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Keep first things first

Priorities determine outcomes. Wrong priorities ultimately lead to frustration, ineffectiveness, and destruction. Churches--like people--must keep first things first.

Every church has a nonnegotiable mission statement: "Go and make disciples (Matthew 28:19, 20, NIV). The church has both the privilege and responsibility of opening the door to the kingdom of God. Sharing the good news of Jesus' love, grace, and mercy draws people into relationship with Him. Churches that fail to obey the Great Commission slide into the pit of self-service and eventually die. Those that obey the Great Commission, however, have people continually being born again. Reaching the lost and making disciples is the church's top priority.

Churches that focus on reaching people are alive and vibrant. Think about this:

Live churches are constantly changing.

Dead churches don't have to.

Live churches have lots of noisy kids.

Dead churches are fairly quiet.

Live churches' expenses always exceed their income.

Dead churches take in more than they ever dreamed of spending.

Live churches are constantly improving for the future.

Dead churches worship the past.

Live churches move out in faith.

Dead churches operate totally by human sight.

Live churches focus on people.

Dead churches depend too much on programs.

Live churches are filled with tithers.

Dead churches are filled with tippers.

Live churches dream great dreams for God.

Dead churches relive nightmares.

Live churches don't have can't in their dictionary.

Dead churches have nothing but.

Live churches evangelize.

Dead churches fossilize.


If we don't give evangelism top priority, we may be a dead church in two generations.


Eight Reasons to Reach the Lost

Here are eight biblical reasons why we should commit to reaching lost people.

1. People who don't know Jesus Christ as a personal Savior are eternally lost. Heaven and hell are both realities. Today many people don't believe hell exists; however, unbelief doesn't change the reality. Jumping off a six-story building because you don't believe in the law of gravity doesn't change the destruction of the body upon impact.

The Bible is clear about the reality of hell. Those who don't know Jesus Christ as Savior will spend eternity there: "For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Romans 6:23; see also John 14:6; Acts 4:12; and Romans 3:23).

2. God loves the lost and desires that they be saved and spend eternity with Him. God's desire for relationship with the lost is seen in the sacrifice of His Son: "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life" (John 3:16). God "wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth" (1 Timothy 2:3, 4). The apostle Peter said that "the Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance" (2 Peter 3:9).

3. Jesus' primary mission was to seek the lost. "For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost" (Luke 19:10). Christ came to earth for the purpose of restoring lost men to God. In the parable of the Prodigal Son Jesus describes the father waiting patiently for his son to come home. In the parable of the lost sheep He says the shepherd leaves the flock of 99 to search for one lost sheep.

4. Jesus commanded the Church to evangelize. "Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age" (Matthew 28:19, 20).

One Sunday a minister began his sermon like this: "I'd like to make three points today. First, millions of people around the world are going to hell. Second most of us here today do not give a damn about it." After a lengthy pause, he continued. "Third, you are more concerned that I, your pastor, said the word damn than you are about the millions of people going to hell." Having their undivided attention, he proceeded to preach on putting faith into action.

Unfortunately, we more often concerned about insignificant things than we are about the eternal business of the King of Kings.

5. God chose Christians to share the good news with the lost. God's primary means for reaching the lost is not angels or supernatural experiences, but Christians. He has chosen to use redeemed, forgiven sinners to reach unredeemed, unforgiven sinners. We may never know or understand why God chose us to carry His message but it should motivate and challenge us. Paul emphasized this point: "As the Scripture says, 'Anyone who trusts in him will never be put to shame.' For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile--the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, for, 'Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.' How then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?" (Romans 10:11-14). Paul concluded by saying, "Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ" (Romans 10:17). Through sharing the word of Christ, we help people come to Christ.

6. Someone faithfully shared the good news with us. We are part of God's family because someone--a parent, teacher, friend, or relative--told us about our sinfulness and need for a Savior. Paul admonished Timothy, "And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others" (2 Timothy 2:2). As leaders and workers we must be faithful to the Master. We can keep busy doing religious things and neglect to bring people to Christ. When was the last time you were instrumental in bringing someone to Christ? Research indicates that 96 percent of born-again Christians have never lead another person to Christ. Either evangelizing is not a priority, or our relationship with Jesus has become routine. Will our friends and family point their fingers at us for not sharing the gospel with them when they are eternally separated from God?

