We’ve looked at several New Testament passages that speak directly of leaders in the church, and how the members of the church should behave toward them. I think there’s material there for all of us to attend to.
I’d like to close the series by going to a passage that doesn’t mention pastors at all, but that points us to a significant step we can take for the days ahead.
35 Jesus was going through all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every kind of disease and every kind of sickness. 36 Seeing the people, He felt compassion for them, because they were distressed and dispirited like sheep without a shepherd. 37 Then He said to His disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. 38 Therefore beseech the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into His harvest” (Mt 9.35-38; see also Lk 10.2).
As was typical for him, Jesus was ministering to the crowds that constantly accompanied him, seeing and addressing their needs, both physical and spiritual. He was ministering. Pastoring.
Well, he tells us elsewhere that ministering is his mission (Mt 20.28; Mk 10.45), but this passage gives us a more proximate reason—he was moved with compassion for the needs of the people who surrounded him.
This was something that happened often as Jesus walked among us (Mt 14.14; 15.32; 20.34). It’s part of who he is (Ex 34.5-6). And in that moment of agitation, he used the situation as a teaching moment for his disciples.
There are so many, he said. We need more workers, people to care, to minister, to shepherd. Pray for more.
Note the motivation. We need more pastors, not so the theological schools will have more business, or because really godly people become “full-time Christian workers,” or because other work isn’t important, or because you should feel guilty if you don’t.
We should care because the Son of God, walking among us, had his stomach tied up in knots because of the sight of countless images of God who were in perilous need. And he felt this way not because he was helpless to do anything about it, but simply because he cared. It mattered a lot to him.
It should matter a lot to us. It should matter that every community is filled with people in the image of God who are far from him, adrift in a cesspool of existentialism, unable to understand why a universe with them at the center simply doesn’t work and doesn’t satisfy; people who know him but not well enough to function, because they don’t know his Word and don’t know how to learn it; people who are walking through the valley of the shadow of death and need someone to just sit with them and comfort them; people whose marriages aren’t working and they don’t know how to fix them; people who could face the trials of life if they just had a body of believers to provide fellowship and exhortation and encouragement.
We should be moved—the Greek word means essentially to be punched in the gut—by the needs all around us, and, desperate for help, we should pray that God would send forth more laborers into his harvest.
Pray. The word Jesus uses is “beseech”—beg, or plead. It what the leper did when he fell on his face before Jesus and said, “Lord if you are willing, you can make me clean” (Lk 5.12). It’s what the father did when he shouted from the crowd, “Rabbi, I beg you to look at my son, for he is my only boy” (Lk 9.38). The son, by the way, was demon possessed.
How desperate was that father? How desperate was that outcast leper?
Pray. Pray for more pastors like yours. Thousands of them, until there are so many that there are some with nothing at all to do.
When we honor our undershepherd, we honor the Great Shepherd. And by doing that, we strengthen the church and our own connection to that Great Shepherd.