Harvest Hands

by Elaine Lindridge.

When he (Jesus) looked out over the crowds, his heart broke. So confused and aimless they were, like sheep with no shepherd. “What a huge harvest!” he said to his disciples. “How few workers!   On your knees and pray for harvest hands!
Matthew 9:36-38

I wonder when you read this passage what kind of harvest scene comes to mind? Perhaps you see rolling, yellow fields with full crops ready to be gathered in by the farmer.  In my mind’s eye I don’t see that calming, picture postcard scene –I see people. Lots and lots of people. Crowds like one might expect to see in the city centre High Street on the Saturday before Christmas. Fields of people, people who are harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.

In this passage recorded in Matthew we read that when Jesus saw the crowds he was heartbroken, or as most translations put it, he had compassion on them. These people are important to Jesus and his love for them is evident in his reaction.

We know that the decline in membership, attendance and new disciples that we see – for most of us, it’s all we’ve ever known. Therefore it can be tempting to pray for a harvest of new people. But note the specific call from Jesus to pray not for the harvest, the harvest is already there, but to pray for harvest hands, to pray for missionaries.

When I visit churches and circuits, so many times I see that the problems they have are not so much about a lack of money, or the rule book (CPD), or opportunities or good ideas.  Rather, it’s about people, namely not having enough people to be involved in the mission activities – the labourers are few. (Note I’m not talking about having people just to fill the many vacant jobs ‘needed’ in each local church).

So, I find myself asking, am I, are we, praying for more harvest hands, for more missionaries?

Throughout my District (Newcastle upon Tyne) I’ve been making a plea that we join in prayer for more harvest hands and at 10am on Mondays many of us pause to pray this prayer;

Lord of the Harvest, we pray for more Harvest Hands.
We come to you knowing that the Harvest is plentiful but the workers are few.
We pray for willing Harvest Hands to join in your work in our communities so that all may come to know they are loved and cherished.
As we commit ourselves to pray, renew our hope and restore our passion so that we might welcome your guidance and influence.
May your kingdom come and your will be done. Amen.

Percentage wise, there are less and less people in Britain today involved in church or professing Jesus as Lord. We can see that as a huge problem, or we can see it as a wonderful opportunity. The mission/harvest field is literally on our doorstep, in our supermarkets, in the gym, the pub and the coffee shop. It’s at the bus stop and at the sport event. The mission field even walks through the doors of our church buildings and pays us to book our hall. We are not overwhelmed with problems but with opportunities.

When we pray for the Lord of the Harvest to send missionaries, more Harvest Hands, we ought to consider listening very carefully. It may well be that God is calling us to respond, maybe we are to be part of the answer to our own prayers.

If you want to connect with this more ‘like’ the Harvest Hands Facebook page via this link.


6 thoughts on “Harvest Hands”

  1. Perhaps the prayer ought to include “Show us what you want each of us personally to do about this and give us the passion, the hope, the strength and the skills to follow your lead.” We can’t just pray about things and then say “Now it’s over to you, God. I’ve done my bit.” As St Teresa of Avila wrote, ours are the bodies through which Christ works.


  2. Thank you. A local vineyard has ‘community days’ when it’s time to gather in the grapes – and that’s about now. They invite everyone and anyone to be involved in the harvest for a couple of hours and then they feed them. The know how to deploy ‘Harvest Hands’, perhaps there are things in this for us to learn?


  3. Thanks for these thoughts. My own, for what they are worth is that we have ceased to be attractive. Jesus offered people what they needed for liberation. He offered a radical life change (physically and spiritually) and people needed this and they knew they needed it too. It seems we (Methodist’s) have largely lost touch with Jesus ourselves and what brought us to the cross in the first place. If we can understand what people need and be in a position to offer that (as far as our faith tradition allows) we won’t need too many Harvest Hands, just patience, kindness and a listening nonjudgmental ear to begin the process of relational mission.


  4. Yesterday in my church we heard from one of the most deprived areas of the country – only a short distance away geographically – about what is happening there. The church – itself by definition part of that deprivation – began a food bank in response to perceived need. No rules, nor need for a reference from ‘authority’ – just come, have soup and bread with us (the only hot food some people get) and take home a bag of food.

    Now, with growing need has come growing response. A local supermarket donates food which would otherwise go to waste, some of the people who came in the early days now come to help as well, people are learning how to make good meals with fresh produce, neighbours begin to know neighbours, and the messenger (‘angel’) who told us these things says that she gets more out of it all than ever she puts in. Faith is not a requirement, but as evidence of loving one’s neighbour the story speaks for itself.

    Love is not like chocolate – share it, and when it’s gone it’s gone. The more love you give, the more there is.


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