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The harvest is great but the workers are few

March 10, 2013

“The harvest is great but the workers are few”. I’m feeling like adopting that as my motto for the moment. I came to Harleston about 5 months ago and I came because I felt strongly that I was being called there. I felt the flow of the Spirit in me and in the people that I met. I could see a hunger for the Gospel just under the surface, ready to spring to life, and I wanted to be part of it all. More than that I felt called to be a catalyst for growth.

So I have no doubt that the harvest is great. There are plenty of things starting but there are far more things that I know could be happening, but we need more workers. I’m not meaning more clergy, or lay ministers, though they would be nice, just workers willing to step out on a limb and share the Gospel.

Now, before I was ordained I remember a good friend tell me about how they trained ministers in his Elim Pentecostal Church. Part of that training involved taking a step of faith and going out with nothing for 2 weeks or more: To step out in faith with only the clothes they were dressed in and trust that God will provide for his mission (Cf. Luke 10).

I have stepped out in faith, but never in quite that way. Whether or not this is the way we should all train, I don’t know. But I do know that every time that I have stepped out in faith my confidence in the power of the Spirit to provide has got stronger. I would therefore say that we should listen carefully to the Spirit, then be ready to take risks. We need to be ready to see the need and act. There is a place for careful planning and committees but they cannot be the whole of the Church’s life.

The Spirit is powerful and unpredictable, blowing where he wills. So there must be flexibility in the structures of our churches to allow for the freedom that comes with the Spirit. After all it is not the Church that I worship; I worship the living God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

But then, part of me wants a nice ordered and predictable life; a safe life. Unfortunately, God just seems to laugh when I tell him that. Like three nights ago. I went to talk to a couple about their wedding. I had the address and house number, number 17. I turned up, and before I could knock on the door it was opened for me. I was surprised, not by someone being in the hall to see me, but by being met by an old lady.

She seemed a little older than the voice on the phone had suggested but you never can tell, and she didn’t seem surprised to see me. Perhaps it was a wedding in later life, or perhaps her grand daughter and fiancé were waiting in the lounge?

But no, this was not the right person, this was not the right house, but the Spirit had led me to exactly the right place. I was in exactly the right place at exactly the right time for this women and the Spirit spoke through me. Then, a little later when I said good-bye, I phoned the wedding couple and found that I should have gone to number 20 not 17. The two numbers are not even slightly similar. Mistaking 17 for 70 I could have understood, but not 17 for 20.

But that is how the Spirit works. I give myself to following Jesus and the Spirit acts. I have no idea where I will be sent, or what I will be sent to. That is the Spirit. I can start off with a clear view of the future, only to have that turned upside down in an instant. It is then that I need to let the Spirit take over. On that doorstep I could have said, “Sorry, wrong house!” and headed back down the drive. But somehow I knew that I was supposed to stay and talk.

Not that long ago, the church wasn’t paying me and I earned my living from a consultancy based in Loddon. Part of that job meant that I had reasonably frequent meetings with the European Commission in Brussels. On one of the early visits I arrived in Brussels by Eurostar and knew that my boss was waiting for me before leaving for a business meal that night. It was late and dark, so I decided to get a tram rather than risk getting lost. I found the right stop, and got on a tram that seemed to be going the right way … and then it all went wrong.

The tram went the right way, at least to start with, then it turned off. I thought, “It’s OK, its just doing a loop”, but no it carried on in the wrong direction. Then I decided I must get off before I end up miles from where I need to be. I got off. The tram continued on. I looked around.

I was in the middle of a very rough Arab district of Brussels. There were no trams or buses. I had no idea where I was, where I had come from or where the hotel was. What’s more it was very dark. So I stopped and waited. Then walked fast in what I was sure was the right way. 15 minutes later I recognised the far end of the street with my hotel. I arrived only a little late. The Spirit was with me that night. I seemed to be invisible to the young men loitering on the street corner, even though I was in a suit, and was dragging a suitcase behind me – easy meat. I know how to fight, but I still felt like a lamb among wolves. Strangely, after my initial panic I felt confident that all would be OK. But not so confident that I wasn’t relieved to find the hotel!

When I let him, the Spirit works in amazing ways. But I still doubt, and question and want to turn back. I still often want the Spirit to be talking to someone else: I often want an easier life; a more predictable life. But l don’t regret anything that I have done when stepping out for God, even when it has gone wrong. Sometimes it has gone wrong. I can remember being conned out of a train fair by a Bible quoting con-artist in Liverpool. I gave money that I couldn’t really afford to feed a man’s drug habit.

I will make mistakes again, I will look a fool again and deep down I don’t care.

“The harvest is great and the workers are few”, but I’ve discovered something strange. If I step out others often follow. If someone else steps out I can sometimes see the need and the calling of the Spirit and follow. For example, someone was prompted by the Spirit to provide food for those without and Foodbank was formed. I saw that example and followed.

It could be anyone who is being called by the Spirit to step out in faith. It is the scariest thing in the world and the most amazingly wonderful. Better than any funfair ride. Better even than scraping my knees round a corner on the motorbike.

Spiritus (Steve Turner)

I used to think of you
as a symphony
neatly structured,
full of no surprises.
Now I see you as
a saxophone solo
blowing wildly
into the night,
a tongue of fire,
flicking in unrepeated patterns.

I look at people; I look out into the interenet and listen for strains of wild music, flickers of flame, the other worldly madness that comes from following Christ.

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