There is not just a harvest of new believers coming into the Body of Christ this season but also a crop of “prodigals” returning to the Body as well, are you and your ministry ready for this??? First and foremost what is a “prodigal”? In the parable of the prodigal son in Luke 15:11-32, the story is told of a father who had two sons. The youngest son decided that he wanted his inheritance so that he could pursue his own desires to leave his father’s house and live the way he wanted to. So the Father agreed and gave the son his portion and the youngest son wasted it on sin and worldly pleasures and ended up living off of a farmer in a far way land tending the pigs (which was the filthiest and lowest job for a Jewish person, because it meant that they were ritually unclean). One day the youngest son began to long to return home and he decided to ask his father for forgiveness and to work in his father’s house as a servant to since he squandered his inheritance. He returned home and to his surprise was met by the Father with open arms, a ring, a robe, and a great celebration. There is more to this parable, but for the sake of defining prodigal in the way that it is being used in this article/blog post, a prodigal is a person who has wasted or squandered resources potential, opportunities, and the covenant relationship of the Father to participate with the world.
For many of us who grew up in church, we have had some prodigal seasons in our lives where we put down the things of God to do what the world does, so there is no real difference between a prodigal and a believer except where they are in the process of restoration. For example from the parable of the prodigal, we see that the Father (who represents God) had two sons. Even though the youngest son made a lot of poor choices and did not appreciate what the Father had provided him initially, he was still the son of the Father and was treated as such when he finally returned home. So please do not fall into the deception that a prodigal is a loser, failure, a nobody, or a waste of space, because before the Father a prodigal is regarded as a son, and heir just like any other faithful believer. For those of us who have made many sacrifices to remain in faith, to be consistent in our relationship with God, it is very tempting to fall into the mindset of the elder brother who felt entitled to the honor and blessing that the prodigal received when he returned home. Please sincerely seek the Lord concerning this, because many believers pride themselves in never have committed certain sins or fell into various bad habits, do not let this type of prideful self-righteousness, blind you to the harvest of prodigals that the Lord may want to participate in. It’s awesome if you haven’t done some of the things that the prodigals have done, and God will bless you for that, however that does not give you the right to put down, mistreat, or esteem yourself higher than any prodigal that walks in the door. As the parable of the prodigal continues, the elder brother was enraged at the special attention and welcome that the prodigal received and refused to celebrate with the Father, do not miss out on the blessing of celebrating the return of the prodigals. The elder brother could have honored his father by submitting to the plans that he laid out for his brother, it would not have taken anything away from and would have blessed his father’s heart to join in. Now the harvest in not just for prodigals to return it is all other types of blessings coming in as well, do not miss out on your harvest by refusing to receive the prodigals with the love of the Father. Let me be transparent for a moment, I have over the years turned down feasts, parties, and other types of celebratory expressions for various reasons. One thing that I always find joy in celebrating is seeing people come to Christ. It touches my soul and reminds me of how I had the same opportunity. In most cases I am overjoyed when I see people come to Christ, but what if it is a person that I have an opinion about, heard gossip about, or disagree with how they conduct themselves? Will I still celebrate their return to the Father? I pray that our faith and passion for prodigals does not fail us in those moments that come to test our agreement with that Father’s plans.
Why I pray for prodigals: I have seen the theme of this story play out in my own life in many ways and from various aspect of the different characters in the story. I am like many of you, I came to know Christ and became enthusiastic about serving him, but also was drawn away in various seasons of my life by worldly distractions. I made messes in my life that only God can forgive and clean up, and when I returned to Him that is exactly what He did and continues to do in my life. I have also been in the position of the returning prodigal a lot as well, where people are not sure if they should celebrate or oppose my participation with the Father and His house. Because of all of these experiences, I love prodigals, I love to pray for them, to encourage them, and to share my prospective on them. I am not an expert, but I am someone passionate to see the prodigals return and restored and for the Body of Christ to be enriched by what they have to offer.
Why is it important to pray for and prepare for the Prodigals to return in this Harvest season? Although is not specifically addressed in the parable in Luke 15, I believe that prodigals have a lot to offer the Body of Christ. If you are wondering where the future leaders, apostles, prophets, psalmists, orators, evangelists, and so many other gifts and talents are in the Body of Christ are, consider this: many of them are probably prodigals right now. Please consider praying for prodigals in a different way, instead of only praying that they will realize that they need to come back to the Father, pray also that that when they return that they will be planted in a place where they can grow, and bring forth the fruit of the seed of God with in them that is vital to the body of Christ and the world to partake of. This means that religious barriers to entry have to be removed in order for prodigals to return and take their place in the Kingdom. It may look like a person who just returned to Christ being ordained to preach, or starting a youth ministry. It may look like a person who God has been imparting revelation and wisdom to on the back side of the mount coming in and releasing what God has taught them during that time of separation. It may look like a person who no one saw any potential in them, coming into their identity and purpose in Christ and changing their family, neighborhood, or even nation! I pray that when the prodigals return, they will be like the missing puzzle pieces that catapult ministries from local effectiveness to global out reach. I pray that prodigals will stir up the love of the Father in all generations to be poured out on those who are still seeking a place to call home eternally. I pray that the experience, expertise, and hard lessons that the prodigals have acquired will not be belittled, ignored, or put down, but they will be taught, released, and imparted to save generations from having to go that way in the name of Jesus.
