We are all very familiar with the Great Commission and the challenge to Go. There has been much taught on the Great Commandment and the need to go with Love. But it is the last part of Jesus’ mission – in Jesus’ final prayer – that we have missed. It’s the Great Collaboration – that we are to go in love Together!
This article is a transcription of Albert Tates’s main stage talk from Exponential 2020 in Orlando, FL. Albert Tate is the co-founder and lead pastor of Fellowship Church in Monrovia, CA. After hearing a call from God to plant a Gospel-centered, multi-ethnic, intergenerational church, Albert and his wife LaRosa planted Fellowship Church in January 2012. Their hope for Fellowship is to cultivate a community of disciples who are being transformed by the Gospel, Growing in a life of worship, Gathering in community, and Giving their lives away on mission.
When I got ready to plant Fellowship eight years ago, [Matthew 9:35-38] was the anchor passage:
35 Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness. 36 When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. 37 Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. 38 Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.”
I spent hours and days in preparation of planting, praying that prayer. Took a long time though to realize this, but Jesus said to me: Albert you’re praying the prayer wrong. He had to check my motives in my prayers. Isn’t that something?
Sometimes you have to check your motives in your prayers. I saw that and since I’d pastored several years prior when I lived in Mississippi, I pastored seven people in Pila Hachi Mississippi. I had seven people and over five years, I grew it to about 14… You laugh. When was the last time your church doubled in size?
I doubled in size… But you know, Outreach didn’t call me for the top 100 fastest growing churches. I don’t even think they knew my phone number but… I was traumatized from that season. Because out of the 14, to be honest, that included my mama, my wife, my sister.
My mama would call and be like, I can’t come this Sunday. I’d be like, what you mean you can’t come, you the whole praise team, Mama! You the whole worship team, how you ain’t gonna come?
I get mad when people don’t show up. You know the numbers have become your idol when you walk out and you can see clearly who ain’t there.
I was traumatized from that season, so when God called me to plant a church, I was always praying for the harvest. Because I needed the numbers. I wanted people. And I was praying, Lord send the Harvest. Lord send the Harvest. Lord send the Harvest. And God said, “Albert, you’ve completely missed what I’m saying in this passage. You’re so consumed with the numbers that it’s affecting how you even pray to me.” I was allowing the trauma of my past to cause me to pray small prayers in the presence of a big God.
I’m gonna say that again. I was allowing the trauma of my past to cause me to pray small prayers in the presence of a big God. Albert, this passage is not about the harvest. Go back and read it… and I went back and read it and He says, as I walk through the town and as I saw the people they were hurting and harassed. They were like sheep without a Shepherd. They were lost. And He says, “I was moved with compassion.”
The word in Greek is the idea moved — it actually honestly has inappropriate connotations. He talks about how deeply he’s moved. He’s moved so deeply it suggests an inappropriate topic. Normally, I’m not a guy that likes to talk about inappropriate things. But since he went there, I’ll go there, led by Jesus. Once I get done with this part, remember Jesus led us here.
Something happened to me after 40. They’re just things changing with my body. And nobody really told me to be prepared for this. There were times, I remember being 16, 17, 21, 24, and I would tell my bladder what to do. My bladder would be like I need to go. I said nope, the movie’s not over. You wait. Nope, we got two more hours on this drive and we ain’t pulling over. We ain’t stopping; you wait. And my bladder respectfully would sit and wait. I had control. I had authority. I could speak to it and it obeyed. When 40 happened, I said you wait. My bladder said no, you wait! My bladder’s like we’re going right now…
Jesus . . . really, seriously, Jesus says, “When I saw the hurting and harassed,” the literal interpretation of the word that he uses there in the Greek is he was moved in his bowels. What he saw was so painful, it moved him so deeply, his stomach began to hurt. It moved him deeply within his bowels. Can I just tell you this idea of what we’re talking about? He says, Albert, it’s not about the Harvest. He says the harvest is plenty, there’s an abundance of people.
I just need leaders and church planters and shepherds to have a burden in their bowels to go and see about them. I need you to have a burden for lost people. I need you to have a burden for hurting people. I need you to have a burden for harassed people. I fear that there’s a culture around church planting where we don’t have a burden, but we want a brand. And you come and instead of pastoring, you want a platform. You want to get your Instagram up, and thinking pictures of you on the stage preaching is going to pump your Gram up. And it will. But it will do nothing for the kingdom of God.
And you ain’t gonna stand before God one day, and he ain’t gonna ask you what’d you do on the gram. He’s gonna say, What did you do for my people who are hurting and harassed?