7. We demonstrate our love for God. Jesus said, "If you love me, you will obey what I command" (John 14:15). He commanded us to go and make disciples, to share our faith and His love to the lost. To not obey expresses our lack of love. We can make excuses for not sharing Christ, but Satan uses them to keep Christians from sharing the good news. Satan's greatest tactic is to silence the voice of Christians and destroy their witness through dishonorable living.

The greater our love, the more intense our passion for reaching the lost. An incident in the ministry of George Sweeting, president of Moody Bible Institute, illustrates this point. One day a woman came to him in deep distress. "I have been a Christian for 20 years," she said, "yet I'm not aware that I've ever led anyone to the Lord. I've memorized many Scripture verses and know how to meet the objections of the unconverted. But no one has made a decision for Christ. Why hasn't God been using me?"

Wanting to help, he asked, "Have you ever wept for the unsaved and prayed for their conversion? Perhaps your failure hasn't been so much from a lack of knowledge as from a lack of love. When a person genuine compassion for the lost, he'll weep over them and yearn for their salvation."

The woman went to her room and began to pray earnestly for her sister. Then, with a tender heart, she went to visit her. Putting her arms around her sister, she said, "More than anything in this world, I want you to become a Christian." That evening during the church service her sister publicly received Christ and asked for His forgiveness.

8. Only the gospel can change our world. "Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a disgrace to any people" (Proverbs 14:34). Through teaching, preaching, sharing, and living the principles of the Kingdom, the church has the greatest potential in the world The church is God's idea; God established it, so it's destined to succeed. However, each local church is accountable to God to live and teach the good news. As righteousness increases, so does God's blessing upon a nation. We need churches that are more concerned about developed megaministries than becoming megachurches. Megaministries spiritually influence their communities; megachurches just have a lot of people in attendance.

Churches who care about the lost take action. Here are some things you and your church can do:

  1. Identify, list, and pray regularly for lost family, friends, and neighbors.
  2. Daily ask God to increase your burden for the lost and to open doors for you to share His love.
  3. Make evangelism a priority in each class, group, and ministry.
  4. Establish goals to increase enrollment, attendance, and contacts.
  5. Provide training on how to share your faith.
  6. Provide outreach Bible studies and seminars to meet peoples' needs. (Sequence Evangelism Seminars. Contact the Sunday School Promotion and Training Department for more information.)
  7. Implement the principles of the Church Growth Spiral in your church and Sunday school (Order number 714-898, $39.95).
  8. Provide training for workers in all types of ministry.
  9. Help people to identify and develop their ministry gifts.
  10. Divide classes into care groups to provide fellowship.

Self-centeredness, wrong priorities, and worldly values often keep the church from doing the important things. As Christians we must make Christ's priority our priority. The lost matter to God, and they will matter to us when we keep first thing first.

A Parable

Once upon a time, a church staff was looking for teachers. Some adults said, "I don't want to leave the fellowship and study in my own class." (But the drug pusher said, "Not even the threat of jail will keep me from working with your children.")

Other adults said, "I could never give the time required to plan lessons and attend teachers' meetings." (But the pusher, the porno book dealer, and the movie producer said, "We'll stay open all hours to win the minds of the kids.")

Still more adults said, "I'm unsuited, untrained, and unable to work with children, preschoolers or youth." (But the movie producer said, "We'll study, survey, and spend millions to produce whatever attracts kids.")

So the adults stayed in their classes, enjoyed the fellowship and Bible study, went out of town on weekends, and made plans for Wednesday or Sunday nights instead of attending teachers' meetings.

When Sunday came, the children went to their classes. No one was there except the church staff who tried to assure them someone would come to teach them--soon. But no one ever came, and the young children quit coming. They found others to listen and care about what they did and what went into their minds.


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