You Can’t Do It Alone

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It’s 10:02 am. My iPhone’s alarm reverberates through a crowded Panera Bread.

People begin to stare in my direction. I fumble to reach my phone—you’d think I’d be aware of it by now.

The “you-pick-two” crowd obviously peers over in disgust, as to say, “Shut that thing off!”

I politely look at my church planter invitee, “Excuse me for a second.”

I turn off my alarm, bow my head and silently—but fervently—pray. As if I’ve never prayed before.

I’m pretty sure by now that my guest is staring at me—I know he’s wondering, “What’s up with this guy?”

I’m also pretty sure that thoughts are probably going through his head— “uh—organic onlookers alert! —WTH is he doing?”

Surely, I’m not invisible with the sun glaring off my shiny head. That’s the down side to being follicle-ly challenged (don’t hate, man).

So—when I’m finished, I look up and humbly explain to my coffee confidant, “I’m sorry man, that’s my alarm. I have it set for 10:02 every day.” I begin to talk as if nothing happened.

This of course prompts a conversation!

A puzzled look and reply, “Wait, wait, wait—10:02? Why 10:02? C’mon, that’s sort of a weird time—isn’t it? You don’t like 10 O’clock or something?”

I chuckled under my breath. My reply was reassuring and yet caught my guest as provocative.

“No, I have nothing against 10 O’clock, bro—it’s just that I pray every day at 10:02—it reminds me of the words of Jesus from Luke 10:2, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore, pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”

His reaction was even better—I could almost see and hear the gears in his head begin to connect and crank out an illuminating thought— “I need to be doing this.”

I added, “If you’re not praying for more laborers, bro, I guess you’re content with being a Lone Ranger.”

That wasn’t his deal at all—he’d just never thought about applying Luke 10:2, as I had.

But there’s a bigger picture—the realization that we can’t do mission alone!

Praying to the Lord of the Harvest

Enmeshed within a culture filled with nones, dones, and unchurched “labeled” people—sometimes church planters forget about who is doing the actual work. Don’t get me wrong—we’re called as frontlines missionaries, and to be obedient disciple-makers, but we can’t do it alone. Prayer must be intrinsic. And prayer engages and enacts the director and commander of the harvest.

There are three essential aspects of harvest servitude. The first is Christ as the Lord of the harvest, the second relates to the harvest itself, and lastly, there are supposed to be other laborers.

Lord of the Harvest

In David Bosch’s paradigmatic book, Transforming Mission, he renders Matthew’s Gospel as “essentially a missionary text” providing “guidance to a community in crisis” concerning their calling and mission.[1] Matthew’s Gospel also shares the Lord of the harvest passage, but I was not ready to have my alarm go off at 9:37 every day. However, Matthew begins his writing with the prophetic Isaianic Immanuel passage (7:14) and ends with the words of Christ, “Behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Mt. 28:20). You’re never alone and were not designated to be alone.

The Great Commission (Mt. 28:18–20) begins with the authority of Christ’s cosmic rule and reign and closes with his continual omnipresence with the laborers. The resurrected Jesus rules over, “angels and archangels, powers, principalities, might, dominion, thrones, and the saints in glory … over the evil spirit world, whose prince is conquered and despoiled, and whose hosts lie in abject submission beneath Jesus’ feet.”[2] That’s the authority of the Lord of the harvest.

Christ has commissioned his church with marching orders, and yet, he’s supplied it with Holy Spirit enabling empowerment (Acts 1:8). The Lord of the harvest has ultimate and abundant power—given to you for the purposes of mission. While the world may currently be positioned within a cosmic conflict of spiritual clashes between the forces of bondage and evil, and that of righteousness and liberation—but, God has positioned his people, equipped them, and provided his omnipotent presence to abide in them. This gloriously translates to—you’re never alone.

