(Luke 19:10)

It sounds like the title of an adventure movie, or a mystery novel- but a “lost city” is much more than a Friday night at the Cineplex! Sure, Jurassic Park once took us all to “The Lost World.”  They entertained us with special effects so real we almost felt as though Dinosaurs could actually be among us. But the streets of our cities are filled – not with lost prehistoric lizards- but with lost men and women. We live in the real, lost world!

According to a recent comprehensive study, my city, Austin, Texas is the 3rd most “lost city” in the United States! I have no doubt Jesus wants to use every member of His church to reach the lost of our cities and towns.

When Jesus was nearing Jerusalem for the last time, headed to the cross, He spoke of His own purpose in terms of the lostness of the world. He said, “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” (‭Luke‬ ‭19‬:‭10‬ ESV) Seeking and saving the lost was the personal mission statement of Jesus! As followers of Jesus, shouldn’t we join Him in His mission? The answer seems obvious.

The late evangelical Anglican scholar, John R.W. Stott once observed, “The call to universal evangelism is in obedience to Christ’s universal commission. It is the conviction that not all men will be saved in the end, but that all men must hear the gospel of salvation before the end.” You and I are called to join Jesus in seeking the lost so He can save the lost!


Some may wonder why we should feel urgent about reaching people. After all, we have churches, if lost people want to come, they will, won’t they? Christians have said that very thing to me! I don’t know who first said it but I believe it:
“Religion is man’s search for God – Christianity is God’s search for man!” We are a people on a mission. Our mission is not to wait for lost people to come to us but to go find them! We are a “going” church because the last words of Jesus were a call to action! “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (‭Matthew‬ ‭28‬:‭19-20‬ ESV) If reaching the lost is HIS mission it must also be ours! Do you have the desire to join Jesus on mission and reach the lost?


Here are four questions you should ask yourself about evangelizing a lost city.

1) “Is it really my job?”

Some may think: “That’s why we have a staff- let them evangelize-that’s why we pay them.”
Let’s think about that. There are about 316 million Americans and only about 350 thousand pastors! Paid staff cannot do this job alone!

Others may say: “Evangelism is not my gift” It is true God gave the gift of the evangelist to the Church but evangelism is not just a gift- it’s a command! Everyone of us are called to share our faith.

Many have the excuse: “I don’t know what to say.” That’s the easiest excuse to overcome-
we will train you! But I have even better news- the Holy Spirit will give you the words at the time you need them!
Remember, it’s not your ability or your inability but your availability that matters most to God!

So many people are reluctant to evangelize their friends because they falsely conclude,”it’s not the right time.” Not the right time? How do you know? We don’t know what will happen in the next 5 minutes with any certainty-only God knows the future and He says, “Now is the acceptable time” (2 Cor.6:2)!

2) “Can I do it?”

Yes, you can! Jesus promises you all the power and ability you will ever need.

“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” (‭Acts‬ ‭1‬:‭8‬ ESV)

Think about this-between the resurrection and Pentecost not one single conversion is recorded. The disciples knew the teaching of Jesus because they were His first students and were eyewitnesses to His miracles. They knew the resurrection was real because they had seen Jesus alive after the cross- yet, after the resurrection, for over a month, they led no one to Christ! But, when the Day of Pentecost came and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit-3000 people were saved and baptized in one day! The power of the Holy Spirit made all the difference.

Ask for the Holy Spirit to fill you and give you the power to witness and then get out there and see what God can do!

3) “Do I have any opportunities?”
In Austin, America’s fastest growing city, with a population of about 1.6 million residents, over 1.1 million people have no connection to an evangelical church. We are covered up with opportunity- it isn’t opportunity we lack-yet, we often have “harvest blindness”! Jesus addressed this “eye condition” when He said, “Do you not say, ‘There are yet four months, then comes the harvest’? Look, I tell you, lift up your eyes, and see that the fields are white for harvest.” (‭John‬ ‭4‬:‭35‬ ESV) Notice His simple instructions: “Look… lift up your eyes, and see the fields are white for harvest.” Look, lift up your eyes, see the fields… Jesus is telling us to develop an awareness for evangelism! It isn’t opportunity we lack- we are swallowed up by opportunity- it’s awareness of our opportunity we need.

Right now, and everyday from now on, ask God to make you aware of the opportunity all around you. I promise if you pray that prayer He will open your eyes!open-bible

4) “What should I do now?”

All of us should encourage the efforts of our church in reaching people by praying for others involved in outreach and by getting involved ourselves! You don’t have to invent the wheel of outreach- the wheels are already turning at your church! Volunteer and show up with a servants heart. God will use you.

If you are a Sunday School, Community Group, or small group teacher make your group more evangelistic. How? Be open to and invite new people to your group. Ask yourself: “If I was not a believer, would I understand what’s going on here?” You don’t have to “dumb your group down” to be more conscious of the lost or new believer’s needs. In one sense, if your group is so “deep” it’s not for new believers, your “depth” may be shallow and self centered!

Next, you must occasionally and deliberately share the plan of salvationexplain the gospel so lost people can understand!  Nothing brings new life to a small group like, well, new life!

Finally, each time you meet, pray as a group for opportunities to share the gospel.

In addition, apart from your church or small group, think about your entire life as a mission field. In other words, everywhere you go, you are on mission! Years ago, someone taught me that some people I meet will be divine appointments. Then one day, a few months ago, this thought crossed my mind- everyone I meet is a divine appointment! Will your relationships change if you realize everyone you meet is part of God’s plan for them and for you!

These are only a few suggestions. They may not all pertain to you in every case. But I know this-God wants to use you! One of my former pastors once observed, “You can’t reach everybody everywhere- but you can reach somebody somewhere!”




JKBcircleA friend of mine was an automobile mechanic for most of his career and at the end of his work days he was usually covered with grease and oil. It was an “occupational hazard.” It could not be avoided due to the nature of his work. My son is working his way through college at a BBQ restaurant in Austin, and after work, his work clothes often have a strong smokey smell and a few BBQ sauce stains. Those things are unavoidable for him because of the environment he works in. Ministry has environmental factors and “occupational hazards” too. We cannot avoid discouragement.

Before you think I’m “going negative”or “having a bad day,” consider the evidence. I have been in ministry for more than 30 years. I have never known a minister who did not face discouragement at times. I have had more than one conversation with a pastor or staff member who was already standing “on the ledge” of quitting. A recent article by Tim Peters, in ChurchLeaders magazine, reported that 1700 pastors leave the ministry every month! The number one reason cited is “discouragement.” More importantly, beyond the statistical and anecdotal evidence, it is impossible to trace the lives of biblical characters without being confronted with stories of their “bad days.” Moses overreacted out of anger when the people rebelled. Elijah was depressed in a cave. Jeremiah felt deceived. Nehemiah cried for days when he heard the bad news about Jerusalem’s condition. Jonah wanted to die. Peter was a public failure who wept in shame. Even Jesus in Gethsemane was “overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death.” Discouragement is a ministerial occupational hazard. You cannot avoid it so you must learn to deal with it by being prepared for it before it creeps up.


discouraged-pastor-500x337There are several hundred thousand ministers in America and probably an equal number of reasons why we battle discouragement! Physical and emotional fatigue, financial pressures, relationship conflicts (both in the church and at home), personal health issues, personal sin and guilt, and even unwise comparisons to other ministers, (who appear to be succeeding in areas where we feel as if we’re struggling), may be just the tip of the discouragement iceberg. There is no doubt discouragements will come. The question is, “what can I do about discouragement?”

There are a number of factors to consider when dealing with ministry discouragement. You may be tired and need rest. You may need to eliminate other distractions from your life where possible to focus more directly on ministry. You may need to learn to celebrate the small victories when the big ones seem elusive. All of these issues, and many more, play a role in healthy, long term ministry but I want to focus on only one area in this brief essay. Ministry can drain your spiritual and emotional tank and you must know how to refill it!

As a minister your spiritual life has to be a top priority if you are going to help others with theirs! For instance, when you are on a commercial flight and the flight attendant explains how to buckle a seat belt prior to take off (and you check out mentally while someone explains how to use your seat cushion as a flotation device) they usually tell you something about the oxygen masks that fall from overhead if the cabin “suddenly loses pressure.” Every time the advice is the same- put your mask on before you attempt to help someone else. Otherwise, a parent might pass out from oxygen deprivation while trying to save a child and in that case both people suffer. The logic is clear. If you are breathing you can help others- but you stop breathing you become part of the problem! The same is true of the minister’s spiritual life. You cannot help others for long, if your own life is suffering from spiritual oxygen deprivation! 

The antidote for overcoming ministry discouragement may be as basic as maintaining a consistent walk with God. Do whatever you have to do to guard your time alone with God each day. Start your day as early as possible with the study of the Word and prayer. The more discouraged you feel, the more you need the Scripture and communion with the Lord. Ignore every impulse that suggests your spiritual needs can wait. Prioritize prayer and Bible reading over nearly every other ministry (of course there are emergencies that must be addressed and you must respond to those. You will know when those things occur, but do not let daily routines disguise themselves as emergencies!). Remember Jesus said, “But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.” (‭Matthew‬ ‭6‬:‭6‬ ESV) In ministry, with its endless demands, we have to “shut the door” for our spiritual growth! That means we prioritize prayer and Bible study and shut out the relentless cry of other voices begging for our attention. Is it easy to do? No, because we want to respond, we want to help, we want to solve problems. But if you ignore your spiritual life long enough you won’t be helping anybody- you’ll be on a spiritual casualty list!

An old expression imagines that you can “become so heavenly minded that you’re no earthly good.” While I understand the sentiment of that old saying, it isn’t realistic. Few of us border on being too heavenly minded today. The bigger problem in our ranks, if we would be honest, is we are often too earthly minded to be any heavenly good! If you want to overcome ministry discouragement then you will pray and study the Bible as much as possible and as early as possible every day because it is through those consistent disciplines that you maintain spiritual and emotional strength. DSC_0059_filtered

Does this counsel seem too simplistic? Perhaps. But there are no viable substitutes for God in your life and God has given you prayer and the Word in order to stay connected to Him. On the last night of His life on earth, with only a few hours remaining to train His followers and pass the baton of leadership, Jesus said, “If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples.” (‭John‬ ‭15‬:‭7-8‬ ESV) One key to effective ministry (bearing fruit and proving to be His disciples) is a dynamic personal spiritual life. Jesus said the key to your spiritual fruitfulness is His Word and prayer (v.8). If you can’t take my word for it, take it from Jesus! Pray earnestly, and read the Word regularly, and you will be stronger and more effective in ministry and less prone to discouragement.





JKBcircleEven in a culture marked by a growing secularism, millions of Americans still regard prayer as an important part of their lives. In fact, in May 2014 a Pew Research Center poll found that 55% of Americans pray daily. A much higher number – almost 90%- pray at least once a week. This doesn’t suggest that all of them pray as Christians or they all live godly lives. It does suggest, however, that there remains, in the minds and hearts of our neighbors and friends, a hunger for God, or a need for something spiritual, the world cannot offer. And while church attendance for decades in America has usually been considered stalled somewhere in the 40-45% range of the population, a majority of people still believe something about God, and they believe prayer is a way to Him.

What do you think about prayer? How important is it in your life? Do you believe God hears and answers prayer?


Even for those of us who want to pray and make prayer an even more important part of our lives, knowing how to pray and making time to pray can be obstacles we need to overcome. As a pastor, I have taught on prayer for years and written on it as well (see my web site, iprayaustin.com). One thing I might have done inadvertently, in my exuberance to encourage prayer, is over-emphasize the heroic examples of prayer. Of course we all need role models and there are some magnificent examples in history to draw from. Unfortunately, the examples of the extraordinary prayer warriors of the past might subtlety act as a de-incentive to the average Christian who wants a healthier and more consistent prayer life.

How is that possible? Let’s say you are a University student, or a working mom or dad, or running your own business. Are you busy? Now suppose your pastor preaches a message next Sunday about prayer and he quotes Martin Luther who needed 3 hours a day for prayer each day. Or the pastor uses the example of David Brainerd, who spent hours everyday praying in the Colonial American wilderness, often in the snow of an open field, exacerbating his pre-existing illness, until he finally died at the young age of 29. Or perhaps you were at Hyde Park Baptist Church or The Quarries Church last week and heard my story of the late evangelist and author Jess Hendley.

