There’s no use in sugarcoating it. Ministry is work. Never one for bait and switch recruiting, Jesus told us this would be the case.
Jesus went throughout all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction. 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 to his harvest” (Matt. 9:35–38, emphasis mine).
The harvest is ready. There are many women in need of support, encouragement, discipleship, shepherding, and the good news of salvation available through Jesus. The workers are indeed few—and often so are the resources of time, energy, creativity, and funds.
Our ministry reality is no surprise to Jesus. It was in the context of ministering that He declared the need for more workers. But which kind of worker are you?
Two Kinds of Workers
If I let my imagination explore the harvest Jesus described, I see two types of workers in the field: those who work out of scarcity and those who work out of abundance.
The mantra of the scarcity worker is, “I don’t have enough.” Enough what? You name it:
- Enough time
- Enough funds
- Enough volunteers
- Enough women signed up
- Enough energy
- Enough ideas
- Enough faith
- Enough support . . .
The list can truly be endless.
For the women’s ministry leader whose heart posture is scarcity, ministry will be unbelievably draining because it will be worn on the back of the leader herself. She will exhaust every resource she can drum up in her own strength to get the job done, but all she will see is the next event that needs to be planned, the next crisis that needs handled, or the next study that needs prepped for.
I confess this is my default setting. “I can’t do this,” it seems, is the sinful cry of my heart. If this is your default setting too, know that you’re in good company. When God called Moses to lead, he was quick to respond with his list of “I can’ts.”
- “I am not eloquent.” (Ex. 4:10)
- “I am slow of speech and of tongue.” (Ex. 4:10)
- “Oh, my Lord, please send someone else.” (Ex. 4:13)
Moses may have started out as a scarcity worker, but he didn’t stay there. I’m hopeful that we won’t either.
While the challenges of ministry are real and the needs are seemingly endless, ministering from a place of scarcity is a surefire way to become weary in well doing, at best leading to ineffectiveness, and at worst leading to failure. There is an alternative—the second kind of worker.
The second worker works out of abundance. While the scarcity worker believes the sky is perpetually falling, the abundant worker boldly declares in faith, “I have everything I need.”
Let’s consider our fore-brother Cain for a moment. We know he chose to murder his brother Abel, but consider where that murderous thought began. Is it possible we can trace it to a scarcity mindset about his work?
Now Abel was a keeper of sheep, and Cain a worker of the ground. In the course of time Cain brought to the LORD an offering of the fruit of the ground, and Abel also brought of the firstborn of his flock and of their fat portions. And the LORD had regard for Abel and his offering, but for Cain and his offering he had no regard. So Cain was very angry, and his face fell. The LORD said to Cain, “Why are you angry, and why has your face fallen? If you do well, will you not be accepted?” (Gen. 4:2–7)
Cain, it seems, was convinced that he did not have what he needed. If we could read Cain’s mind, I think we’d see evidence of these thoughts:
- I don’t have what I need.
- I don’t have the approval I need.
- I don’t have the recognition I need.
- I don’t have the tools I need.
- I don’t have the gifts I need.
In other words, “I can’t do this.”
When we operate out of scarcity, we live under Cain’s curse, “When you work the ground, it shall no longer yield to you its strength. You shall be a fugitive and a wanderer on the earth” (Gen. 4:12). Work becomes fruitless, and we become frustrated.
The Early Church’s Gift
The early Church gave us many gifts, including the ability to see ministry differently. Listen to our beginning and look for signs of abundance.
They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved. (Acts 2:42–47)
What makes these early Christ-followers so remarkable? They lived as if they had everything they needed, because they did. Their contentment resulted in a fruitful harvest that we’re still marveling over.
Don’t misunderstand: an abundance mindset is not a pie-in-the-sky happy thought. It’s not the same as name-it-and-claim-it or “manifesting your destiny.” This is a tried and true biblical principle that can transform us from scarcity workers to abundance workers.
Listen to 2 Peter 1:3, “His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence.”
What do we have? “All things.” What was that? Most things? Nope. Barely enough things? Try again. All things! We have everything we need.
Consider Philippians 4:19, “My God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.
This is the pivot point! A scarcity worker tries to meet needs out of her own riches and will always find them lacking. An abundance worker knows the needs will be met out of Christ’s riches in glory, which is an account that can never be drained.
When we are busy working the harvest, this often doesn’t feel true, but feelings aren’t facts. You have everything you need to live the life God has called you to. You have everything you need to serve like He has called you to.
I often say (and truly believe) that I have all the time I need to accomplish what Christ has for me to do (and not much else). If Christ has an assignment for me, there is time for it. There is energy for it. There are ideas for it. Always.
Learn to Recognize the Square Pegs
As you consider your ministry efforts, if there is something that there truly is not time or energy or funds or volunteers for, it’s time to evaluate. Here are two diagnostic questions to ask:
- Is this in line with my gifts?
- Is this empowered by the Holy Spirit?
Notice I’m not nudging you to ask, “Is this easy?” Nothing in a broken world is easy, but all things that are required by Christ are possible (Phil. 4:13).
Worker, you are desperately needed. The harvest is ready and it’s all hands on deck. But do not keep working under the compulsion that it’s up to you or out of a chronic sense that you don’t have what you need. You’re too valuable! The result will be decreased fruit and an exhausted you. We don’t want to lose another worker. Instead, choose to take Christ at His Word. He is ready and willing to meet every need out of His abundant riches. You have what is required to serve Him today. Repeat after me, “I have everything I need.”
PS: For further reading consider the list of everything that is yours in Christ found in Ephesians 1:3–14. Eek! It’s so good!