“When our Lord saw the crowds, He had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless like sheep without a shepherd. Then He said to His disciples, ‘the harvest is great but the laborers are few.’ Pray, therefore, the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.” (Matthew 9:37 & 38).
Today we pray for laborers for the harvest. I would like to ask you to consider the harvest and the harvesters and seek answers to the situation in the world and in our own lives, in order to direct your prayer. The first, then, what is the harvest? At the time Christ said, “The harvest is great,” the population of the entire world was equal to that of North America or Russia today. The harvest was great then, but today it is more than 15 times greater. We are not completely sure of this statistic, but many demographers tell us that if Jesus Christ were to come tonight, there would be more lost people now living than of all the lost throughout history who have already died.
There are six billion lost in the world today. I speak of the lost because of Matthew’s analogy here. He says that Christ was distressed because people are harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. So the word “lost” is a good biblical word. It is appropriate to refer to the six billion without Christ as those who are “lost.”
The Lost are the churched and unchurched. There is no doubt that the harvest is very great, as our Lord said. However, let us separate the lost into those who are “churched” and those who are “unchurched.” I have called those “lost sheep” whose names are on the roll of a church, “churched in name only.” For example, a spiritually deadened nation, like Italy, may be “churched,” but the vast majority of them still need the good news of life in Jesus Christ.
Within the unchurched peoples are those within reach and out-of-reach of the gospel.
Today we are particularly concerned with the unchurched, and not even with all the unchurched. We are going to divide the “lost sheep” between those within the reach of the present ministry of the church and present missionary outreach, and those OUT-OF-REACH PEOPLES. Perhaps you would call these the hidden or the by-passed peoples. We care about this group that are presently out of reach of any organized church of Jesus Christ.
We can further divide the OUT-OF-REACH peoples into those who are NEGLECTED and those who are ISOLATED. It may not be so much that the church has neglected certain peoples as that the church has been isolated from them for one reason or another, perhaps where it is illegal to preach the Gospel. Another example is the country of Libya, both structurally and ideologically isolated. And then there are others just as ideologically isolated.
There is another great proportion which is simply NEGLECTED. The door is open, but no one has gone in cross-culturally. The harvest really is ripe, such as the indigenous people-groups of Nigeria, where perhaps 25 tribes have been neglected, many of them non-Islamic. Certain areas of Indonesia would be “out of reach,” but they are neglected. We simply have not gone there. If God doesn’t send some of us, we won’t go. Even in a group of highly motivated people, if God doesn’t get hold of some of us and thrust us out, the chances are we will never get there. We’ve got to pray that God, the Holy Spirit, will thrust out laborers into the field. Would you do that now? That God would send laborers to the churched and unchurched? To the within-reach and out-of-reach populations around the world? To those neglected; to whom one has bothered to go and share the good news of Jesus Christ with them? Ask the holy Spirit for godly, wise, culturally appropriate laborers for the harvest.
 Seeds of Promise: World Consultation on Frontier Missions, Edinburgh ‘80 edited by Allan Starling. Copyright 1981. Used by permission of William Carey Library, P. O. Box 128-C, Pasadena, California, 91104.