You should see the people in your city, you should see what the enemy is trying to do in your neighborhood. It ought to make your stomach hurt, you ought to be moved. Because if you’re going to survive leading a church, you gotta have a burden. I know you want the blessing but the blessing is produced from the burden. There ought to be times when you hit your hand on the table and cry because you’re so frustrated because you see the weightiness of what God is calling you to do.
You don’t need to leave here with strategy, with ideas, if you don’t leave here with a burden. Jesus says I looked and I saw and it moved me deeply…
…Some of you, God’s got something so heavy on your life. You won’t even be able to leave jumping and dancing and singing because your stomach is starting to hurt right now.
In the name of Jesus, I pray that the Holy Spirit would just begin to give you a burden for lost people, a burden for people that don’t know, who haven’t seen, who haven’t heard. That you’d get a burden for the harvest.
My grandmother at our old little church in Mississippi, she’d stand up and that was the song that she used to sing all the time. It has a whole new meaning to me. The words were, “My house is full but my field is empty. Who will come and work for me today? My children all want to stay around my table. But no one will work in my field. No one will work in my field.”
Jesus says pray for laborers. Don’t pray for the harvest, the harvest is plenteous. I’ve already done that, there’s plenty of people. But I need people that have a burden. I need laborers. I need people that want to work. I need people that want to work in my field. I look at all of the pastors, all the churches and all the leaders, they want to sit around my table, but no one will work in my field. We need to get up from the table, feasting, filling ourselves, providing for ourselves and get out in the field. I need people that are willing to go get in my field.
You can’t do it by yourself. We’ve got to do it together.
The darkness — it’s dark out there. I look at the news, it’s dark out there. I walk the streets in my neighborhood, it’s dark out there. I’m listening to people talk about what they understand Christianity to be. It’s dark out there. I’m watching stages with preachers who’ve so watered down the gospel, it doesn’t even sound like the Bible anymore. It’s dark out there. I’m watching a generation of folks that say that they love Jesus but they don’t even read his book. It’s dark out there. I’m seeing communities and young people put together. They’re picking and choosing their vision and their values and their understanding and their using the Bible as a consultant to their life as opposed to being the Christ and the guide of their life. It’s dark out there.
We’ve got to go. Turn the light on in our community. Turn the light on in our reaching. Turn the light on in our neighborhood. Turn the light on in our families. It’s dark out there and they need to see the light.
Danielle Strickland was on my podcast… and we got to talking about this idea of being hope in the world, and she told me a story that I’ll never forget.
Danielle was doing ministry in Vancouver downtown and it was a neighborhood that had been just devastated by drug infestation. The local park, to give you an example, instead of having kids running around playing, needles and drug paraphernalia just laced the park. Families were moving out. Addicts were moving in.
So they see this and what do they do? Well, the natural thing. They start a Bible study and a church there.
Danielle said that this guy named Robert came to faith in Jesus Christ, and he’s green. He doesn’t know anything about Jesus. And Robert, well, you know that thin line between mental illness and being filled with the Spirit? He lives on that line, you know what I mean? So they’re reading a passage and he’s just fascinated with the Bible. They’re reading this passage and it talks about being the light of the world and Robert’s like: I’m the light of the world. We’re supposed to be the light of the world? And he gets up and runs down the street screaming, I’m the light of the world! I’m the light of the world!
And they’re like (timidly), Is somebody gonna go check on Robert? So Danielle goes, running, trying to catch up with Robert, and she finds Robert in that drug-infested park standing there (out of breath). Danielle comes up.
He says, “yeah.”
“Robert, what are you doing?”
He says, “Y’all said I am the light of the world, right”
She says, “Yeah, we’re the light of the world.”
He says, “I’m being the light of the world” and then he leans over and he says, “can’t you feel the darkness trembling?”
Exponential, let’s go home. Let’s go back to our neighborhoods! Let’s go back to our communities and let’s make the darkness tremble! We are the light of the world!
Let’s go and turn the light on in Chicago, turn the light on in Kansas, turn the light on in Australia, turn the light on in Canada, turn the light on in California, turn the light on in Detroit, turn the light on in Florida!
Let’s go home and turn the light on and let’s make the darkness tremble!
Some of you, God’s giving you that burden. Some of you, God’s given that burden to go home and you’re going to plant a church one day. Go on, start practicing, start saying it out loud, start saying it to yourself. I’m going to plant a church. God’s called me to plant a church. I pray that God will break your heart for the people of that neighborhood.
Father, in the name of Jesus, I pray that your Holy Spirit would do what I can’t do. We’re not moved and transformed by cool stories. We’re moved and transformed by the power of your word. So Holy Spirit we need you to speak.
Watch Albert’s full talk here: