By Asst Ps Lai Keet Keong
Most of us have been there. We tried to share Christ with a friend or family member, but we found it hard to get the message across. We either get stuck at some point or push too hard and risk offending them. Consequently, we rationalize that perhaps they are not ready, or think that the problem lies with us that we are just not good enough.
My dear friends, if you struggle with evangelism like I did, do not be discouraged. Outreach is not easy, but God who called us to the ministry of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:18) has promised that He will be with us (Matthew 28:20).
In the Gospel of Luke, our Lord Jesus taught and demonstrated a template for outreach. While methods of outreach may vary with culture and circumstances, the principles do not change. Luke 10:5-9 outlined Jesus’ instructions to His disciples. Notice the following pattern:
1. The first step is to Bless. In Verse 5, Jesus said, “First say “Peace to this house.” Outreach always begins with the desire to bless, to speak and bring peace and care to the people we are reaching. Today, this means demonstrating God’s unconditional love through practical acts of kindness and meeting people’s felt needs. As God’s love is unconditional, our acts of kindness ought to be unconditional. Our decision to bless and care for them is not dependent on their favourable response to our message. Even if they reject Christ, we will still bless and care for them, nonetheless. When we genuinely bless them, we open their eyes to the reality of God and help them make vital connection between His love and His power.
2. The second step is to Fellowship. In verse 7, Jesus instructed, “Stay there, eating and drinking whatever they give you.” Spending time and fellowship requires the basis of genuine relationship, and the courage to be vulnerable. Fellowship requires time and commitment. People need to know you care before they will listen to you and your message, which is their real need of salvation through faith in Jesus Christ.
3. Thirdly, Pray. In verse 9, Jesus then said, “Heal the sick who are there.” In other words, if they are sick, pray for them. If they have troubles, pray and minster to them. Do not be afraid to offer them the platform to connect with God through prayer. When you pray personally or with your CG members, believe together in faith that God will intervene and reach out to them according to His loving grace and purpose. (Mark 11:24, James 1:6, Romans 8:28).
4. Finally, Preach the gospel. In verse 9, Jesus instructed the disciples to “tell them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’” In other words, share with them the gospel of salvation. This final step is important because people do not get saved until they know God’s plan of salvation through repentance and faith in Christ (Romans 10:14, John 5:24).
Bless, fellowship, pray and then preach. These were Jesus’ instructions to His disciples.
Unfortunately, we often do outreach the other way round! We often begin with preaching the gospel. We question whether they know where they will end up if they die tonight and their need to receive Christ A.S.A.P. Then we offer to pray for them by asking if they have any needs and difficulties. Only when they respond positively to our preaching and offers to pray, then we would spend time and fellowship with them, and bless by following up with them. And we wonder why pre-believers get turned off when their Christian friends or colleagues try to share the gospel with them!
Please do not misunderstand. I believe in street evangelism and divine appointments. I have been involved in sharing the gospel at Orchard Road, heartlands and campuses. In those instances, the Lord graciously connected us with people whose hearts were opened and ready. In a way, we reaped where others have sown previously. However, I believe Jesus’ instructions were holistic principles of outreach that include cultivate, plant and reap, and the key is relationship.
My dear friends, ‘Following Jesus to Share’ Campaign is not just a campaign. And the people whom we are reaching out to are not projects. Instead, they are precious lives whom God loves. Outreach is not easy, and it often comes at personal cost and sacrifice. But why would we be surprised? More than 2000 years ago, our Lord Jesus Christ bore the ultimate price by His death on the cross, so that the world might be reconciled to the Father. He called us today to do our part, to be that someone to point and bring the pre-believers to the Lord, just as Christ did. May we find joy as we fulfill our calling to follow Christ in sharing the gospel through genuine relationship.