When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, "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." - Matthew 9:36-38 (ESV)
Shakespeare once said, if you prick us, do we not bleed? In the spirit of full disclosure, I got cut last night. It is easy sometimes to forget that we are all humans sharing this mortal coil. The person who cut did not mean to. This is not about them. It certainly is not about me. All ministry efforts take an investment of time and energy, often with not enough "attaboys" for the soul. Especially in discernment, often considered the angry uncle at the Thanksgiving feast of the church. This is not a plea for such positive reinforcement either. This is a realization that every now and again, we need to review why we are here and why we do what we do. That is because I would be a liar if I could not admit that many discernment ministry efforts can end up sounding shrill, whiny or downright angry at times. I would be a fool to think that could not happen to me, as much as I try very hard for that not to come to pass. So, bear with me today as I try to stitch together verses that show the underpinning for why it is that discernment ministries are undertaken and why they have a critical role to play in the body of Christ.
I start with the key verses cited today from Matthew because they represent for me the driving force behind our pursuit for discernment within the church. For that should always start and end with compassion. Now, before you think that sounds odd realize I mean compassion for the sheep, not the wolves. The crowds Jesus was looking out over had teachers! The problem was they were false! As such they were harassed and helpless. Have you ever tried to have a rational, biblical conversation with a Jehovah witness? Try it with an adherent to Joseph Prince. Try criticizing Joel Osteen to someone who feels genuinely uplifted by his heretical teachings. One of the by products of decades of Purpose Driven church teachings is a generation of cult of personality pastors. At Elevation Church for example they teach kids to extoll Pastor Steven and his vision. False teaching harasses and it makes for helpless followers. I see all the time people complaining about the followers saying they should know better but that misses the point here. They are like sheep without a shepherd, which leads to the compassionate response from our Savior and we should strive for no less from ourselves. The harvest is upon us beloved and the laborers are few. That labor is not just to preach the truth but to lead people away from the false. I have received emails from all over the world sharing victory stories of coming out from the darkness of false teaching and into the glorious light of the true gospel. It has nothing to do with me and everything to do with Him. I only have the ability to write because of Him. Are there a plethora of such stories? No, but we need to remember what God has said about numbers:
"Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few. - Matthew 7:13-14 (ESV)
Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance. - Luke 15:87 (ESV)
We live in a microwave society with a mega-church mentality. We have all heard the fanciful tales from false preachers and evangelists who declare absurd numbers of salvations by who responds to an altar call without the gospel. I was watching a video this morning of a brother who escaped from Elevation Church who told about how they were all driven by church management for "the numbers." How they would plant people in the congregation to appear to spontaneously respond to a call for baptism to get others to feel better about doing so. There is a reason why heaven rejoices when just one person repents and that is because narrow is the road that leads there, and FEW are those who find it. Convincing people to raise their hands does not mean they are saved. In the Purpose Driven Life, Rick Warren addresses salvation ONCE. When he does, he tells the readers to say an eight-word sentence and then arrogantly proclaims they are saved. God will not be mocked. Broad is the path that leads to destruction and sadly, most people in church today have no idea they are walking on it. Don't believe me - see what Jesus said:
"Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?' And then will I declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.' - Matthew 7:21-23 (ESV)