perfect testimony to Christ, we would never be ready. But even more, we would negate any real need for the gospel we believe. And so, in sum, we need to live the gospel, but we also need to teach the gospel.

Now, if you look at the passage we’re told that Jesus “taught” in two modes. 1) He taught, and then 2) he proclaimed. The word proclaim can also be translated as preach. What is the difference between teaching and preaching?

Well, I actually like the translation “proclaim” because it gives a clearer sense of what is meant. The word preach carries a lot of baggage and various interpretations. But the word here in Greek literally means to proclaim, or to herald. It is to make a public announcement. It was used of heralds who would announce the arriving of a king, or announce some important edict of a king. You can imagine a medieval herald who would shout from the town square, “Hear ye! Hear ye!” And so here is the main difference between teaching and preaching. It is where it is done.

The passage says that Jesus “taught” where? He taught in the synagogues. This would be the equivalent of churches today. So he was teaching in a setting where Jews gathered specifically to worship and to be taught. Interestingly, when you think of John the Baptist, he is never described as “teaching” because he is never found in the synagogue. He was out and about in public places, specifically in the wilderness of Judea. And so John the Baptist only proclaimed, preached, in public.

And so when we think about the work of harvesting, it can be done in two venues. In churches, or out in the public. Today, we can think of places where Christians gather, but then we can also think of places where everyone gathers. And there is a time and place for both of them.

But going back to the first point, we also need to be thinking about how we can get “out there” and proclaim the gospel to everyone? Where is a place like that? I can think of three: One is college campuses. This, of course, can be done in a way where it is really just turns into the synagogue again; a gathering of only Christians. We need to be creative and bold in finding way to speak with everyone. So this can be open air preaching, or street evangelism. The second place I can think of where everyone is, is the internet. And so we can try to get the teaching of Christ out there on the internet by creating social media channels and websites. The third, is to use our existing networks and relationships, to somehow communicate the gospel at a personal level.

The other aspect of this, is that we need to think about creative ways to communicate the gospel in a way that connects with modern day audiences. I think this is where I feel stretched. I am so used to being in the Christian bubble, that it is easy to just assume that people already know what we’re talking about. But we really need to consider the questions that yet to be believers are asking. What are the obstacles that repel them from Christ? What are their heartfelt needs and interests that the Gospel can speak to? Put simply, we just need to learn how to have gospel conversations with people who have not grown up in the church. To bring the gospel in a way that connects with their lived realities.

So there we have three aspects of the work of harvesting: going, teaching, proclaiming. There is one more: healing.


The text tells us that Jesus went about “healing every disease and every affliction.” Now it’s interesting that Matthew 9:35 reads exactly like Matthew 4:23. And so you see that these two verses serves as bookends for what lies in between them. And essentially, in both verses you find two things: first, is teaching, and second is healing. Guess what lies in between them? In Matthew 5-7 we have the teaching of Christ. And then in Matthew 8 we have the healing ministry of Christ. He heals lepers, he heals the paralyzed. He heals Peter’s sick mother. He calms a storm. He heals two men possessed by demons. He brings a girl back to life, he heals a woman who had a lifelong menstrual ailment, and he brings sight to the blind, and heals those who were mute.

Now how does healing apply to us today? Well, on the one hand it doesn’t. And on the other hand it does. It doesn’t, on the one hand, because Jesus is unique. He is the Messiah. And the miracles serve as signs that validates his authority. They also serve to authenticate his identity as the Messiah.

But then many of the same miracles that Jesus did, his apostles also did. And it serves the same reason to authenticate their authority as his witnesses. And that is one of the reasons why we can trust the words of the New Testament. Because they were written by the apostles or those closely associated with the apostles who were given the Spirit of Christ. So their signs serve to authenticate their authority.

So that makes what they did unique. And that’s why we don’t experience the same kind of regularity of power of miracles like Jesus and the apostles did, they were unique.

