Do we have a vision for helping the lost to find Jesus? Then we should continue in an active pursuit of souls. We should do all we can to win them to the Lord. There are many opportunities and ways to reach out to the lost.
Our evangelism should first be bathed in prayer, and our spirit needs to be in tune with the Spirit of God. If we happen to meet someone in need or have an opportunity to share the Gospel in any way, prayer is so important to prepare our own heart and the heart of the one in need. Also, prayer can help us to share the right words, as we see in 1Peter 3:15, “But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear.”
According to Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 25, we should be trying to minister to people’s physical needs such as water, food, and clothing. Visitation of the sick and visits to prisons are also part of what we see here. James 1:27 is relevant: “Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.”
If we had been with Jesus in His time here on earth, think of how many times His travels would have taken us to the homes of the sick and dying. He visited people’s homes and ate with them and allowed poor needy people to minister to Him as He ministered to them. One example of this was when a needy woman met Jesus at Simon the leper’s house in Bethany (Mark 14:3-9).
The apostles carried on this ministry of preaching the Word, not only in larger public assemblies but also in homes and small groups. In Acts 10 we have a classic example of preaching God’s Word in a home setting.
As we think of making evangelism practical, let us start with those who visit our church services. They may be visitors from another church fellowship or strangers from our community. The words of a song come to mind:
There’s a welcome waiting
for those at the door,
For the blind, the beggar,
for the lame, the poor.
There’s a welcome waiting
for all men at the door,
Where the beams from the lighthouse
shine out evermore.
What a challenge that there be a welcome at the doors of our congregations for the needy ones from our communities. We need to make an effort to meet them and visit with them. We should invite them to our homes and try to befriend them. Our children need to learn to relate to such visitors and not stare or make unkind comments about them. Their practices or appearance may be different from ours, but a warm welcome and friendliness goes a long way. One day in visiting with a man who once knew the Lord but returned later to a life of sin, he told me this, “If anyone from your community comes to your church to visit, be sure to go visit them in their home when you can.” This is good advice.
Visiting in community homes is another area of practical outreach. This could be a visit as a family or a cottage meeting. On one occasion two brethren felt God’s leading to visit a needy home. The lady of the house said she was having some real struggles and had a spiritual need. That morning she had asked God to send someone to her home to help her. That day she gave her heart to Christ.
If the television or other entertainment is getting the attention, our visit may have limited value, and we need to guard our children. If we are conducting a cottage meeting, such entertainment should be turned off. A cottage meeting should include singing, a clear word from the Bible, and a fitting prayer for the person or family.
The next area of focus is bedfast people or shut-ins. They may be terminally ill or accident victims. Our visit may be in a hospital, retirement home, or private home. If we know whom to visit or where to go, God can use this to minister to the needs of the individual, relatives who may be present, and even other personnel involved. In Central America we have observed that many clergy do not visit the sick or bedfast people because they detract from their “public ministry” and do not contribute to their salary. But an appropriate visit or series of visits may be exactly what brings these people to the feet of Jesus.
Once, a strong, able-bodied logger was suddenly struck with terminal cancer. As he lay on his cot in a rapidly declining condition, friends from the local congregation often came to visit, share food, and sing for him and his family. He later got converted and was baptized on the same cot. His testimony was, “I was a strong logger and could have easily died in the woods, but God brought me to this bed to find Him.” As far as we know, this gentleman died a saved man. Singing, testimonies, and specific prayer for the sick are Scriptural practices, and we find men of God and Jesus Himself taking time for such. Let us do the same.
Our ministry to retirement homes is another area to think about. Too many times our approach can be, “Well, who has to go sing at the old folk’s home today?” So if our name is on the list we go, and if it’s not, we stay home or do something we think is more interesting. But can we see this work as an opportunity to reach souls? We may see in our audience many who are happy to hear us sing and even help us sing old Gospel hymns. I often ask myself, “Are these folks truly ready to meet God? Are they living as disciples of Jesus? If they die before our next service with them, which is a real possibility, will they go to heaven?” Our singing and Bible readings should present a clear Gospel message, and again, prayer should be a part of our ministry to the elderly.
About twenty years ago a man of God involved in this type of ministry developed a special burden for a stroke victim in such a home. He spent time visiting with him and testifying to him and praying for him. Eventually he got converted and became a member of a conservative Mennonite congregation, and after his death was buried in the church’s cemetery. This stands as a challenge to me as I think on this type of outreach work.
Recently a group of young people were singing in a retirement home. At the end of the service, the nurses asked the leader of the group if they would please take time to sing in another room for an old man whom they expected to die very soon. The group consented and were very blessed to see the response of the old gentleman along with the family and staff at his bedside. The next day a pastor from the local congregation returned to visit him again. Thinking about the possibilities could add an inspiring dimension to our ministry in retirement homes.
Ministry in drug rehabs, halfway houses, and prisons is another blessed opportunity. Most of these, either by choice or by default, find themselves in need of changing their ways. They know, at least in some measure, the penalty of sin. We have the privilege and responsibility to share the Good News with such people if we at all can. They may have a lot of questions, and Jesus teaches us in Matthew 25 to visit even in prisons to find candidates for the Kingdom of God.
Cleanup work, rebuilding projects, and other relief work also give opportunity to reach out to people in need. Anyone who has participated in this type of ministry can testify of the rewards. In fact, churches have been started when God’s people mobilized to an area of need and by word and deed left a testimony for God’s glory, and here is one place where actions speak louder than words.
CD and tract distribution along with community visitation is another area of service. Our interest in people who need Jesus should motivate us to action. Go in prayer, you may meet about any kind of people, but God can give us the appropriate words in the moment we need them. Most of all we must let our light shine for Him and be willing to share our testimony.
If we work day by day with someone who is not a Christian or who has fallen away from God, let us pray for them. If they are having a bad day, tell them you care. Learn from them about the work you do together, and express appreciation when they help you. Compliment them when they do a good job. When opportunity arises, ask them how it is in their relationship with God. Be a consistent witness. Shine the light on the path, don’t shine it in their eyes.
Quite obviously, we have not looked at all areas of evangelistic ministry, but may God lay upon our hearts a vision of what we can do for Him while the door of opportunity is still open. The night cometh when no man can work.