In 2012, I attended a conference for church planters and cross-cultural witnesses. I heard a breakout session leader give his 7 tips for reaching your people/city. Each one started with “Get out of your apartment and…” At first I was a little offended as it struck me as condescending. DUH! Of course we’re getting out of our apartments. It’s what God sent us out to do! But I’ve found over years that it’s not always a given that we’re out there engaging our culture. It’s very easy to find yourself in a pattern of life that keeps you apart from those we should be reaching. Before you know it, it’s Saturday, and you’re thinking, “Where did the week go? What did I get done?” We’ve all been there. So, rather than assuming it, I want to encourage you to get out of your comfort zone on a regular basis and engage the culture around you. To help you do that, I want to look at some intentional activities that we should be employing in our contexts, all the while knowing that these things will potentially look different for each of us.
If we are going to be obedient and intentional, we will be engaging the world around us to assess where they are spiritually. There are 2 general categories for people: saved and unsaved, or lost & found. And, if statistics can be trusted, this becomes an easy task: They’re all lost! No, just kidding. But the reality is that the overwhelming majority of those we encounter are indeed lost and in need of The Gospel. As a practitioner, this activity drives our work. This diagnosis brings a sobering reality that over 80% of the people you’ll encounter today are separated from God by sin and stand in danger of His wrath. So, how do we make a difference?
There are two tools I use in identifying who I need to be sharing with. The first are the Name Lists: two lists containing everyone I know. The first list has the names of everyone we know who is far from God. The second list has the names of Jesus Followers who could join us in the work. These lists remind us of our responsibility for speaking The Gospel into the lives of people we know. And it answers a question that most Christians pose when we talk about engaging the culture: “With whom should I be sharing? I don’t know any lost people.” The Name Lists remind us that we are connected to many who need to know/experience The Gospel. One important thing here to remember is a phrase that I learned from Jeff Sundell. It’s the phrase “from secondary to primary.” In America, one way to get an idea of how many people you’re connected to is you address book in your phone. We can also think in terms of spheres of influence or affinity: work, hobby, family, neighborhood, traffic patterns, etc. I want you to stop reading at this point, and take 5 minutes to begin your first name list: the people you know who are far from God.
Leave this list where you can see it every day. At first, I put it in my smartphone. However, I quickly forgot it was there, and had to think about it before I remembered to open it. Write this list on paper and leave it where you can see it every day SO THAT you will begin praying for those on your list EVERY DAY. If it’s a big list, pray for chunks of it each day. Pray three simple things for those on your list: 1) that they would encounter God in a supernatural way this week, 2) that God would touch their hearts this week, and 3) that you would have courage to open your mouth and share the Gospel with them.
The second Name List contains all of the people we know who are followers of Jesus. Of course, it’s not possible for us to know if someone is truly saved or not, but we can, based on fruit, make an informed assessment and proceed from there. Should it turn out that a person on this list was not really saved, they are going to hear The Gospel as they accompany you in your evangelism efforts. The Jesus people we’re already connected to have a slightly different need when you encounter them: vision. We need to cast vision with them so that they develop a hunger for the training that will get them to the accomplishment of the vision. Learn how to express your vision simply & clearly so as to inspire the believers you encounter as you engage the culture. With those that are moved by the possibilities, take them with you as you engage the culture. Let them see you in action as you Model for them what you’d like them to be doing. (In my next post, we’ll talk about MAWL, and getting to WAM.)
The second major element in identifying who we can be sharing with is the House of Peace search, or what many practitioners call a PUSH (pushing out into a new area to meet new people). This is a necessary component to include in reaching our people. If we don’t, we can quickly exhaust our Name Lists and miss out on potential harvests in new sectors of our cities. A PUSH is an intensive effort into a specific area where you use the most effective means possible to connect with new people. We’ve used surveys, offering prayer, and a variety of ministry projects all geared towards initiating conversations with those we encounter. And an important element in such a PUSH is the transition to The Gospel. Depending on what you’re doing, these questions differ, but serve the same end: getting us to The Gospel. Here are a couple of the transitional sentences we’ve started training with and practicing weekly with our trainers.
*During PUSH/Prayer Walking: “We’re here praying for the area, families, people, etc. How can we be praying for you and your family”
*During PUSH/Prayer Walking: “We’re here praying for the area, families, people, etc., that God would do a miracle for them. If God could do a miracle for you today, what would it be?”
*Problems: “Thanks for sharing so personally with us. I share your concern, and would like to share something with you that give me great hope when dealing with problems like this.”
These transitional statements can serve as a bridge getting us to a point of being able to share our testimony and The Gospel. I can’t emphasize enough the need to practice these simple transitional statements. We should practice them as much as we practice our Gospel presentations and our testimony. We’ve seen it too many times: someone connects in conversation but has no idea how to move into the spiritual realm. Practicing these statements sets us up for it to happen more naturally.
It’ll be important to come to grips with a simple way to share the Gospel, so I’ll cover that soon. But first, I want to give you some things to consider AS you go to share. Next up: MAWLing.