At the same, there is something that is being communicated in these signs that is still relevant for us today. If you consider the message that Jesus proclaimed, what was it? He proclaimed the gospel of the kingdom (Matt 9:35). That is, the good news of the kingdom. What is the good news of the kingdom? Looking back at Matthew 8:17 we’re told that his healing was a fulfillment of Isaiah 53:4 which says, “He took our illnesses and bore our diseases.” Now, most of you know that Isaiah 53 is not just a random chapter in the bible. Some have called Isaiah 53 ‘The Gospel according to Isaiah.’ It clearly speaks to the cross of Christ whereby he was pierced for our transgressions and crushed for our iniquities, so that at the cross, the Lord laid on him the iniquity of us all.

And so in this, the gospel of the kingdom means that the king died on our behalf so that we could be forgiven and declared righteous in the sight of God. This is the sweet savor of the love and grace and goodness of God in forgiving sinners and bringing them into his fold. This is the gospel.

But…there is more. The healing ministry of Jesus was not just proof to validate his authority. It was also a picture, a living parable of our sinful state. In our sin, we are sick, we are blind, we are deaf, we are dead. And we need the sovereign grace of God to heal us from our sinful disease. Such is our desperate condition, that the healings of Christ vividly portrays.

But…there is more. Not only is the healing ministry of Christ an analogy or illustration of salvation, it is also a demonstration or foretaste of the holistic nature of salvation. Salvation isn’t just forgiveness. Salvation is when God makes “all things new” (Revelation 21:5). Salvation is when he wipes every tear from our eyes, and death shall be no more, neither mourning, nor crying, nor pain, nor sickness or disease, these will all pass away in the glorious kingdom that God is bringing (Revelation 21:4).

And so the good news of the kingdom is a new earth. A perfect earth. Free from sin. Free from disease. Free from death. That is what the miracles of Christ are communicating. And what that means for us today, is that we should have a holistic concern for people, because God has a holistic concern for people. Some times we pit the physical against the spiritual. But we shouldn’t because God cares about the spiritual and the physical. We should pit the eternal against the temporal. Life on this earth is momentary, so much better to invest in the eternal. But we should not invest in the eternal in a way that denigrates or demeans or lessens the value of the physical. God created the physical world, and he intends it to be used for good and his glory.

And so that means in the work of harvesting, we have a holistic concern for people. We have a concern for the spiritual and physical needs of people. Again, we prioritize the eternal, but not without denigrating peoples’ real physical, mental, emotional, and financial issues. So we preach the gospel with our works, and with our words.

What does that look like specifically? One tangible thing is in our giving. I want us to have a diaconal fund which is specifically set aside for helping those in need, whether in our church or outside, and that means we will need to be proactive in looking for who is in need. It also means that we need to be proactive in our partnerships with various ministries to find volunteering opportunities. But finally, I think it just means we need to be looking for people in our lives, who need a shoulder to lean on in difficult times. And whether those become opportunities to teach the gospel or not, we do it because Christ healed not only those who repented of their sins, he also healed those who did not. Because Christ loved his friends and his enemies. It’s just what love does. It gives and serves.


And so there we have four aspects of the work of harvesting: Going, teaching, proclaiming, and healing. Let’s be in prayer over these four things as we move forward. Going wherever opportunities open up. Ready to teach the gospel whether with believers or in public with yet to be believers. And always ready to physically serve those in need because Christ came to us when we were in need even before we asked.

And so with that, let’s end this time by giving thanks to our good and merciful savior.

Prayer: Lord, we thank you that you not only show us the way, the truth, and the life, but you yourself are the way, the truth and the life. Lord we confess, that we don’t really know what we’re doing, or how to go about it. And so we simply surrender to you. Your will be done, so that you receive the glory. So that our church, it is clear, is reliant upon your wisdom, and your power, so that you receive all the glory. And so Lord, here we are, as your instruments ready to be used for your harvest, your will be done. Amen.

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