All throughout His ministry, Jesus Christ of Nazareth performed miracles of many kinds.
He healed the lame
He gave the blind their sight
He restored the broken
But an attribute of Jesus that is not as “theatrical” and therefore often overlooked is His deep heart of compassion for people. While the healings that Jesus performed show us God’s incredible divine power, His compassion on those He interacted with shows us God’s heart.
This heart of compassion is shown evidently in a short passage of Scripture in Matthew 9. In this story, we find Jesus traveling throughout the cities to teach, proclaim the Kingdom of God, and heal diseases & afflictions. It is in the midst of this that we see God’s heart of compassion:
“When he saw the crowds, He had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.” Matthew 9:36.
After this moment, Jesus says something remarkable that has shaped much of the way the modern church operates and understands the work of the Kingdom of God.
“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 into his harvest.” Matthew 9:37-38.
The harvest is a concept that is often thrown around in the church to describe the work that Christians are called to. There are so many people who either don’t know Jesus or aren't following Him and we as faithful followers, are called to reach these people. Jesus points out the vastness of the harvest but the scarcity of the workers who are needed to reap the harvest.
This passage is often used to recruit more volunteers and servant leaders, but we are not so sure that Jesus’ point here is to recruit more help.
What Jesus may be getting at here is that before we can reap the harvest and reach people for Jesus, there is an essential element we need to have in the forefront of our minds: compassion.
This compassion was not just feelings of empathy or pity. The Greek word here, splagchnistheis, is the strongest word for pity in this ancient language. It describes the compassion which moves a man to the deepest depths of his being.
This word in fact is not used in any other text during this period. The word was coined by the Scripture writers themselves because no other word could come close to describing this level of compassion.
Jesus had this depth of compassion for His people. He was not intimidated by the crowd He was surrounded by in Matthew 9. He did not look at the sheer numbers and think “How could we possibly reach all of these lost, longing, and helpless people?”
He instead was moved with utter compassion as He watched His sheep wander helplessly without a guide. His concern was both for their well-being and for the harvest going to utter waste.
Jesus makes it clear that there is a large harvest to be reaped
Jesus then points out the laborers are few
But then Jesus does something unexpected. He doesn’t go into a 3-point thesis on equipping the laborers and increasing them in number. Jesus doesn’t do that. He instead encourages His followers to pray to the Lord of the harvest for Him to send out the laborers.
Jesus is bringing to mind the essential nature of our work as Christians: our reliance on Him to equip us to labor. We cannot just reach people for the sake of reaching them. We need 3 essential things to do the great work of evangelism we are called to do:
God is calling us to know His heart
God is calling us to fully rely on Him
God is calling us to go to the fields & reap
This is what evangelism comes down to proclaiming the Kingdom to a lost world by the power of the Holy Spirit.
So where does our contribution come in? What can we do, especially in this digital age, to evangelize in a way that enables us to reap the plentiful harvest? This is where social media comes into play.
When we consider the sheer numbers of people active on social media, it could be likened to the crowd Jesus was surrounded by in Matthew 9.
People are everywhere
People are lost & hopeless
People are wandering without a shepherd
In these moments of observing the astounding number of people who are lost, it can be easy to get overwhelmed and wonder how we could reach people.
In these moments, we must call to mind Jesus’ deep heart of compassion for people. But something to note,l: this compassion cannot be contrived. To feel this level of compassion, we must first know Jesus ourselves and become acquainted with His deep love for broken people.
We must ask ourselves a few questions:
Are we moved with compassion when we see lost people or are we moved with annoyance?
Are we trying to reach the lost out of duty or out of deep, loving empathy for them?
Are we content with staying on the sidelines or will we do the hard work of laboring in the field?
These are tough questions to answer but essential ones to consider if the laborers of God are to have any impact in this world.
But what does this laboring look like when it comes to social media? Social media is that plentiful field. It is a large crowd longing helplessly for answers. There are people who are longing to be reached and helped and they may not even realize. This is our mission field of the modern-day.
Evangelism is no longer reserved for the town square or even in church buildings. Instead, it has expanded to the vastness of the World Wide Web and the millions upon millions of people who spend their time there.
Social media is our modern-day town square. It is a place where anyone and everyone has their own personal soapbox to share their story, opinion, and more. But what is the very essence of evangelism? Telling the story of the Good News of Jesus!
Social media offers us a unique platform that did not previously exist for Christians. We can reach an enormous amount of people with just the click of a button. Imagine if Paul had his own Twitter account to share his epistles and writings!
We must not use this soapbox we have in vain. Far too many leaders have used their influence for wrongful purposes.
God is not calling us to build our platforms but to build His platform.
Through our social media channels, we have the opportunity to magnify Jesus Christ and share His love for the world. We can share a shining light amid this pervasively dark world. We do this through the content we share and the interactions that we have.
Evangelism is not meant just to be a monologue. A primary part of this tool is to invite a response from those hearing the Gospel. We are to be witnesses, which means we share with others what we have seen God do in our lives and the lives of others.
Honing in on the social part of social media helps us not just stand on our Internet soapboxes but also meet people at their level. We can, as Jesus did, encounter people in the middle of their unique story and path, and have compassion for them.
There are many specific tactics you can use on social media to do the work of evangelism and reap the plentiful harvest. Here are a few:
While the methods are endless, one thing must reign true over all of our efforts: it must be covered with love. With every evangelism effort comes a necessity for a heart of compassion for the hearers. This also requires us to fully rely on Jesus to give us the words to speak with others.
The best part of all of this? There is a promise that what is sown will be reaped. Isaiah 55:11 declares this about God’s word: “so is my word that goes out from My mouth: It will not return to Me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.”
We also have a promise that we are not laboring alone. We can do the work, but we can trust that God is the one who will always do the work behind the scenes.
“So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. The one who plants and the one who waters have one purpose, and they will each be rewarded according to their own labor. For we are co-workers in God’s service; you are God’s field, God’s building.”
By the compassion Christ has had towards us, we can be filled with that same compassion for others. When this is at the forefront of our efforts, and we are willing to do the work of God, we will see the plentiful harvest gathered! Social media has given us the opportunity to enter into a previously untapped field, and this field is ready to be harvested by God’s laborers.
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