I was reading a book recently that was written by two Navy SEALs Commanders. They shared stories about various combat experiences and brought out relevant principles for developing great teams in any setting. Over and over, these soldiers emphasized the need for a clear understanding, extreme commitment and professional implementation of the mission. They recognized that ego and personal agenda had to be set aside in order for their troops to take ownership of the mission. If they failed, lives would be lost and victory would be impossible.
Our mission is to reach lost people and lead them to become devoted disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ. Christians can lose sight of this foundational principle of church and small group ministry. When we do, lives can be lost for eternity. Most churches have great teaching opportunities for helping people grow, once they are inside the church building. But, as we know, unreached people are not in the building. Here are four reasons we keep the focus on reaching new people.
1. God commands it in His Word. That should be enough motivation for any Christian. The Great Commission is found in Matthew 28:18-20. Jesus’ final command before He left earth included reaching people with the Gospel message. These “marching orders” are repeated in the other three gospels and in the book of Acts. The New Testament Church took the Great Commission very seriously and thus, evangelism became the priority mission of the church.
2. People cannot be discipled until they are first reached. Teaching people is a function of Sunday School, but it must not become the mission of the Sunday School. Christians need to grow deeper in the Lord, but have you ever asked yourself why? What is the purpose of spiritual maturity if it is not, at least in part, to equip believers to obey the Great Commission? If a Christian is growing “deeper,” yet with no real concern about the eternal destiny of the unreached people in the community and the world, is he or she really that close to the heart of Jesus? The closer we are to Him, the more obvious our love for the lost will become.
3. It creates a healthy church focus. When a local church begins to put too much focus on politics, or music style, or the building, or social reform, or denomination, reaching people becomes a very casual activity. Besides that, who wants to bring a in a lost neighbor to class or service, only to have the leader blast anyone with a different political view or another viewpoint on gun control? Certainly, Christians are to be “salt and light” and we need to be involved as patriots and engaged in public reform that aligns itself with Scripture. Yet to make any of these things the primary focus of the church will create an unhealthy environment with very limited evangelistic potential. People need the Lord no matter their political affiliation or views on the border wall.
4. It is fulfilling for God’s people. Any church worth the bricks it is built with rejoices to see lost people come to faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. The salvation of souls is something only God can do, and when a church family sees people coming to Christ, it is evidence of God’s work in their midst. The Christians in such a congregation are thrilled as new believers are added to the Lord.
Let me encourage you to develop a personal prayer list of lost people that are within your circle of influence. In Sunday School, pray for those who can be reached through the ministry of your class. Let’s make it a real priority to contact these people regularly with an invitation to attend your class and to know the Savior. The success of the mission depends on such things.
Dave Frasure is CABA's Disciple-making Catalyst and also pastors First Baptist South Lebanon, Oh.