- Matthew 9:35-38 English Standard Version The Harvest Is Plentiful, the Laborers Few
- 35 And 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. 36 When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. 37 Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; 38 therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”
There were four words that helped me keep my mind focused during my final year at
theological college; servant of the gospel. That’s me, a servant of the gospel. All Christians are. For me, as I serve vocationally, there have been challenges and opportunities aplenty and I’ve needed these four words more than ever as I serve Christ. If I’m being honest, at times it hasn’t been easy or even enjoyable. And so these words have served as a necessary reminder in those times. A reminder to realign myself to these words Paul uttered and Christ modelled, that I might remember that I became a servant of this gospel by the grace of God.
A few months ago I introduced myself to a middle-aged woman who was relatively new to my church. I stumbled through my name and position, saying I was the Women’s Worker there. I then awkwardly reached out my hand for her to shake, and it was met with a smile and surprise. Since this was pre-Covid and pre handshakes being off the menu, I had hoped it was because she was excited to get to know one of the ministry staff. Rather, her surprise was caused by the apparent disparity between my age and the level of my responsibility I held in said role. It was right then, as I felt the blood drain from my face and limbs, that I was reminded of the great responsibility entrusted to me by the church and God. Since the beginning of 2018 I’ve been serving as the Women’s Worker at St Stephen’s Presbyterian Church in Surrey Hills. Yet no matter my age, the responsibility of ministering to the women at my church is pretty big.
Particularly in this season of viruses and lockdowns, sometimes the burden can feel too
much to bear. The fragility of this clay jar becomes all the more apparent. A dear friend, who has been feeling much the same way, recounted her desire to hold onto the goodness of God’s sovereignty. It gave me comfort knowing that even when all we can manage is to get out of bed that day, God still reigns and continues to do something for His Kingdom while I struggle to put on pants.
It’s funny to think about how ordinary ministry can be. Two people catching up to read and discuss a passage from the Bible, often the almond lattes we drink can seemingly be more impressive. Often I find myself sitting across from a woman, we each have a Bible before us. As we read, we mispronounce words in the passage, we re-read the verse just gone by because we’ve already forgotten what it says, and we speak broken observations as our surroundings distract us. Sound familiar? Happens to me every time. To most, this would seem like a truely disastrous book club. Yet something miraculous is happening on a plane even the trained eye cannot see as God promises to transform by His Word.
That’s one of the highlights in ministry, being able to witness transformation right before you. It’s not often we have the chance to see something change before our eyes, but that’s what’s happening when we speak God’s truth to one another. I hold onto those moments because it’s not a secret that ministry can be difficult at times. Admittedly, given my personality, I’m more prone to dwell on the stings over the sings. But God in His kindness, and possibly humour, reminds me of occasions where people have chosen Jesus over everything else. Women, who after reading Hebrews, are convinced that Jesus is indeed better. He is better than the sin that so easily entangles. He is better than whatever this world promises. He is avo on toast or a nap in the afternoon - He is the best. I have witnessed women who have confessed sin, women who have prayed for non-believing friends, and women who persevere in hearing from God’s Word knowing it’s good for them - all I hold close to my heart.
It’s recently been said to me that I’m the only woman in this kind of role in Presbyterian Churches across the state of Victoria. If that’s true, it’s a bit of a sad reality. But I have no doubt that there are hundreds of women in Presbyterian churches across Victoria that are serving the women in their congregations, their churches as a whole, and the Lord Jesus Himself. And that’s really great to think about. It’s encouraging to know that I’m not alone in this, but there are so many women that partner with me in the work of the gospel across Victoria (and beyond!).
Jesus’ words are so familiar yet also so challenging each time we hear them, the harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. We ought to pray to the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into His harvest field. I hope you would join with me in praying that the Lord would indeed do this.
Thank you Michelle for sharing, please pray for Michelle in her work, and as she has encouraged us, pray with her for workers to be sent out into the Lord's harvest field.
- I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a servant of the church at Cenchreae, that you may welcome her in the Lord in a way worthy of the saints, and help her in whatever she may need from you, for she has been a patron of many and of myself as well.
Phoebe was one woman who worked for the Glory of God in her church. Paul encouraged the church to welcome her and help her in whatever she may need.
There are many women in our churches in the PCA working in our churches. I want to use this blog space to recognise and shine light on Christian sister's who like Phoebe, have been serving the Lord in their churches and local communities.
I have a series of questions and answers and caught up with Pam in November.
Ceale: Pam, what activities or ministries are you involved in at Church?
Pam: When COVID restrictions are not on, I am involved in these activities:
Ceale: Hmmm, now that sounds busy and is diverse, are you employed for this work or do you volunteer for your church work?
Pam: I volunteer. Our church cannot support anyone other than our Minister. All positions are voluntary
Ceale: How many years have you been involved in such ministries?
Pam: Over 30 years in this church. My involvement in previous churches was not as much because of the responsibilities of family and work, and my husband travelled overseas frequently for many years with his work.
Ceale: What training (if any) did you have to give you the opportunity to do this work?
Pam: I have never had any training for this work. However, I gained some skills through my employment. I have done a Certificate IV in Business Management as well as many short courses. My employer encouraged me in many ways to improve in my role. More recently I did a Women’s Ministry course (M2W) through the Queensland Theological College.
Ceale: What are the highlights of this ministry for you?
