KEY THOT: After sending out the Twelve to the villages to “preach the kingdom of God and to heal the sick” (Luke 9:2), Jesus then sent out seventy-two others two-by-two with the same commission: “Heal the sick who are there and tell them, ‘The kingdom of God is near you'” (Luke 10:9). Jesus multiplied his workforce 6-fold from 12 in Luke 9:1 to 72 in Luke 10:1. And he gave the reason for the multiplication in 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.” When the seventy-two returned from their mission, they were excited: “The seventy-two returned with joy and said, ‘Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name’" (Luke 10:17). The greater the number of harvesters, the greater the harvest. This is no rocket science but simple arithmetic. The real reason why churches are not growing is not found in the lack of harvest (“the harvest is plentiful”) but in the lack of harvesters. The more harvesters there are in any church, the greater will be the harvesting.
Sometime, I observe in churches using Alpha, that their growth declines when the harvesters pool (Alpha team) shrink or when the number of Alpha run is reduced from thrice or twice a year to once a year for fear of "burning out the workers". This reduces the number of harvesting seasons and so the growth rate declines. This is a clear illustration of the law of harvesting: “a man reaps what he sows” (Gal. 6:7). The more seeds are sown (by running Alpha or some other outreach like EE more frequently), the greater will be the harvest. We are familiar with the common justification for non-growth and it sounds reasonable and spiritual: "we're focused on quality, not quantity" or “church growth isn't a number game”. But Scripture is very interested in numbers because numbers are not statistics but souls rescued from Satan's clutches and from hell.
Every increase in number means more people are getting saved. No increase in number means no one is getting saved through the church. Which means that the church has failed to obey the Great Commission. The book of Acts records numbers because the numbers are salvations, not statistics.
- Acts 2:41 Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day.
- Acts 2:47 And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.
- Acts 4:4 But many who heard the message believed, and the number of men grew to about five thousand.
- Acts 6:7 The number of disciples in Jerusalem increased rapidly, and a large number of priests became obedient to the faith.
The key to a greater harvest is to increase the number of harvesters or harvesting seasons. The greater the sowing, the greater the reaping. But let’s not blame the harvest for the lack of growth in our congregation. Jesus has said the harvest is plentiful--and He is not a liar. So, the problem of non-growth isn’t with the harvest. The problem of non-growth is with the harvesters--the church itself. Let’s honestly face the truth and repent. Let's not justify our non-growth--let's do something about it. Try Alpha!
Father, thank You that the fields are ripe unto harvest. Give us more harvesters willing to work in the harvest, that more souls may be rescued from Satan’s clutches and transferred into the Kingdom of Your dear Son. Amen.