What will prodigals be returning to? Will the love, welcome, and forgiveness of the Father be shown or the envy, disgust, and insubordination of the elder brother be shown? Let’s keep it real… there are a lot of things a prodigal won’t tell you about how they feel concerning returning to the Body of Christ. They won’t tell you that it took a lot of pain, humbling of themselves, and admitting their shortcomings to return to the Father. They won’t tell you that they have been in a lot of hard places, they have already “beaten” themselves up about their failures, and that they are not sure if they will be welcomed and accepted when they come back. They won’t tell you that their initial return experience, in a lot of cases, will determine whether or not they continue to participate and grow with the Body of Christ. Prodigals won’t tell you to leave their past mistakes and failures out of the conversation unless it’s truly a move of healing and deliverance because they are so humbled to even be back with the people of God and are really focused on having a strong foundation in Christ first. Prodigals more than likely will not tell you, that they know that they look like, sound like, and appear to move the same way that the world does. They may or may not be aware of just how much filth from the “pig pen” is still active in their lives. Be led by the Holy Spirit in addressing this because no one likes having their sins or failures constantly brought up to them. The Lord may initially be more concerned about healing them, pouring out love on them, or ministering to them in another area before addressing sin. Do not let zeal for correction run prodigals out of the church and away from the Father. Remember that in the parable of the prodigal son, the Father met the prodigal with a ring, robe, and celebration; not criticism, anger, and harsh correction. Not to say that sin and failure won’t ever need to be addressed in that person’s life, but calling out sin and failure over a person who is seeking God for a change and restoration will more than likely discourage them or reinforce strongholds of unworthiness and rejection in that person’s life. Also, if the Lord is truly calling for repentance and course correction in that person’s life He has a way to reach them and touch their heart, be sensitive to His leading and be ready to participate with His plans for that person.
How to prepare for a harvest of prodigals: If the atmosphere of your life, church, or ministry is filled with gossip, critical opinions, and religious exclusivity (cliques) then take honest inventory and start seeking the Lord on what or who needs to be removed in order to prepare for the harvest. Other preparations for the harvest of prodigals may include changing the way that “visitors” are received. Are visitors welcome at your ministry? Is there a culture in place to get to know 1st and 2nd time visitors? Does your intercessory team include prayers for the lost, the prodigals, and visitors as part of their weekly prayer points? Now what I am expressing in this article/blog post is not the “seeker sensitive” theology that reduces the effectiveness of the gospel to suit the palates of those who would be offended by the strong values and lessons in the Word of God. What I am addressing is truth versus reality, or intention versus practice. Many people believe that they do not judge or mistreat other people when they know about that person’s sin and failures, but all of that will be tested and tried when the prodigals start returning in record numbers. Will you be able to fellowship with a former pastor who left the ministry because of a scandal? Will you be able to be comfortable with a former drug dealer passing out the communion, or a former prostitute teaching children’s ministry? What about that person who has done all types of horrible things that you could never imagine yourself doing leading worship or preaching from the pulpit? The truth of the matter is that God is not going to ask your permission to use and raise up those who have been prodigals in the building of His Kingdom. While I am not saying to be unwise in putting those not called into various ministry positions, I am saying that God’s will for His Kingdom includes prodigals being restored into the fellowship. Many of these prodigals might not end up in major leadership positions, but regardless of position or rank in service each prodigal has something to offer the Body of Christ and the building of the Kingdom of God.
Let’s make this personal: a prodigal does not have to be someone in some obscure place, in prison, or in a crack house. A prodigal could be your neighbor, your cousin or nephew, or that coworker on your job. Ask the Lord to highlight to you if there is anyone specific that you should be praying for to return to the Body of Christ. Please note, that when you start praying for this person you may detect either openness or resistance from them, be sensitive to the leading of the Lord and pray for them regardless of how they interact with you. If you are more of an evangelist than an intercessor, ask the Lord to show you who to talk with or spend time with. Be prepared with scripture, to share from your own life, and to be able to point someone towards resources (books, CD’s, ministries, etc.) when the opportunity arises. Do not be discouraged if you do not see any immediate results. As I have shared in other posts, I didn’t rededicate my life to Christ until after sitting through a lengthy altar call. But when I finally did go up to the altar and rededicate my life, half of the people on the same pew as me went up for salvation/re-dedication as well. What would have happened if the minister who gave the altar call gave up after 2 mins even though he heard the Lord say continue? I am glad that I did not have to find out because he was obedient! Persevere through the waiting, and remember that in this harvest season God may be calling you to plant or water the seeds that will produce harvest. The harvest may spring up and be reaped by another person, or in another season, but we are to remain faithful in what God requires us to do.
I normally end these blog posts with a prayer, but this time I am trying something different. I believe that we should end in praise for the Harvest of Prodigals is upon us for the building of the Kingdom of Christ! Lord thank You for the opportunity to prepare for the prodigals, and all others that You are welcoming into Your Kingdom in this season! Lord thank You for choosing, preparing, and equipping us to handle people who may be hurting, fractured, and discouraged to receive love and restoration of the Father. Lord thank You for the missing links to ministries taking off, to revelation being unlocked, and for positions to be filled in the Kingdom coming forth. Lord thank You for every gift, talent, testimony, and lesson learned that will be imparted from prodigals as they return for the enriching of the Body of Christ. Lord thank You that the love levels throughout the whole body of Christ will increase globally as prodigals return to You. Lord thank You for another chance to bless, encourage, build up, and inspire prodigals to return back to You. Lord thank You that because the prodigals are welcome, all will be welcome into Your House. Lord thank You for the times of celebration that are coming as more and more prodigals return to You. Lord we bless you for being a Good Good Father, for Your forgiveness, being a Restorer, and Redeemer. We continue to bless and praise You in Jesus name Amen!
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