The theme of our Indiana United Methodist Annual Conference gathering in 2018 is “See All The People.” The theme verse for the conference is Matthew 9:35-38:
Jesus traveled among all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, announcing the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and every sickness. Now when Jesus saw the crowds, he had compassion for them because they were troubled and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The size of the harvest is bigger than you can imagine, but there are few workers. Therefore, plead with the Lord of the harvest to send out workers for his harvest.”
This spring I became one of the workers sent out to labor in the fields caring for the faithful—perhaps a little more literally than I imagined. I’ve preached ten times in the past six months at five different churches. Some are in rural areas, seeming to sprout out of the corn and soybean fields. By preaching in these places I have seen people that I often don’t see—or don’t think about much. One church has been without a pastor for more than a year; another has a pastor who is seriously ill.
People continue to gather for worship in churches they love. I confess that in the past, from a safe and smug distance, I wondered why churches like these didn’t just consolidate with other congregations. But now that I’ve “seen the people” in them, it’s more difficult to judge what should happen to these little churches.
I’m generally far more practical than artsy taking photos with my phone—much more likely to take a photo of the top of a paint can to make sure I get the same color than chronicle an Instagram-worthy trip. I’m even less likely to take selfies, but I wish I had taken one during every service with the people who welcomed me and worshiped with me—all the people I saw and want to remember. I’d love to have a photo collage of this experience.
A year ago I would not have predicted I’d be working in these fields for a season. I’m looking forward to “seeing all the people” in Plymouth after we move this summer and figuring out to what “field” I’m being sent. I’d encourage you to look around and notice the people you might not normally see--and pray about how you might help with the harvest.