How do we see Australia won for Christ?
After all, the spiritual state of Australia is referred to as ‘post-Christian’—a term meaning that the glory days of Christianity are well in the past.
A nationwide survey was conducted to gauge Australians’ attitudes towards Christianity several years ago. It discovered:
- Only 7-8% of people attend Bible-believing churches at some rate of regularity.
- Millions of Australians don’t even know a Christian.
- 38% of people are either hostile or entirely apathetic to Christianity.
In the face of such discouragement, what can we do?
Any conversation about reaching people for Jesus must begin with Jesus, the master evangelist. Matthew 9:35-38 offers us a snapshot of the ministry Jesus had been engaging in across Galilee. So how did he approach the world around him?
The perspective of Jesus
The first thing I want you to notice is the perspective with which Jesus viewed the world around him.
Matthew 9:36 tells us that as Jesus travelled, he engaged with crowds of people who came to him with mixed motives. There would’ve been people who were desperate for physical healing, others seeking respite from political oppression. Therefore it comes as no surprise to read that when Jesus engaged with crowds of people he had ‘compassion on them’.
Yet what’s critical to note is what drove his compassion:
‘…because they were harassed and helpless like sheep without a Shepherd.’ (v.36)
But what does this description mean? It references the lack of spiritual leadership among God’s people, a theme running throughout the Old Testament.
In other words: this is not a description of the physical condition of the crowds, but their spiritual condition. The people were distant from God.
So, in the face of this darkness, what did Jesus spend his time doing?
Matthew 9:35 tells us he:
- taught in the synagogues, explaining the Bible.
- proclaimed the gospel.
- performed many miracles.
He spoke and acted so that people would see that he is the Messiah, come to earth to gather God’s people into his kingdom.
Only a short time later Jesus would stride to his own death so that those who would repent and believe would be saved.
Why? Because he knew it was only through who he is, and what he had come to do, that anyone could be saved from the spiritual darkness we all find ourselves in.
But not only that.
Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful” (v.37a)
Jesus was saying that despite what might appear dark, many people were ready to believe in him. Jesus surveyed the world around him, hostile and disinterested, not with exasperation, but with expectancy for what God’s gospel could do.
So, through what perspective do we see Jesus viewing the world?
Jesus views the world with eternity in mind. He sees the reality of heaven and hell, of life and death. He also knows that there is no one outside the saving power of the gospel.
The diagnosis is spiritual darkness.
The gospel is spiritual light.
The prescription of Jesus
All of this leads to the second thing I want to point out from the passage: the prescription that Jesus offers. However, not the prescription for the lost.
The prescription for us as his followers.
Observe how v37 concludes.
Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentifulbut the workers are few.” (v.37)
We might be tempted to think the biggest evangelistic blockage in society is external. A hostile world. Opposition. Persecution. Disinterest.
But that’s not what Jesus says.
The perspective Jesus offers is that the biggest problem in evangelism is not a lack of people ready to become Christians, but a lack of disciples ready to do the work of evangelism.
The plan of Jesus
So, he gathered the disciples and outlined his plan in two practical steps.
“Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.” (v38)
The disciples were called to pray, not for the lost, but to pray that God would send out workers.
Secondly, in 10:1-7 he immediately sent them out to proclaim the gospel!
They became the very workers they had been told to pray for.
When you pray for workers to reach people who don’t know Jesus, something becomes very clear. God has sent us to the people that we know.
For us today?
So, what do we need to do to see Australia won for Christ?
I think that’s the wrong question. Before we do anything, what we need to do is see.
We need to shape our lives around the reality of life that Jesus offers.
Firstly, we need to see and then remind each other that the biggest problem facing the people we know is that they are spiritually lost. What that means is that no matter how they may present themselves to us, we must treat them with the greatest compassion possible—by telling them the gospel.
Secondly, we need to view the harvest field in front of us the same way as Jesus does. Not with exasperation, but with expectation.
Whilst many of the statistics about Christianity in Australia are alarming, the survey mentioned above also presented others which offer a different picture.
Whilst yes, 8% of people don’t know a single Christian, 79% of Aussies know at least two people who say they’re Christian. This group were asked which words describe the Christians they know. The top 3 answers were caring, loving and kind. The media might dislike us, but our mates? They like us!
But here’s what I really want you to notice: the answers to the question “how open would you be to changing your current religious view?”
Non-Christians open to change—from ‘Extremely open’ to ‘Slightly open’—numbered 26%.
To put that in real terms: that’s 6.8 million people. 1 out of 4 Aussies! Of course, the issue is that we don’t know who these people are! 3 out of 4 people are not interested.
The question is: are you willing to go through the rejection of the 3 to find the 1?
There’s no shortage of rejection that awaits. But also, no shortage of opportunity!
Let us partner together in praying that the Lord of the Harvest would raise up more workers to toil in the harvest field; and in so doing remember our own part to play in the harvest that we live amongst.
 See 1 Kings 22:17; Ezekiel 34:5; Zechariah 10:2.