Workers into the Harvest

One of my early encounters into the world of professional youthwork training was at an event held at Durham University in 1997, at which some of the great and good of the youth ministry profession; amongst which was at that time a highly innovative and creative session on the role of detached youthwork in youth ministry was held, by Mike Breen, who at that time was heading up a large church congregation in Sheffield, and was using detached youthwork to build up the youth ministry. His book, ‘Outside -In’, was the antidote at that time to the ‘Inside-out’ view of youth ministry which continues to be the dominant paradigm of church based youth work. One of the challenges Mike faced was to convince his hearers and church congregations of the Biblical resonance of ‘outside-in’ , even though there is  little to substantiate ‘Inside out’ biblically or theologically,  it represented the norm, and was thus not subject to as much rigour.

Mike’s moment of revelation came in the Various ‘workers of the harvest’ passages in Matthew 10, mark 6, and in particular Luke 10: 1-10, yet i wonder, and sounding at risk of wanting Bible passages to justify current methodology, whether these are more accurate of modelling an ‘outside-out’ missional youthwork model, rather than ‘Outside-in’ . Especially if consideration is made of Jesus words themselves in Luke 10:9 & 11 “The kingdom is near”.

Luke especially is keen to create for the reader the emphasis on the increase in the numerical worker, from Jesus pronouncement in Luke 4, the sending of the 12 in Chapter 9 , and now the 72, there is a deliberate increase. Maybe for ‘family/home’ (Luke 10:5) read young peoples peer group, and if they accept the presence of the worker, they are rewarded, by continued presence, staying in one place, with the one group at the one time.

Do we know how long they were to stay in the house?  what was the outcome meant to be?  a healing of the sick (v9) and the telling of the message? nevertheless, the method was to stay in the house, with the family, until such a time that the hospitality runs dry?

would that occur when the messenger suddenly got too provocative? what was the cultural expectation of the host of the house?  to accept the traveller and guest? but until what time?

It seems an obvious thing to say, but the disciple goes to the unfamiliar setting of the host of a house in an unfamiliar town, where the host is comfortable with his/her house and setting. The call to go puts the emphasis on the disciple being away from the their comfortable, and thus confident surroundings.

What would happen to the host if they accept the message? what are they then able to do?  become part of the kingdom? yes but whos? The disciple is one step from Jesus at that point ( think chinese whispers) and the host yet another, is the host in the town free to develop a missionary community or dare i say it ‘church’ in that setting?  The truth of the Kingdom of God is its reign occurs in the lives of those that follow, and in the restoration of Justice (cf Bosch 1991). Is the development of the missionary community or fledgling church the role of the disciple in that town, or embodiment of the Kingdom.

The thing that gives us confidence in an outside-out youthwork paradigm, is that it is missional and biblical,  it allows for the interpretation of the Jesus story in missionary paradigms and the creation of the new. The Ethiopian in Acts 9 was free to go back home, back with only his interpretation from Philip and build the church in that setting, the receiver became the new interpretor for others.

Where i think that this passage translates better as ‘outside-out’ rather than ‘outside-in’ is that the lack of requirement for the host to leave their familiar town, to go to something unfamiliar. At all times it is the disciple that is made to be vulnerable.

One comment

  1. Initially I had a problem with the first verse as it feels that the Lord has done much work before we have gotten to the harvest fields, however it does not say that no one else had given the smallest suggestion of the coming of the kingdom and if I am honest I still find it a little hard to bring it into our context. As you say the disciples are one step from Jesus and although I might feel that I too am close to him, I think I may be more than a step away, yet the people of that area/time were a step closer to knowing about Judaism and therefore “religion” than most of the (young/old) people we see on the streets.
    Lastly, Lk 10:4 I presume we could use not greeting people on the road to be likened to not speaking to rabid Daily Mail readers in the park……..thanks for something to sharpen my mind on before college tomorrow 🙂


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