I snapped the picture above as we were recently driving into Los Angeles. And my heart was gripped by the numbers on it. Four million people in this one city—just seventy miles from where I pastor.
And the population listed on the sign is just Los Angeles proper. If you count the Greater Los Angeles area (the second largest metropolitan area in the country), there are over eighteen million people.
Fifteen years ago, Dr. Roland Garlick, missionary for many years in Mexico, told me that Los Angeles is probably the single most unevangelized Spanish-speaking city in the world.
At that time, our church was helping to plant the Los Angeles Baptist Church, still preaching the gospel in the heart of L.A. to both English and Spanish-speaking people. In addition to this church, I know of only a few other independent Baptist churches in the city of L.A. and another handful of new church plants starting in the Greater L.A. Area. (I’m thankful for several other churches that preach Christ in L.A., but there are only a handful of autonomous Baptist churches.)
But there should be one hundred gospel-preaching, Baptist churches in LA. And in San Francisco. And Sacramento. And San Diego. And San Jose. And New York City. And Chicago. And Phoenix. And Seattle. And Portland. And Las Vegas. And every metropolitan area in America and in the world.
I think of Jesus who “went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom…” (Matthew 9:35).
And yet, here in our own country, there remain cities of four million people with just a handful of gospel-preaching churches.
What are we to do about this?
I know what the answer isn’t—nothing. Yes, the need is overwhelming. But we cannot do nothing.
We can at least do something. And at minimum, that should begin with praying as Jesus requested:
- Pray for more laborers. It was Jesus one prayer request: “Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he will send forth labourers into his harvest.” We all know this verse by heart. But do we do it? Are you praying for the needs of harvest laborers?
- Encourage young people to consider ministry. I don’t think that, as the world population is growing, God is calling fewer people into ministry. I think fewer Christians are seeing their primary calling as the Great Commission. And I think as a result, fewer young people are open to God’s call on their lives to go into full-time ministry as missionaries and church planters.
- Support church planters. Every New Testament Baptist Church should be supporting church planters—both missionaries planting churches on foreign fields and men planting a single church in the States as they get started.
- Consider God’s call on your life. Has God called you to ministry? Do you believe He would have you serve as a pastor? Consider planting a church in a metropolitan area. There is still room for new church plants. There is still need for new churches.
One of the results of praying for laborers as Jesus commanded, is that it burdens our hearts for the need of the harvest.
I can’t plant a church in every city of the world. But I also can’t look at a sign like the one above and, knowing the great spiritual need of this city—and hundreds others like it—not pray, encourage, and support.
Then saith he unto his disciples, The harvest truly is plenteous, but the labourers are few; Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he will send forth labourers into his harvest.—Matthew 9:37–38