Dr. John H. Skilton, professor of New Testament at Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia, used to remind believers, “You have the unique opportunity of reaching men and women in your community with the Gospel in a way that minister may never have, precisely because you have access to many whom he otherwise might never meet.” This is a vital concept that we must grasp if we are to carry out the evangelistic mission of the church. God has called His people to be faithful witnesses to Christ to all those whom He has placed around them. Accordingly, the members of the church must be encouraged and equipped to be intentional in their interactions with those with whom they rub shoulders on a day to day basis. Here are a few thoughts about how to be intentional in our outreach:
1. Know the People Around You. Ask those in your neighborhood and workplace questions about themselves. Chances are good that you will have quite a number of friends or interests in common with those with whom you live on a day in and day our basis. At present, everyone you cross paths with in your community falls into one of your three categories: “landscape people,” “machine people” and “people people.” “Landscape people” are those who blend into your everyday life–a cashier at the grocery store, a security guard, a mailman, etc. “Machine people” are those who service your life in some way–a hair-stylist, accountant, doctor, etc. “People people” are those you already care deeply about–family members, friends, fellow church members. The goal is to learn to care more personally for the “landscape” and “machine” people God has placed around us in order to have opportunities to tell them about Christ and invite them to hear the Gospel preached in worship.
2. Care About the People Around You. Pray for ways to care about those whom the Lord has placed in your life. Be proactive in seeking to think about their needs. Remember things like their birthday and family situations. Listen to them intently to hear what burdens they might be carrying. Pray for those who you see on a regular basis. This is one of the most significant steps that you can take in faithfully reaching out to others. You will find that by caring about those around you, opportunities for Gospel conversation will almost always arise naturally.
3. Invite the People Around You. In the Scriptures, the Kingdom of God often advances most naturally by the faithful witness of those who were converted, in turn, inviting family, friends, neighbors and co-workers to come and meet the Savior. Whether it was the first disciples who came to know Jesus (John 1:35-51) or the dinner party that Levi (i.e. Matthew the tax collector) threw for his colleagues and friends to come and meet the Savior (Luke 5:27-32) or the Samaritan woman who “told the men of the city” about the One who had given her living water (John 4:28-29), we see that this is one of the most foundational ways that the Kingdom of God advances. Church members should be eager to invite those with whom they live to come and hear about the Savior in the gathered assembly of the people of God. We must be fervent in inviting those in our lives to worship, bible studies and other means of grace meetings where the Gospel is taught and proclaimed.
There are, of course, reasons why we don’t often take advantage of the opportunities we come across on a daily and weekly basis. Sometimes, we have lost our zeal for reaching out to those around us because we have become too consumed with our own agendas and activities. Other times it is because we have not been consistent in going to the Savior and drinking the living waters for ourselves. After all, we will never give away what we do not have. At other times, we are trepidatious because we have been the recipients of the opposition that comes with being a faithful witness–so we back away from zealously pursuing others. A lack of intentionality may also be due, in part, to the fact that our local church has reached what we believe to be a critical mass of members. We become shortsighted, forgetting that the Kingdom is never full. Whatever the reasons may be, we need the spiritual recalibration of Scripture and the Gospel to remind us that we are to be co-laborers with the Lord and His ministers in calling others to come and hear the wonderful works of God (Isaiah 2:3).