Matthew 9:35 serves as a good summary of Jesus’ ministry up until this point in Matthew’s gospel: “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.” But it also describes the fact that up until this point, Jesus has been the only one involved in the ministry. The disciples had been mere spectators thus far. They had followed Jesus and watched him teach and minister, but they had not been involved in the work themselves.
Although Jesus was fully God, He was also fully man. Therefore, he could only be in one place at one time, which meant that there was only so many people that He could minister to during His earthly ministry. That’s why He says in Matthew 9:37: “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few.” In fact, up until this point in Matthew’s gospel, the laborers were one: Jesus himself. And Jesus knew that He could not physically conduct all of the ministry that was needed by himself.
And after 2000 years, the situation has not changed: the harvest is still plentiful, and the workers are still few. According to the data published in the latest Glenmary Report, the harvest is very plentiful in eastern Kentucky. Out of the 872,048 people who live in counties located east of I-75:
- 522,324 do not claim adherence to any religion.
- 624,969 are not a member of any church of any denomination
- 781,903 do not attend worship services on any given Sunday.
In other words, at least 522,324 people are not saved in eastern Kentucky. At least 624,969 people are not church members in eastern Kentucky. At least 781,903 are unchurched in eastern Kentucky. And as I have mentioned in a previous post, 21 out of the 25 most lost counties in the entire state of Kentucky are located east of I-75. The harvest truly is plentiful.
And yet the workers are so few. While there are hundreds of thousands of eastern Kentuckians who do not know Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, there are less than 300 Kentucky Baptist churches working to reach all of these thousands of lost people. And unfortunately, the combined total baptisms from all of our eastern Kentucky Baptist churches amounted to reaching less than 0.3% of the lost in the region last year. Furthermore, the vast majority of our eastern Kentucky churches are like most other Southern Baptist churches: they are plateaued and/or declining.
So, there is a great need for our churches to be strengthened and revitalized across eastern Kentucky. And I’m so thankful that the Kentucky Baptist Convention and others are working diligently to see revitalization take place all across the region. Church revitalization is certainly part of the solution.
But, it’s only part of the solution. If we are going to see a great spiritual harvest across eastern Kentucky, I firmly believe that we need healthier churches, but we also need more churches. Many more churches, in fact. Missiologist C. Peter Wagner asserts that “planting new churches is the most effective evangelistic methodology known under heaven.” And the data backs up his claim. According to a study cited by the North American Mission Board, new churches have a much greater evangelistic effectiveness. According to the study, established Southern Baptist churches baptized 3.4 people per 100 resident members, while new churches baptized 11.7 people per 100 resident members. That’s nearly three and half times as many!
No wonder Jesus commanded us to pray for more laborers to be sent out into the harvest. More laborers means more churches which means more of our friends, family members, neighbors, and co-workers coming to faith in Christ. And yet, right now, as the map below (produced by the Kentucky Baptist Convention) shows, there are no churches being planted throughout the entire eastern Kentucky region. That’s why it is time to pray, and time to get to work to change that.
So, as you pray for a great spiritual harvest in eastern Kentucky, understand two things: (1) We need our current churches to be strengthened, and (2) we desperately need more churches in eastern Kentucky.
Will you join me in prayer?