The Laborers Are Indeed Few

One of the most urgent prayers from Welsh churches at the moment is Jesus’ encouragement from Matthew 9:38, that the Lord of the harvest would send laborers into his harvest because the harvest is plentiful but the laborers are few. It will always remain our privilege to witness our Father answer that prayer, calling ministers by the Holy Spirit to preach the gospel of Jesus, his Son.

From calling to ministry

How does someone go from being called of the Spirit to preaching the gospel in a church? Once they are there, how do they carry on in good health? For all our good prayers to our Father, many preachers in Wales still find their ministries by providential happenstance.

We dangerously underappreciate how risky that period is between a calling and a ministry. Whether that ministry is itinerant, in a pastorate, or as one of many church-workers, there are countless ways to get the preparation wrong. The Bible warns us about many corrupting influences and false teachers. There are various pitfalls and mistakes to avoid. People in this position need help, support and guidance: the more the better for both themselves and the churches they will serve in the name of Christ.

It goes without saying that, by the grace of God, many get through that process and are serving faithfully today. Nevertheless, it is far from plain sailing from that point either. There is increasing awareness that those who cross the field of preparation for a ministry can find themselves in lonely places, especially if they are in itinerant ministries. Support and resources can seem like mirages. Someone, somewhere is surely able and willing to help – but who? And where? If you will allow an anecdote: upon my admission to a Bible college, I was given four apparently random books. All of them happened to be on the topic of endurance, burnout and perseverance in Christian ministry. That is (or was) a prominent concern for those entering ministry.

Despite the barriers and difficulties, and we mean this – the glass is certainly half full! Our God is faithful; ministers are being called by the Spirit and are ministering to souls in churches all over Wales every week. We have a gracious Father in Heaven who knows how to give good gifts to his children. By his ascended Son, our Father is giving ministers to his church and empowering them by his Spirit:

To each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it. This is why it says: ‘When he ascended on high, he took many captives and gave gifts to his people.’ (What does ‘he ascended’ mean except that he also descended to the lower, earthly regions? He who descended is the very one who ascended higher than all the heavens, in order to fill the whole universe.) So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ (Eph. 4:7-1).

If the church is going to follow up on its faithful prayers that the Lord would send labourers into his harvest, it would be wise to capitalise here. Investing in and providing for those who are being called into ministry or who are slogging away in itinerant ministries across many churches in Wales will pay dividends. We should support them in a manner worthy of Christ, ensuring they have all they need (Titus 3:13; 3 John 1:6).

The Itinerant Preachers’ Network

The Itinerant Preachers’ Network (IPN) seeks to make good on these prayers and capitalize on the goodness of Christ in giving servants to his church. In close connection with their local churches, the IPN assists those who are exploring a call to ministry or who are in itinerant ministry, and supports them in their service.

Three times a year, IPN meets on Saturday mornings for the purpose of encouraging, networking and equipping preachers. After a time of reading, prayer and a hearty free breakfast, an invited speaker delivers a seminar. Over the years, we have covered topics such as the task of evangelism, church planting, handling biblical texts, preaching through adversity and ministering to nominal Christians. The meeting usually finishes with a discussion and a time of prayer. Besides this, IPN can provide seasoned veterans as mentors to younger preachers and can also bring preachers and churches together.

I am one of many who have personally benefited from IPN in my own experience of moving from the Spirit’s calling to pastorate. I can’t say how much harder it would have been without the encouragement of the IPN. Although I have been in full-time ministry for a few years, I still attend. It never fails to make me happy, to see our Father answering our prayers, raising and maintaining laborers in his harvest. He is ever faithful! Besides this, the seminars at the IPN meetings are stimulating to keep me sharp in the work and the fellowship is warm to encourage my own devotion. I have made good friends through the IPN who have blessed me, and I hope I am beginning to return the favor.

Although many churches closed during lockdowns, Wales still has more churches than preachers. Each church needs so much more than keeping the treadmill of Sunday meetings going. IPN assists preachers to be more deliberate about their regular input for the good of their ministries and the churches they support. Please, when we next pray for the Lord to raise laborers, let us thank him for answering that prayer and ask him to bless the work of groups like IPN with power for their sake and ours.

Recently, the IPN has been anticipating advancing in the future to address more effectively the needs of ministers and churches, especially itinerants and those on their way to pastorates. A syllabus of updated topics and speakers is on the horizon. However, despite much thought, it has been concluded that the free breakfast is so good that it cannot be improved.

Hywel George

Published by Intentional Faith

Devoted to a Faith that Thinks

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