If there is a secret formula for Christians and churches to be actively engaged in sharing the gospel in their community – Jesus has provided one.
It is a three step outline that does not rely on what you do, but seeks to strengthen our trust in Christ.
The outline starts with our hearts and ends with a prayer. And in between, a vision is presented that can inspire a consuming zeal to go and reach the lost.
“Jesus went through all the towns and village, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.” (Matthew 9:35-38)
In these verses, Jesus provides a three-step outline that will help congregations prepare its members to share the gospel in their community.
Step #1: Reaching the lost starts with a renewed heart.
Notice how Jesus responds to the crowds. His heart is filled with compassion because they were harassed, helpless, and totally fooled by the false teachings of the world. They lived in a sinful world and crippled with a body wracked by sin. Jesus relieves their physical suffering, but he saw a spiritual suffering that was far more prevalent. His compassion was not in response to their physical suffering, but their spiritual condition. They needed a Savior.
Step #2: Reaching the lost sees what Jesus sees.
Our sinful nature tends to look out into our communities and see hard, rocky soil with no hope for a harvest. But the Lord of the harvest sees a much different field. He sees the ground already being tilled, the seeds already sown, and the shoots already appearing from the ground. The harvest is ready – all they need are the words of the gospel.
Our spirit and zeal would certainly be buoyed if we could see what Jesus can see. If only we knew how Jesus would use the gospel seeds that are planted and that our efforts would not be in vain. As a community rejoices when a hero rescues a person from certain doom, the heavenly host will rejoice when a lost soul is rescued from the chains of sin and the clutches of Satan. In Christ, the veil is lifted so we can see what Christ sees – a harvest that is plentiful.
Step #3: Reaching the lost asks the Lord to be His messengers.
With a renewed heart of compassion and hope in Christ’s promises, we are prompted to ask the Lord of the harvest, “Why not me?”
I wonder if the twelve disciples asked the Lord of the harvest to send them. Immediately following Jesus’ request to ask (Matt. 9:35), Jesus calls the twelve disciples (Matt. 10:1) and sends them out to go door-to-door to reach the lost sheep of Israel.
And look what God did with only a few!
In each of these three steps, a body of believers seek outside of themselves to build the right inspiration to move forward. In Christ, we see what he sees. For Christ, we have compassion for the lost sheep. With Christ, we ask the Lord of the harvest to send workers. And for those who step out in faith to share their faith – they become a part of a privileged few.
We can pray, “Lord, renew my heart. Allow me to let go of myself and my fears and receive You. Strengthen my faith so I may have a greater zeal to give to others what You have given me. With boldness, I ask you, Lord of the harvest, to send me to the lost sheep who are all around me. Thank you, Lord, Amen.”
“To be properly doing the work of an evangelist we must be telling what Christ has done. To speak of Christ without telling about his work of vicarious atonement – his obedience, his cross – is not the gospel. The gospel has content and not just any content. The gospel is not ‘God succeeding in creating faith, love and hope,’… Nor is the gospel the bare message, ‘Whoever believes on the Son will have everlasting life.’ This is defining the gospel in terms of people’s response to it rather than in terms of what it is. Nor is the gospel a message such as, ‘Jesus makes me feel good. Jesus give me peace. Jesus give me happiness.’ Peace and happiness, an inner joy that outer circumstances cannot destroy, are the fruit of the gospel, but not the gospel itself.
The gospel is the good news of a Substitute, God and man in one indivisible person, who took the place of the human race under the law and then hung in place of the human race on the cross. The Gospel is our Substitute’s cry of triumph from the cross, ‘It is finished! Complete! Paid in full!’ It is the good news that no matter how far we have strayed from the path, no matter how far short we have fallen of God’s standard of perfection, through Christ the way back to God has been thrown wide open. His life and his death count for us – and for all.” (Rev. David Valleskey, “We Believe – Therefore We Speak”)