I knew Jess Hendley well in the last few years of his remarkable life. On one occasion his friends and family couldn’t reach him by phone for days. Finally, a fellow minister went to Dr. Hendley’s home (where he lived alone as a widower), expecting the worst. After repeated attempts to get some response, Jess  reluctantly answered the door. When the other pastor challenged him about not responding, Jess only said he had “been with the Lord.” When asked why he didn’t answer the phone, or respond when they knocked, he replied, “I don’t answer the phone, or answer the door when I’m with the Lord.” It then dawned on the other minister that Jess had been out of contact for a few days. So he asked the old evangelist, “Jess, how long have you been with the Lord?” Dr. Hendley, without a hint of pride, and in full command of his mental faculties answered, What day is it?”

The man who found Jess Hendley that day is a friend of mine and he personally related that story to me in even more meticulous detail. The old Christian warrior had been in secret prayer for days! He had lost track of the time and even the day of the week! As a minister, I am motivated beyond words by that kind of devotion. I want to be a prayer warrior like that. Maybe you do to. Or, perhaps, you are that young working mom walking through the last few months of life exhausted with the demands of motherhood and a career. Do the stories of people spending hours and days in prayer motivate you? Or, is there a subtle message being conveyed- a message that seems to imply- “faithful prayer, like God requires, is out of reach for me”?


While we will always be impressed with the sincere devotion of exceptional men and women who linger in prayer for hours, most of us need to find other ways to pray in shorter blocks of time, while still remaining faithful and consistent. Perhaps the words of the late Adrian Rogers come closer to an experience we can emulate in our daily lives. He once said, “I’ve rarely spent two hours in prayer, but I’ve rarely gone two hours without prayer.” Does that seem more like what you could strive for as you improve in your desire to be faithful in daily prayer? 1654217_740157039363452_1200375728710481169_n

Guilt is a powerful, but ultimately terrible motivation for the Christian life. Most of us could say, “I need to pray more.” That will almost always be true. But feeling you have failed before you even begin is worse! When I started my prayer life, more than 35 years ago, I had no idea how to pray- but I wanted to learn! My first attempts were commitments to pray 5 minutes a day. It started at that point- like a child’s first awkward steps, but I kept going and I grew from there.

You may never spend hours a day in prayer. Few do. You can, however, accept God’s invitation each day to meet Him with the time you have and as you are faithful in that commitment, your appetite for prayer and commitment of time will inevitably increase. In any event, the goal of prayer is not watching the clock but knowing the Lord! Start where you are and let the Lord lead you from there!




(Ephesians 6:17-18)

John R. W. Stott: “Most Christians pray sometimes, with some prayers and some degree of perseverance, for some of God’s people. But to replace ‘some’ with ‘all’ in each of these expressions would be to introduce us to a new dimension of prayer.”

“praying at ALL times in the Spirit, with ALL prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with ALL perseverance, making supplication for ALL the saints.” (‭Ephesians‬ ‭6‬:‭18 ESV)
4 uses of the word ALL


James Montgomery Boice: “Our secret resource is prayer. The weakest Christian can at any moment cry out to God.”

QUESTION: What will unlimited prayer look like?

unlimited prayer is:

spiritual (v.18)
“…at all times in the Spirit…”

universal (v.18)
“…with all prayer and supplication…”

-scriptural (v.17)

continual (v.18)
“…with all perseverance…”

Only time the form of the word is used in NT. Lit. meaning: “To continue” “To remain steadfast ” “to remain constantly devoted”

Adrian Rogers: “I’ve rarely spent two hours in prayer but I’ve rarely gone two hours without prayer.”

Persistence in prayer means you don’t give up- you keep praying even when answers are slow in coming or non-existent or even if things get worse- YOU KEEP PRAYING!

fraternal (v.18)
“…for all the saints…”
Intercessory prayer!

QUESTION: What would your family be like if you knew each member was praying for you daily? What would God do through our church if each of us prayed for the Church and its mission everyday?

1)prayer can change your life
2) prayer is absolutely essential for your spiritual growth
3) prayer connects you to God