Pastoral Perspectives

Is The Harvest Really Plentiful?

These two Sundays, being Mission Sundays, our focus intentionally turns to the harvest field. We had just met our missionaries virtually during the Zoom Prayer meeting last Wednesday. It is so heart-warming to hear what they have been doing in the field and we hope that they have been encouraged by our prayers for them too.

Let’s not get too technical about the definition of missions. Some say we must cross national boundaries or serve in a different culture before we can say that we are doing missions. If the Lord should lead us to follow in the footsteps of our missionaries, let us respond with an obedient heart.

Otherwise, let us be faithful to the Great Com-Mission that we have been entrusted with (Matthew 28:18-20) where Jesus gives us a command to fulfil a mission which is to make disciples of all nations, beginning from Jerusalem (where we are), to Judea and Samaria and to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8).

In fulfilling the Great Com-Mission, we have to go, and then to baptise and then to teach people to obey all that Christ has commanded. Going can mean going to another country but going can also mean walking across our classroom to speak with a friend or across the pantry to speak with a colleague or across the corridor to speak with a neighbour.

Such conversations may begin with anything under the sun and not proceed beyond that. However, we pray that while we make the effort to make conversations and cultivate friendships, there will be opportunities for us to engage our classmates, colleagues and friends in a deeper manner so that we move from the superficial “hi and bye” to offering words of encouragement, discussing theology in a very casual manner and eventually, sharing the gospel with them.

In the recent population census, though the percentage of Christians in Singapore has increased marginally from 18.3% in 2010 to 18.9% in 2020, the worrying trend is to see a rise from 17% to 20% of those surveyed (15 years and older) choosing to be atheists. Within this group, the highest jump was seen among those from 25 to 34 years of age (from 19.9% to 26.2%) who said that they had no religion.

Therefore, there is still a lot of work to do where the sharing of the gospel is concerned. The harvest at our doorstep is indeed plentiful, especially when we include the many foreigners who are living and working among us in our offices, schools, housing estates and homes.

But some of you may ask, “How can the harvest be plentiful when people are not interested in hearing the gospel, or they may have heard it so many times over yet they have not responded to the call to become Christians?”

We might initially have been very excited about sharing the gospel but after being rejected by friends who stared daggers at us, or shunned us as if we have a contagious disease, we have decided in our hearts that it is either not working or it is not worth the while for us to take such risks.

When our Master, Jesus, walked on the face of this earth, even though he stood out as a preacher among other religious leaders, not everyone accepted his message. If he was being rejected, how can we, his disciples, expect to be treated otherwise? However, we can take heart that there were those who listened intently to Jesus; likewise, there will be those among us who are genuine seekers.

We don’t know who these people are but if we take Jesus’ Great Com-Mission seriously and we love the people enough to warn them of an eternity without God, and we love them enough to inform them of the eternal life they can have the moment they put their faith in Jesus, our love for God and for the people whom he loves should compel us to come out of our comfort zone to continue sharing our faith.

As long as there are still 81.1% of those residing in Singapore who are not Christians, the harvest field in our Jerusalem is still plentiful. May the workers not be few because we fail to respond to the call of Jesus to be his gospel bearers.

Let us take heart that we are never fulfilling the Great Com-Mission alone. Jesus has promised to be with us always and that reality comes about when his Spirit indwells us the moment we acknowledge him as our Saviour and Lord. Today, we commemorate the Day of Pentecost. We know that with the descent of the Holy Spirit upon us, we have Christ’s power and authority to continue his salvific work until he returns.

At the end of the day, it is the Holy Spirit who convicts and converts as the gospel is shared. We don’t need to put pressure on ourselves; we only avail ourselves as his mouthpiece. 

Even as the church opens up, we will continue with our outreach efforts! We are still patiently encouraging the believers to return for on-site service; at the same time, we want to keep sharing the good news with the unbelievers.

Our worship services are evangelistic in nature in that when your friends come to worship with us, they will get to hear the gospel through the songs we sing, the sermon we preach, the communion we share and the concrete love they experience when we greet and welcome them.

We have just concluded our Alpha Class and we are going to start another round of ASK class in the second half of the year. Gospel Sundays are a constant feature and whenever we have community engagement activities, the organisers will always weave in the gospel component in creative ways. But these outreach programmes are not going to serve their purpose if no non-Christians attend them.

Let’s do our part. We can use a two-pronged approach. First, let us be sensitive to the Spirit and let him guide us to people whom we can reach out to in our workplace, school and neighbourhood. Let us cultivate friendships with them and take interests in their lives. See where our conversations with them will take us and be ready to share the good news as the Spirit prompts and inspires.

If you sense that they have a need, offer to pray for them there and then. Usually, they will welcome prayers even if they are not believers. Of course if you can meet their need, don’t hesitate to do so for action always speaks louder than words!

Second, when there is the opportunity to invite our friends to church for evangelistic programmes or even worship services, do so accordingly. Don’t be too quick to dismiss this approach, thinking that they will not be interested. If you never ask, you will never know. Even if they reject you the first time, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they will reject you forever. And even if they continue to reject you, maintain the relationship because Christ’s love requires us to do so.

As you begin each day, you can utter this prayer, or the equivalent, to the Lord:

Gracious heavenly Father
As I begin a new day
Make me a channel of your grace
So that through my words and actions
I can point others to Jesus
Fill me with your love
The fruit of your Spirit
So that I can be your faithful gospel worker
For the harvest is really plentiful!

Rev Lee Kien Seng

June 5, 2022