“Call For Workers”

"For the kingdom of heaven is like unto a man that is an householder, which went out early in the morning to hire labourers into his vineyard" (Matt. 20.1)

     INTRO.: A hymn which tells us that the Lord wants us to be workers in His vineyard is "Call for Workers." The text was written and the tune was composed both by John Henry Sheppard, who was born in Ouachita Parish near Monroe, LA, on Oct. 19, 1868. After his mother died when he was eight, and his father died six year later, he went to live with an aunt near Waco, TX. Having less than five months of formal schooling, he taught himself to read, to write, and to learn music. Sometime after he lost an eye in an accident, he met and married Fannie Ethel Coyle of Rosenthal, TX, in 1898. They had five children, Mattie Sue, Frank, Henry Cecil, Evie Leah, and Francis Lucile. During Sheppard’s early adult years, several dynamic singing teachers, such as F. L. Eiland, J. B. Franklin, J. W. Ferrill, and J. E. Thomas, all lived within a forty-mile radius of the Sheppards’ modest farm on the Brazos River in a community called Chalk Bluff located about eight miles east of Waco, and two well known music companies, The Trio Music Company and The Quartet Music Company, had their beginning in Waco during that same time.

     These influences shaped Sheppard’s interest in singing, writing, and teaching music. "Call for Workers" was produced in 1906 and copyrighted by "Dean and Sheppard," probably referring to Emmet Sidney Dean, who was associated with the Trio Music Co. The copyright was later owned by G. H. P. Showalter, who was a long-time editor of The Firm Foundation. As a young man, Sheppard travelled quite a bit and was often gone for three or four months at a time to teach singing schools in Falls, Bell, and McLellan Counties of Texas. During his years as a singing instructor, he learned the truth about Jesus and was baptized into Christ. Although he never worked as a full time preacher, he often spoke for small congregations in central Texas cities such as Waco, Mart, Marlin, Thorton, Lott, Tyson, and Goldson. His income came from various occupations. In addition to his singing schools, he farmed up until the 1920’s. When the family moved into Waco, he owned and operated a wood yard where he collected and sold firewood.

     The Sheppards were members of the Columbus Ave. church of Christ in Waco for many years, but John Henry spent the last few years of his life in or near Houston,TX, with his children and attended the Wayside and Sherman church of Christ. He died in Houston on May 29, 1937 and was buried in Pearland, TX. Among hymnbooks published by members of the Lord’s church during the twentieth century for use in churches of Christ, "Call for Workers" appeared in the the 1938/1944 (New) Wonderful Songs edited by Thomas S. Cobb; the 1940 Praise and Revival Songs and the 1952 Hymns of Praise and Devotion both edited by Will W. Slater; the 1943 Standard Gospel Hymns edited by Tillit S. Teddlie; the 1959 Majestic Hymnal No. 2 and the 1978 Hymns of Praise both edited by Reuel Lemmons; and the 1963 Abiding Hymns edited by Robert C. Welch. Today it may be found in the 1971 Songs of the Church and the 1990 Songs of the Church 21st C. Ed.; and the 1978/1983 (Church) Gospel Songs and Hymns edited by V.E. Howard; as well as the 2007 Sacred Songs of the Church edited by William D. Jeffcoat.

     The song encourages each of us to be workers in the Lord’s vineyard.

I. Stanza 1 says that there is a work to do
"In the vineyard of the Lord, There is work for all to do.
Will you go and work today With a purpose strong and true?"
 A. The Lord has often referred to His kingdom as a vineyard: Isa. 5.1ff
 B. The picture of a vineyard is a place for work to be done: 1 Cor. 15.58
 C. Therefore, the Lord wants His people to be workers in His vineyard: Matt. 21.28

II. Stanza 2 says that God’s people are called to do this work
"Brother, sister, hear the call! All along your way afford.
Let us strive to save the lost, strive to save by work and word."
 A. The call to work in the Lord’s vineyard comes to us in the gospel: 2 Thess. 2.14
 B. The main work that God has given us is to follow the example of His Son and seek those who are lost: Lk. 10.9
 C. The means by which we do this work is by word and deed: Col. 3.17

III. Stanza 3 says that this work is needed because of sin
"Mark the spirit’s direful fate Wheresoever sin is found.
Come and lend a helping hand; Let the shackles be unbound."
 A. The direful fate of those spirits who are out of Christ is to be cast into the lake of fire: Rev. 20.14-15
 B. The reason for this fate is because of sin in their lives: Rom. 3.23, 6.23
 C. Thus, the Lord wants as many workers as possible to lend a helping hand and let the shackles be unbound by teaching others: 2 Tim. 2.2

IV. Stanza 4 says that the reward for these workers is to see the lost saved
"Oh, for workers strong and brave, Who will lift the banner high,
So the lost can see the way To the mansions in the sky."
 A. This work is likened to lifting high the Lord’s banner: Isa. 13.2
 B. The reason why this banner needs to be raised on high is so that the lost can see the strait gate and travel the narrow way: Matt. 7.13-14
 C. This is important because only by travelling the narrow way will people be able to have everlasting life in the mansions in the sky: Jn. 14.1-3

CONCL.: The chorus reminds us of the need to be involved in the Lord’s work.
"Heed the call, brother dear, For workers today;
Let your eyes see the need Of workers today."
When a person becomes a Christian, he is saved from his sins. But this blessed relationship with Christ as a member of His spiritual body, the church, also places upon each one the responsibility to become a laborer in the vineyard and heed the "Call for Workers."


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