Healthy Christians have an appropriate balance of up-reach (worship), in-reach (spiritual formation) and outreach (evangelism). If we lack any one of the three we lack the kind of spiritual health taught in scripture. If we fail to give proper attention to any one of them, it will create a deficit or imbalance in the other two. We need the vigorous engagement of all three to be all that God wants us to be. With that in mind, I want to focus on the one that troubles my spirit and prompts this article – outreach.
God wants to work through you and me to reach a lost world. It is one of the primary roles we fill as Christians. It is true that we were made to enjoy an intimate relationship with the triune God but it is a working relationship! Just as Jesus was sent by His Father into the world on redemptive business, so we are being sent by Jesus to work in the family business – the business of saving lost men. This is our job! It is the primary reason given and illustrated in the book of Acts for the gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:8). He was given to fortify us with the kind of power necessary to testify of Jesus even in the face of death. Yet, while 80 percent of Christians believe they have a duty to share Christ with others; and 75 percent believe they can effectively carry out that duty; over 60 percent make no endeavor to witness to or win the lost. This is appalling! James S. Stewart put it this way, “The threat to Christianity is not atheism, materialism or communism. The greatest threat to Christianity is Christians who are trying to sneak into heaven incognito without ever having shared their faith.”
The obvious question is, “Why do so many Christians make no attempt to be a
channel that the Holy Spirit can use to bring someone to Christ?”
Frankly, there are barriers on both sides of the outreach door. Lost people erect emotional, intellectual and volitional barriers that make it very difficult, and at times impossible, for anyone to penetrate. These can be overcome with relationship building, patience and a willingness to answer objections graciously. Barriers for believers can be numerous but the list I have developed in short and to the point.
Dennis Kinlaw notes, “Nothing saving ever originates with us. God takes the initiative in everything that is saving”. Yet this God, who alone can save, has chosen not to work alone. He has called us to work with Him in the saving of souls. One of the jobs He asks us to do is to be intercessors (one who causes to meet). Remarkably, God wants someone who will stand between the lost soul and Himself and be a channel of His grace to that lost person. When is the last time you paid the price of soul travail that allowed you to lift the reluctant hand of a lost friend toward the outstretched hand of a merciful God?
In a recent interview, Francis Chan said that as a young Christian in high school he used to cry over his friends when he thought about them spending eternity in hell. The same was true when he worked in a restaurant, he used to cry over the waiters and waitresses and pray, “God you’ve got to save these people”. However, after he began working in the church, he didn’t weep very much over the lost. Chan is being very transparent about what can easily happen to any Christian when they isolate themselves within the community of believers. Unless we interact with lost people there can be no outreach through us. There is no impact without contact. You need to ask yourself the question, “How many sinners do I have a close enough relationship to that the Holy Spirit could effectively use me to reach them for Christ?” If your answer is none, then you clearly aren’t even trying to reach the lost.
It’s not my job!
Pastors regularly tell their congregations that it is his job to equip the church to do the work of the ministry. Congregations often respond (under their breath) that the pastor and his staff are being “paid” to reach people! The end result is that no one feels like it’s their job! Scripturally, the “going” shoes of the Great Commission fit the feet of all believers – clergy and laity alike!
My gut feeling is that most Christians just don’t care. Indifference has robbed us of a broken heart for lost people. It has stolen the passion and commitment to do whatever it takes to be an instrument or the means of someone’s conversion. A well-known pastor shared the story of shaking hands with a group of Sunday school kids when one little boy informed him that he was moving and would never be able to come back to his church. The pastor simply patted the boy on the head and continued shaking hands with the other children. Suddenly, the pastor felt someone tugging on the back of his suit jacket. He turned around and there was the same little boy who had announced he was moving. The boy looked longingly into the eyes of his Pastor and said, “ain’t you even gonna cry?”
Does any lost soul know that you care enough to cry? More importantly, does God know that He can reach a broken world through your broken heart?