Pam: I love people and hearing their stories, I love children and sharing with them the Gospel, God’s truths and sharing wisdom from life’s experiences with them, I love taking part in the service by reading God’s word or taking the Children’s talk.
I don’t like cleaning toilets or mopping floors but I thank God that I can still do these types of physical tasks.
Ceale: You appear to have a deep connection wtih people through personal relationships. I laugh at your dislikes - I share them. What are the most challenging moments in this ministry?
Pam: Being a woman in the Presbyterian Church. I get frustrated that even though my employers treated me as an equal, I do not always feel an equal at church. I accept that our theology is biblically based. Finding out where you best fit in and what is appropriate for you to do is the challenge. As you get older you still want to be useful for God. I need to allow God to make changes in my life, to continue moulding me to be his faithful servant.
Ceale: What gives you wings for this ministry?
Pam: Not what but who? Definitely my Lord and Saviour. He helps me in all I do. I am thankful that God is with me through my life’s journey.
Ceale: What tips do you have for others who are thinking about getting involved in church ministry?
Pam: I think if you say you are part of God’s family then you naturally want to take part in the activities of the church, just like any family member. Choose something that you enjoy doing and have the gifts to do. Show empathy to others and trust without judgement.
Ceale: What’s your favourite bible passage and why?
Pam: “Remain in Me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in Me.” (John 15:4)
“You didn’t choose Me. I chose you. I appointed you to go and produce lasting fruit.”(John 15:16)
I love verses like these because they remind me that God is in me and that He chose me. How wonderful is that – He loves and cares for me. Also I have a responsibility to Him to stay close to God and honour and serve Him.
Ceale: In your church work who are your partners in the gospel?
Pam: I have respect for our Pastor and his leadership. My husband is one of my great encouragers. He is such a positive person and displays God’s love to others so naturally. Also being involved in women’s ministry outside our congregation on the Committee for the ‘Be Nurtured’ camp. This was an annual event for women in the Presbyterian Church to come together for a weekend of bible teaching from women, to have fellowship and develop friendships. This was a very encouraging time of my life. The women on that Committee were passionate Godly women.
Ceale: Is there anything that you would like leaders of the church to hear about in regards to working in the church? If so, what would you tell them?
Pam: When I think of how Jesus loved the women in his ministry and how he honoured them, I strongly believe He cares for women today in the same way and their involvement in the church more then we appreciate. It’s not about position or power, it is about acknowledgement, that we are loved in Christ and want to serve Him wherever possible. Some of the best bible teachers I have listened to over the years have been women through the ‘Be Nurtured’ forum. I pray for wisdom in knowing what is acceptable (or not) to God in my activities in my home Church.
Thank you Pam for sharing with us. Please take a moment to pray for Pam in her work, for those she serves and who partner with her in this ministry, and also for her family.
- Galatians 6:10 (ESV) So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.
If you would like us to share a story of a women you know working in our church, please contact me: firstname.lastname@example.org
When Jesus gave the great commission to his disciples he said,
Matthew 28:18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
This is, in a nutshell, the mission of the church. Almost every church who has taken the time to write a mission statement has connected what they want to do with what Jesus commanded his first disciples to do in this passage. This website has a particular interest in thinking about how men and women can serve in ministry together. So, it’s worth thinking about this passage, where the mission of the church is clearly stated, and what it says to those thinking about men and women on mission together.
The first thing to recognise is that these verses are full of universal statements. Jesus says, all authority has been given to him. He says to make disciples of all the nations. He says to teach the disciples of the nations to obey everything that he has commanded them. Finally, he says that Jesus will be with us always. These statements are unqualified, as seems appropriate for the last thing that Jesus would say before ascending to the Father.
The second thing to notice is the way these universal commands apply to the passage itself. Jesus gives a command, ‘Go and make disciples of all the nations…’. Then he says, as part of this command, teach ‘them to obey everything I have commanded you.’ It would seem odd, if somehow the universal command to ‘go and make disciples’ was not included in the command to teach ‘everything I have commanded you’. Therefore, the command to go and make disciples is a command for all the believers who followed the original disciples.
So, what we can deduce from this is that making disciples is something that we all have a responsibility to do. All of us. It does not matter what nation we are from, nor what time we live in, nor how long we have been a believer, nor does it matter if we are a man or a woman.
What this could like though can vary considerably depending on our context. While it is clear that Jesus is making a grand universal statement about the importance that everyone goes and make disciples, he doesn’t here tell us what this will look like in every situation and in every context. We must baptize disciples in the name of the Father, Son and Spirit but that doesn’t mean that is all God has to say on how we disciple people.
The rest of the New Testament gives us all sorts of examples of what the first followers of Christ did in their contexts. Sometimes, they even give us some clear instruction on good practice. It is then, in part, the work of every person who takes Jesus’ command to make disciples seriously to think through what this will look like in their own context using the biblical wisdom that God has given to us. So, to sum up, Jesus words here in Matthew 28 (often called the ‘Great Commission’) are for men and women, but we need the rest of the Scriptures to lead us in what this can look like in our local contexts.
It is our hope that the WMPCA website will assist all our readers to do this well. This task is something that we all need to seek to do by the power of God’s spirit, humbly sitting under God’s Word, and being led by the wisdom of Christ, in order to glorify the Father. May the resources you find here bless you and whatever godly ministry you are in.