"A CLOSER WALK WITH GOD" Increasing Opportunities To Share The Gospel INTRODUCTION 1. The importance of sharing the gospel of Christ with those who are lost cannot be over-emphasized... a. Jesus wants everyone to hear the good news of salvation - Mk 16:15-16 b. The gospel is God's power to salvation to all who believe it - Ro 1:16-17 -- BUT WHAT IS THE MOST EFFECTIVE WAY TO REACH PEOPLE TODAY? 2. The Institute For American Church Growth asked over 10,000 people this question: "What was responsible for your coming to Christ and this church?" Their replies were . . . a. I had a special need - 3% b. I just walked in - 3% c. I liked the minister - 6% d. I visited there - 1% e. I liked the Bible classes - 5% f. I attended a gospel meeting - 0.5% g. I liked the programs - 3% h. A FRIEND OR RELATIVE INVITED ME - 79% 3. What do we learn from a survey like this? a. IF CHURCHES ARE TO GROW, IT WILL BE THROUGH THE EFFORTS OF INDIVIDUAL MEMBERS 1) Preachers may help, but in most cases they will only maintain the size of the congregation 2) Such congregational efforts are worthwhile, for they can reach people with whom we might otherwise never come in contact b. THE GREATEST POTENTIAL LIES WITH THOSE PEOPLE WHO HAVE SOME CONTACT WITH MEMBERS OF THE LOCAL CONGREGATION 1) Each of us have daily contact with tens of people who need the gospel of Christ 2) In addition to efforts designed to reach people "en masse" (via television, radio, mail), we need to utilize the contacts made through the members (i.e., provide a "TWO-PRONGED" APPROACH TO EVANGELISM) 4. Two things are needed to utilize the contacts made through individual members a. CONCERN for the lost by those members - cf. Mt 9:36-38 ; Ro 9:1-3 ; 10:1 b. KNOWLEDGE OF HOW we can increase our opportunities to share the gospel with those with whom we frequently come into contact 5. Assuming that the concern is there, in this lesson I wish to share suggestions on HOW anyone who is a Christian can INCREASE THEIR OPPORTUNITIES TO SHARE THE GOSPEL... I. DO THINGS WHICH MAKE FOR A CARING CONGREGATION A. OUR LOVE WILL HELP PROVE THAT WE ARE WHO WE CLAIM - Jn 13:35 1. I.e., that we are truly the disciples of Christ 2. Correct doctrine, organization, worship, etc., is important 3. But it will be our love for one another that will convince the world that we are truly the disciples of Christ! B. OUR LOVE MAKES US USEFUL TO THE LORD - Re 3:7-8 1. The Lord knows the true condition of His churches! 2. If we are a congregation that can be used by Him... a. To reach others with the gospel b. To assimilate them into the Family of God c. To nurture them in their spiritual growth -- Then He will "open doors" for us! 3. But suppose that we are not a place where new Christians can grow spiritually in an atmosphere of love...? C. HERE ARE SOME "ACTION STEPS" TO TAKE... 1. Make it a point to get to know ALL the members by name a. Get a church directory and begin to place names with faces b. Try to learn someone new at each service until you know them all 2. Practice "hospitality" towards the members - 1 Pe 4:8-9 a. Invite them into your home, or out to eat (set a goal of one new family or member per month) b. Visit other Christians frequently (esp. the sick, shut-ins, new members, absent members) II. MAKE A LIST OF SOULS YOU WOULD LIKE TO SEE SAVED A. THIS MAY NOT SEEM IMPORTANT, BUT IT IS! 1. It utilizes a very helpful technique used by people successful in all walks of life (i.e., having a "things to do" list) 2. For us, it helps to focus our attention upon those we hope to reach for the Lord, and not neglect them B. IN MAKING UP THIS LIST... 1. Start with those who are close to you and work outwardly a. Family b. Friends c. Co-workers d. Neighbors e. Relatives of fellow church members f. Regular visitors to the services of the church g. Casual acquaintances (mailman, store clerk, etc.) 2. Limit this list to five or eight souls (a list with too many and you will not be able to focus your efforts effectively) 3. Give priority to those who are the "unchurched" a. I.e., who are not active members of any denomination or particular religion b. Active members of a denomination or religion are often very satisfied with their human traditions and are not as receptive to the pure and simple gospel of Christ 4. Husbands and wives might best just have one list (as the suggestions to follow will require their joint cooperation) C. KEEP THIS LIST WHERE YOU WILL SEE IT DAILY... 1. So you will be constantly reminded of these people 2. So you will be more likely to do the things mentioned next... III. PRAY FOR THESE SOULS ON YOUR LIST DAILY A. THAT GOD WILL WORK TOGETHER WITH YOU... 1. To give you "opportunities" to do good for them - Co 4:3 ; 2 Th 3:1 2. To give you the "wisdom" to make the most of those opportunities - Ep 6:19-20 B. THAT THOSE ON YOUR LIST WILL... 1. Have the opportunity to hear the truth 2. Have honest hearts to be open and receptive to the truth C. REMEMBER, IT IS GOD WHO GIVES THE INCREASE - 1 Co 3:5-7 1. We are but servants whom God can use in His providential workings 2. So though we may work as though it all depends upon us, let us pray as though it all depends upon God! IV. DO THINGS WHICH DEMONSTRATE YOUR LOVE FOR THEM A. THE IMPORTANCE OF THIS SUGGESTION... 1. "People don't care how much we know until they know how much we care!" 2. A demonstration of love will make a person more likely to be receptive to the gospel of love when it is shared! - cf. 1 Pe 2:12 B. SOME "ACTION STEPS" TO TAKE... 1. Invite them into your home for a dinner or snack 2. Visit them, especially in times of trial or sickness 3. Do things with them on a social level V. INVITE THOSE ON YOUR LIST TO ATTEND SERVICES A. REASONS TO WANT THEM ATTENDING SERVICES... 1. They will (or should) have an opportunity to see a caring congregation in action a. Combined with your own demonstration of love as an individual b. ...the demonstration of love by others should make a lasting impression 2. They will more likely have an opportunity to be presented with the gospel of Christ (more on this, shortly) B. AS YOU PREPARE TO INVITE THESE SOULS, BE SURE TO PRAY... 1. Asking for "wisdom" to invite them in the best manner 2. Asking for "boldness" to offer the invitation to attend VI. DEMONSTRATE LOVE TOWARDS THOSE VISITORS WHO DO ATTEND A. WHETHER INVITED BY YOU, SOMEONE ELSE, OR ARE "WALK-INS"... 1. Greet them, let them know they are welcome 2. Invite them home or out for a dinner or snack 3. Call or visit them, after they have attended - cf. He 13:2 ; Ro 12:13 b B. IN DOING SUCH THINGS, YOU ARE PREPARING THEIR HEARTS FOR THE GOSPEL... 1. For by demonstrating love as a congregation of Christians... 2. ...they will be more likely to believe in the love of God demonstrated in the life of Christ! - 1 Pe 2:11-12 VII. SEE THAT THEY HAVE AN OPPORTUNITY TO HEAR THE GOSPEL A. IDEALLY, THIS WILL COME AFTER WITNESSING A DEMONSTRATION OF THE GOSPEL "IN OUR LIVES"... 1. By our love, hospitality, etc. 2. Both as individuals and as a congregation B. IF YOU FEEL CONFIDENT IN TEACHING OTHERS, THEN APPROACH THEM YOURSELF AND SUGGEST... 1. A home Bible study with them (using aids like video tapes, charts, or simply an open Bible) 2. Or that they study on their own with the aid of a Bible correspondence course C. IF YOU DO NOT FEEL YOU ARE YET CAPABLE TO APPROACH THEM CONCERNING A STUDY, OR IN CONDUCTING THE STUDY YOURSELF... 1. Bring it to the attention of members who are able and willing to teach 2. Provide opportunities for the teacher and the prospect to become better acquainted, and the teacher can take it from there CONCLUSION 1. These suggestions are offered... a. With a FIRM CONVICTION that if they will be carried out, opportunities to share the gospel and save souls will be greatly increased! b. With the HOPE that you will accept the challenge to implement these suggestions 2. This approach is not only the MOST SUCCESSFUL in saving and keeping souls, it is also one of the MOST NATURAL and easiest ways to reach the lost for Christ! a. Remember the survey by The Institute For American Church Growth? b. One does not even have to be able to teach to be effective in leading others to Christ! c. One simply has to be a FRIEND to Christians and to the lost! 3. And even if we do not convert a single soul... a. We will have fulfilled our obligation to share Christ with others b. We will have done it in such a way as to become better CHRISTIANS, a better CONGREGATION, better FRIENDS, better NEIGHBORS, better CO-WORKERS, etc.! SUGGESTIONS FOR IMPLEMENTATION BY A CONGREGATION OR A FEW INTERESTED INDIVIDUALS... 1. Have those interested in being involved meet together on a weekly basis 2. Encourage one another to SET GOALS for the coming week a. Share ideas for goals; for example... 1) Having over or visiting one person or family from the congregation 2) Making a list of souls for which to begin praying 3) What you plan to do to demonstrate your love and concern for those on your list 4) Who you will invite to services 5) What visitors you will call, visit, etc. 6) Who you will offer to have a study, or put in contact with someone who will follow-up with a study b. Write the goals for the coming week down c. Pray about them, together and on your own throughout the week 3. At each weekly meeting... a. Share and discuss how the goals are being met b. Set new goals for the coming week c. Write them, pray about them This simple program should easily increase opportunities to share the gospel and bring many souls to Christ!