Jesus went throughout all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.” (Matthew 9:35-38 ESV)
There are two images here: a flock of sheep, and a full harvest.
Jesus's response to the brokenness of the people around Him was compassion and prayer.
Not a program.
Not a strategy.
Not a campaign or event.
Just proclaiming good news with a prayerful heart of compassion.
When it comes to harvests, I often drift into the programmatic way of ministry. I try to come up with a plan and strategy for reaping the harvest before I pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest. But Jesus responds with prayer, seeking and listening for the Father before He makes a move. He's relying upon God for the fruit of the harvest.
I also can get annoyed and frustrated with the flock. Why are they wandering away from what is best for them? Why to they continue to believe those lies about themselves/others/God? Why are they so lazy, so impulsive, so foolish? Not Jesus. He responds with compassion and grace. Sure, He would get angry at times too, but the anger was out of a heart of love for lost people. He cared about healing people's broken hearts. He's a good shepherd like that.
Compassion and prayer both require patience. When I want to rush in to fix and plan and strategize, I need to slow down and remember that love is patient. I never want to outrun the Lord as He moves and guides and transforms hearts.
When we're tempted to start a program, stop and pray. When we're tempted towards exasperation, remember the compassion of Christ.