Leaders or Laborers?

Robert Wurtz II

“But when he saw the multitudes, he was moved with compassion on them, because they fainted, and were scattered abroad, as sheep having no shepherd. Then saith he unto his disciples, The harvest truly is plenteous, but the laborers are few; Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he will send forth laborers into his harvest.” (Matthew 9:36–38 KJV)

“And he said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them, and those in authority over them are called benefactors. But not so with you. Rather, let the greatest among you become as the youngest, and the leader as one who serves. For who is the greater, one who reclines at table or one who serves? Is it not the one who reclines at table? But I am among you as the one who serves.” (Luke 22:25–27 ESV)

There is a deadly disease that I have observed among the sons of men. Its symptoms manifest in a variety of ways — not the least of which is a desire to be a leader without being a laborer. Search the internet for materials on Christian leadership and you will find a lifetime worth of study. Search for materials on being a laborer in the Kingdom and… not-so-much. Many of these studies are taken up with who will be in charge of what or who will be under whose “covering.” There is a disturbing preoccupation with men desiring to rule over other men (and women). Many go so far as to refer to themselves as servants, but in reality, live to be served. 

Jesus Christ was the greatest leader of all ages, but He was also a servant of all. When He saw the crowds of people coming He didn’t tell the disciples to pray for more leaders; He told them to pray for laborers. Perhaps that’s because He intended to be the Leader? Perhaps the verses that He would later inspire concerning Himself being the Head of the Body were to be taken seriously? I can’t help but say that while men are looking for good leaders; God is looking for good laborers.

Perhaps what we need is a new definition of a leader? A leader is a person who takes the lead in the labors. They head out into the “field” inspiring others to follow them. The harvest is plentiful. Laborers are needed. We are instructed to pray for people to come and assist us in the work. The people who move to the front in the work — moved with compassion for the multitudes — responding to the needs at hand — are the leaders. Some may want the title of leader — but few want the work of being a laborer. You will recognize them by their willingness to refer to people who do not submit to their authority as rebels. Why should we submit to them? We’re leading a work in the fields. Selah. 

The first church I recall attending as a child was a Baptist Church on Blue Ridge Blvd. in Kansas City. I was about four years old at the time. Laborers had taken it upon themselves to procure, maintain, and man about ten retired school buses to bring children to their meetings. They were all painted sky blue and white. They were quite a site sitting parked in perfect order along the back of the church. You could see them from the Interstate — a testament to the laborers who traveled to the fields. I drove by there last week and all the old buses are gone. Lots of messages on leadership. Where are the laborers?

I suggest that what we need today is a revival of laboring in the Gospel. We need people with a burden for souls. Not just a burden for people who can pay and support the church, but for the children, the elderly, and the down and out. We need laborers who value all souls the same regardless of age, race, color, or social class. We need people who can look at a four-year-old and see a soul who will spend eternity some place. We need laborers who can look at an elderly person in a wheelchair and beg God to give them one last chance to get saved. 

Away with popularity! Away with personality! Away with distinction and ambition! We need a generation to rise up with a willingness to work in the fields where no praise is given — no accolades are presented. We need God to send us people who will be moved by His Spirit to do the work of the ministry without having to be told to do it. That’s a leader. It’s not a person who wants to be “submitted to.” A leader is a person who labors in God’s fields faithfully and cheerfully. It’s their desire. It’s their meat. It’s their life. God give us people like Stephen who will wait on tables. 

God give us people who will spend and be spent in whatever way they are physically able. Give us people who will present their bodies for your service as living sacrifices. To go and pick up children and bring them to church. To train them and instruct them in the ways of God. To visit the sinners in bondage with the Gospel. To encourage the elderly in their pain and sorrows to finish the race strong. Give us people who could care less about being known as leaders. Give us people who are tired of talking about it and are ready to get out there and do it. Amen.      

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