I often hear church leaders ask, “Why aren’t lost people coming to our church?” I fear that we are asking the wrong question.
Though we claim that the entire world needs the gospel, could it be that we don’t truly count the cost of what it would take for the entire world to hear the gospel?
We know our Great Commission is to share Christ, but if our focus is maneuvering more to come to us rather than us going to those who don’t believe, we are missing the message of Jesus.
The gospel demands us to “go and tell,” (Mark 16:15) but waiting idly by more often says “come to us.” Why? Because our neighbors do not know that we love them. Why don’t they know? Because they don’t know us. Why don’t they know us? Because we are waiting for them to boldly come to us instead of us going boldly to them.
So, what could possibly help change our attitudes? I’m a simple person, so allow me to use a fishing illustration. After all, Jesus said, “Follow me and I will make you fishers of men” (Matthew 4:19).
Know our neighbors
First, we must intimately know the intricacies and diversities within our communities. Why is this important? “Fishing” requires all types of bait because there are all different types of fish. If we are going to “go” we need to know our target. Not everyone has the same background, experiences or needs, so we must first know how it is that we need to go out to our neighbors.
Serve our neighbors
Knowing helps us with the next step, which is serving. Let’s say I’m fishing for trout, but I don’t really want to put on those uncomfortable waders and get into the stream. Is it likely that I will catch anything? No. Knowing your community raises the question, “How could I serve these people?” The only way to know is to ask the Father to give you His attitude toward people, and go to them through the power of His love for them.
If I think of engaging my neighbors, but my focus is on how uncomfortable I feel or how different they might be, my Fatherly focus is gone. If, instead, I “go” with the love of the Father for my neighbor, I am willing to do whatever it takes to love them and serve them.
Tell them why
If we want them to “get it,” we must boldly proclaim the gospel when we are afforded the opportunity. Here we have gone through extremes to know our neighbor. We have invested time and efforts to serve our neighbor. But until they hear why, they really don’t receive the truth behind our actions. Just because I learn about trout, find a stream, put on waders, and get into the middle of the stream, that doesn’t mean I have much of a chance of catching a trout. They are waiting for that attractive lure. They are looking for that thing they are craving.
People have one thing in common. We were all created to love and be loved. That’s where the gospel comes in. When our neighbors begin seeing us connect with them and serve them, they will likely ask, “Why are you doing this?”
May we then boldly proclaim the truth. “I am doing this because God loves me, and He loves you. And it is because He has loved me so that I am telling you now.” Now they are “caught” by His love!
The real question is, are we willing to go? Are we ready to ask the Father for a change of attitude and a change of heart so that we may be better servants to our neighbors? Do we want to go fishing? They are waiting for our answer.
by Marcus Redding / Strategic Focus Team / Baptist State Convention of North Carolina
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