The Harvest

Abraham Kuyper once declared, “There is not one square inch of the entire creation about which Jesus Christ does not cry out, ‘This is mine. This belongs to me!’” The “harvest” belongs to Jesus.

The reality is that natural harvest time is usually temporary or seasonal—finding laborers for temporary work can easily be achieved. However, the harvesting of souls—or gospel proclamation and liberation—will never cease. The harvest that Jesus refers to is a continual-persevering spiritual harvest.

I have a confession—when I say to myself, “I got this!” it’s usually about that time when I fail. Church planting is one of the most difficult, sometimes depressing, and arduous callings on the planet. We’re dealing with eternal salvation, not used cars or insurance sales.

In Luke’s passage, the laborers are told to pray because the harvest is not theirs, but God’s. The Lord will supply every need and every resource needed for the harvest. The mission is not about me, but about God’s reconciling power bringing back his people to him—this means that God has way more invested in the harvest than I do. I ‘m also only one laborer. The vastness of the field can be overwhelming—I cannot harvest everything by myself. The job is too big.

Jesus said, “The harvest is plentiful!”— it’s abundant! With a world population of over 7 billion people, the harvest surely is grander than what I can accomplish. This is sobering in many ways because it relieves me of the guilt that I may have (for not reaching enough people), humbles me to recognize that I need help, and wisdom to pray for more laborers like me. Daily, at 10:02, I’m praying that God will not only send more laborers into the harvest, but that he helps me to train laborers, and to be a laborer.

Charles Spurgeon once proclaimed, “Every Christian is either a missionary or an imposter.” The beauty of church planting is that you were not meant to be alone, or to do it alone. Christ gave his command to go and make disciples—there’s a need for more laborers, and a new disciple becomes a “co-worker” (Phil 4:3; Col. 4:11). Empowered with Holy Spirit presence and ability enablement, the goal is to make disciples—co-laborers of the harvest.

Laborers of the Harvest

Sometimes church planters go the route of “parachuting” into a location. This happens. It is also one of the most difficult ways to church plant. Reaching a large city can feel daunting. The size, span, and magnitude of the harvest is a reminder of the need to pray for more laborers. Church planters need co-laborers.

I’ve been asked, “Why are you bent on core groups?” Why? Because these are your teammates—your core group and congregation—they are the committed family of God—your co-laborers in the harvest. You were not meant to “go it alone,” but to have helpers. Jesus never sent out the disciples on mission alone. Even within the context of the harvest passage, Jesus sends out the seventy-two in pairs. And for good reason.

Jesus describes the harvest—it’s a ferocious world of “wolves.” It’s a world of sick people in need of healing. It’s a demon-possessed and spiritually blinded world. As Lord of the harvest, Christ is the missionary Commander sending out his workers into hostile environments. They’ll be rejected on all sides. Companionship is essential—co-laborers that will walk with you.

Jesus never asked for Lone Rangers. You were not meant to be alone. Co-laborers share in the mission: they rejoice when you rejoice, weep when you weep, and when areas of strongholds are conquered—they pronounce victory and triumph. The mission of God is a shared mission, dependent upon God. Every believer is called to the mission field—some far, but all within their neighborhood, home, and community.

Lastly, making disciples is part of the harvest prayer—that in praying for more laborers, you’re praying that you’d be an obedient Great Commission disciple-maker, creating more laborers to be sent out. The fields were meant to be harvested. No one plants seed without an expectation of harvest. Jesus expects a harvest and commands laborers to pray for more laborers.

So, the next time 10:02 comes around and an alarm goes off, don’t look at the person in a strange way—he’s your co-laborer. You weren’t meant to do it alone.

[1] David J. Bosch, Transforming Mission: Paradigm Shifts in Theology of Mission (Maryknoll: Orbis Books, 1991), 57.

[2]  R. C. H. Lenski, The Interpretation of St. Matthew’s Gospel (Minneapolis: Augsburg Publishing House, 1961), 1171.

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