Usually I prefer the temperature to be a little on the cool side as opposed the warm side. I figure I can always put more clothes (or blankets) on to warm up, but there are only so many I can take off to cool down. During these weeks however, I have been writing about what it might look like for us to turn up the heat a little bit in our church. Some of you are saying, “Finally! It’s always so cold in the sanctuary.” But that isn’t the heat I’m talking about. Instead, I’m talking about turning up the heat on prayer, and fellowship, and today on outreach and evangelism.
It’s counter-intuitive perhaps, but it seems to me that when we start talking about reaching out to others the first thing we need to talk about is ourselves. What I mean is that effective outreach won’t happen until we are genuinely excited about our faith and allowing that faith to impact every part of our lives. Until this is true of us, our attempts at outreach will be shallow and dry and prove frustrating. But when Christ becomes fully alive in our hearts and we become convinced that He is the only hope for the world, then we won’t be able to keep from living for Him and talking about Him with those around us. Without a doubt, before we look to the outside, each of us needs to take a look on the inside.
As we make the turn toward others we need to begin simply to look for ways that we can invest in their lives. We must become intentional about building friendships and identifying opportunities to be the “hands and feet” of Jesus in the world around us. Missions experts talk often of “unreached people groups” around the world. The reality is that there are “unreached people groups” all around us in our schools, workplaces and neighborhoods or complexes. But more and more in our day, before we can begin to speak of Jesus or invite someone to church, we must earn the right by demonstrating our love and concern in tangible ways. We can’t hide out in church and expect the people to come our way. Just as Jesus was sent into the world, so now he sends you and me to the world, investing, befriending, loving.
Finally, as we have invested and demonstrated our love and concern in practical ways, we can begin to look for ways to invite others to take their next steps with Jesus. For some people a next step might simply be a conversation about their spiritual background and current beliefs. Another next step might be to respond to the invitation to attend a service. Another next step for some might be to receive Jesus into their heart. With no judging, no prodding, no manipulating, our task is simply to invite someone to a next step with Jesus.
To reach out to others with the good news of Jesus is not an option for believers. This is an urgent matter that deserves our full attention. We need to keep it before us and keep the heat up on this one all the time. For you see, Jesus did not say “You can be my witnesses if you want to.” He said, “You will be my witnesses.” The only question that remains is, “What kind of witnessess will we be?”