What is THE FIELD newsletter?
This e-newsletter is designed to inform and energize the USMB family for the work of the harvest. Jesus told us to pray for the harvest fields and for all those working in the fields. I hope you will join me in this exciting adventure.
Church Planting Mobilizer
This month I want to introduce you to Brady Morris. Brady just started a church planting residency program. Below is a brief introduction. Please add Brady and his wife Holly to your prayer time. We’ve talked about the need to discover workers quite a bit. Hopefully you have been praying Luke 10:2. Now is a chance to continue that prayer with this specific family.
Then is my quick take on our current (Luke 10:2) situation and the historical underpinnings of the American model for discovering, developing and deploying harvest workers.
Meet Brady Morris
It’s early in the journey, but the USMB family has a church planter in the residency phase. Brady and Holly Morris are the newest couple invited to the church planting process. The Morris’ have a heart for western Oklahoma (Elk City) and are beginning the steps necessary to see a church successfully launched. I interviewed Brady for this month’s newsletter.
How did you come to Christ?
I was raised by two loving Christian parents who led me to Christ at the early age of 5, going on 6. That day is forever etched into my memory. We were all huddled inside due to a good old fashioned Great Plains thunderstorm and my parents led me to my Savior. Immediately after I had prayed the most important prayer of my life, we came out to find a stunning double rainbow that seemingly stretched from one end of southwest Kansas to the other. Since that day, I have grown and changed as a Christian. I’ve tested my faith and have had my faith tested. My faith in Jesus has grown and solidified over the years but it was that day, in a tiny farmhouse in west Kansas, that Jesus Christ came into my life and saved me from my sin.
Why do you want to plant a church?
I have been called by God to lead and shepherd His people. He has instilled, in both my wife and I, a deep desire to help, guide and love on His people. We have both experienced extremely difficult seasons in our lives and we have both experienced the redemptive and healing power of Jesus Christ. We want to guide others to that same loving grace of our Father, in all things. There is a need in western Oklahoma to heal the family. The family structure has become so broken, and people are hurting and searching for real answers. We have the answer in Jesus and the calling to guide families to His healing embrace. Our world, our culture, our families, are under attack from the enemy and people are searching for REAL Biblical truth in the face of his lies; hope in the face of despair; and the joy of genuine fellowship. Holly and I have been called to build a church that provides that truth, hope and joy the community is searching for. I grew up in western Oklahoma and these are my people. It’s my calling to plant and lead a church alongside them.
Before you launch, you will be going through some extensive preparation. What excites you most about the pre-launch phase?
I am so excited to get started on my residency and begin a small group. Honestly, I’m so excited about it all. The opportunity I have been given to learn and grow under the mentorship of some of the godliest men I know- it’s truly humbling. Getting the small group going is also going to be a lot of fun and fulfilling. I love people and digging into God’s word together. This has all been such a blessing to Holly and me. We can’t wait to get started!
A Current Look at Luke 10:2
The Harvest is Plentiful...
(below is a visual of the need)
Notice that there are only six states that have an evangelical population over 30% (mostly in the southeast). Contrast that with the sixteen states that have 10% or less. When you take into consideration the population of those sixteen states have over 100 million people, that is a significant harvest field.
But we are not hopeless! We have a Mighty God who wants to reach this country (and the world). And one of the ways we do this is by praying for harvest workers!
By the way, if you go to thearda.com (just click on the image above) you can look at each state and county and see the numbers in detail. Even where I live in Oklahoma, there are counties that are incredibly unchurched.
The Workers Are Few
Below is a visual of the current pastoral laborers in the United States.
This Barna Study was done in 2017 (6 years ago). Notice that as of today, (by adding six years to the pastoral age) at least half of all pastors are 62 years or older. In 1992 less than a fourth (24%) were over 56. What does this mean for the future? Obviously we need to be developing MORE harvest workers.
I think the way forward will require more intentional effort from local churches. Below is a brief historical study of how the American church has developed harvest workers in the past.
An Historical Look at Luke 10:2
In the early years of this country, the model for developing Luke 10:2 harvest workers were the seminaries. First, we had Harvard. The purpose of Harvard was to train clergy. Here’s a great quote from the church leaders way back at the founding of Harvard.
“After God had carried us safely to New England, and we had built our houses… one of the next things we longed for, and looked after was to advance learning, and perpetuate it to posterity; dreading to leave an illiterate ministry to the churches, when our present ministers shall lie in the dust.”1
Notice the forward thinking these early leaders had for training up a new generation after the “present ministers shall lie in the dust”. We too, need to be forward thinking in preparing for when we also lie in the dust. Fast forward to just after the indepence of America.
In 1805 the first American seminary was birthed. Historian Bruce Shelley said, “As pioneers in seminary education, Andover’s founders fashioned the essentials of the seminary experience for the next two centuries, right up to our own time. They stressed adequate funds, scholarly study of Christian theology, a professional, specialized faculty, and a sizable library. The three-year curriculum focused on three areas of study: Bible, church history, and theology. Four years later , Presbyterians in New Jersey established Princeton Seminary.”2
Arguably, not much has changed over the past two hundred years. Most denominations still follow this pattern, and God has used this model in mighty ways. But perhaps there has been a subtle drift. Perhaps the church over the past two centuries slowly abdicated its own role in discovering, developing, and deploying the harvest workers. Perhaps the church slowly relinquished a real and significant responsibility to the schools and seminaries alone.
At its best, the schools were an extension of the church. However, over many decades, the American church and the seminaries seem to have drifted into two different roles. This may be highly overstated but, the church did the practical things (weddings, funerals, preaching, care giving) while the schools were responsible for the training (discovering, developing and deploying) of harvest workers. In other words, we sent them off to be trained rather than to be part of the training.
I agree with Pastor Mark Dever who said, “I’m not opposed to seminaries... I’m simply saying that in the Bible, the local church—a community where people are known, their conversion is testified to, and their gifts are witnessed—is the appropriate place [for training] … Raising up leaders is part of the church’s commission.”
I believe if we are going to produce future church planters, pastors and missionaries, we need to revisit how the church views Luke 10:2. What role does the church play in discovering, developing and deploying men and women into the harvest field? Again, I am NOT suggesting we do away with education and schools. Quite the contrary. But I believe we need to consider how we can do this better together?
Imagine a fresh work of God where our churches and MB agencies (schools, ministries & leadership) capture the Luke 10:2 vision of praying for and training up a new generation of harvest workers. I believe this can be an exciting season in the US Mennonite Brethren’s story. How about you?
2 Bruce Shelley, “The Seminaries’ Identity Crisis,” Christianity Today, May 17, 1993, p. 43.
The core of our missional networks:
Discover! Develop! Deploy!