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!
WHY US-WHY NOW?
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.
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 salvation– explain 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!”