As part of our church weekend we considered Jesus’ command:

“The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.” (Matthew 9:37-38)

I don’t think ‘workers’ is limited to those who get their employment from Christian activities. Nevertheless, it is the fact that God gives pastor/teachers to his church (Ephesians 4) and that it is right that people are sent across cultures to proclaim the Gospel (Romans 10).

When Keith was senior pastor here at Woody Road, he and Sally spent part of his sabbatical travelling across Asia and America to visit those sent out by the church. Well yesterday, I visited Bristol and South Wales…

Joking apart, it was a busy but hugely rewarding day. I left Oxford at 6.30am and returned just after 10.00pm. After meeting a friend from my UCCF days in Bristol for a morning coffee, I had lunch with the Monteiro family in Yate and then an evening meal with Jon Bilton in Machen. I came back grateful for renewed friendship but also thankful for what they were doing in their new places of work.

I have to say that I miss having Josh as one of the elders at Woody Road- we have noted the absence of his wisdom at meetings and his thoughtful preaching. We loved having Karuna’s warmth and joy with us. Jon contributed a huge amount in his time as a trainee-his lively preaching, honesty and desire to grow were really appreciated and he was a massive personal help to me when the two of us worked together after Keith’s retirement. All of that is a reminder that sending people out is costly- we miss them when they go.

However, I was encouraged yesterday. Both Josh and Jon are working in churches that are much smaller than Woody Road and have significantly fewer resources. Josh was talking about the initial stages of training people other than the pastors to preach- which made me reflect on the wealth of preachers we have here. I know that both churches face significant challenges. But what encouraged me was the way in which they were getting stuck into meeting these. It was good (and actually quite challenging) to hear of the monthly events that Tyndale Church in Yate are putting on each Sunday afternoon in order to reach non-Christian families on their estate. Josh was thankful for those who were coming along. And it was lovely to talk with Jon about the practicalities of baptizing people as he prepared to baptize three young people from his church this Sunday. Please do keep praying for them both.

Of course, those were simply my reflections from my travels yesterday. It is wonderful to think that I could go to Kenya, Japan and other parts of Asia and see individuals trained, see others converted and meet others who have part of the Scriptures in their own language as a result of the ministry of those supported by Woody Road. Part of me has always wondered whether in the light of eternity it will prove to be the most significant thing that the church has done.

And so we pray for more. We will miss Scott and Cathy when they leave. It has been a joy to have Cathy’s infectious enthusiasm for Christ with us over the past year. And we are deeply grateful to God for Scott’s work- his humble service behind the scenes, his leadership of a homegroup and student work and perhaps particularly his passion for evangelism in the church seen in the New Start and Gospel Workshop events. I am really pleased that they are heading back to the north-east (again to an area with fewer resources than Oxford) in order to work for UCCF and I hope that we will be able to support them as a church.

So let’s follow Jesus command- and pray for workers to be sent into areas of the harvest field.