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Reaching the Unchurched Requires Relationships

Illuminate“When Jesus heard this, he said, ‘Healthy people don’t need a doctor—sick people do.’ Then he added, ‘Now go and learn the meaning of this Scripture: “I want you to show mercy, not offer sacrifices.” For I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners.’” Matthew 9:12-13 (NLT)

A friend of mine once belonged to a cult, and he told me he never once felt fear when he told people about the things he believed. But, after becoming a Christian, he said he was filled with fear when he began sharing his faith.

It’s a powerful reminder that we do not struggle “against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (Ephesians 6:12 NIV).

The enemy doesn’t want us to share our faith, and so he fights us with fear. But God does not give us his spirit to make us slaves again to fear; he fills us with his spirit to show us we are his children and that he is “Abba, Father” (Romans 8:15-16).

Some interesting research by Sam Rainer of Rainer Research suggests that only five percent of the unchurched in America are likely to be highly resistant to the Gospel, antagonistic toward Christians, or belligerent in their conversations with and about Christians. At five percent, Sam says these “hardcore unchurched” account for about 8 million people, but he estimates the other 152 million who are unchurched are far more open to hearing the Gospel.

That being the case, we’re more likely to find people open to the Gospel than not, and the things we often fear will happen will only happen — if they happen — with a very small minority of those outside the Church.

When it comes to reaching those most resistant to the Gospel, Sam says we need to be prepared to defend our faith and to deal directly with misperceptions about Christianity. We also need to be sensitive to their hurt and anger.

Most of all — and this is true with anyone we want to talk to about Jesus — we have to develop relationships with those outside the Church. When the religious leaders expressed a concern that Jesus was making friends with the unchurched, Jesus said, “Healthy people don’t need a doctor—sick people do. . . . For I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners” (Matthew 9:12b, 13b NLT).

During your prayer time today:

•       Ask God to reveal to you two people he wants you to talk to about Jesus.

•       Ask him to prepare their hearts for hearing the Gospel.

•       Also, ask him to prepare your heart for talking to them.

Then, in faith, step past your fears and believe Jesus is already at work creating a “divine appointment” for you to talk to them. Now, watch for the way he answers your prayer.

May God anoint you this week as you share your faith.

Jon Walker’s new book, In Visible Fellowship: A Contemporary View of Bonhoeffer’s Classic Work “Life Together,” is an explanation of why every believer needs to be involved in a small group and why small groups put flesh on the Body of Christ.

Jon Walker is managing editor of Rick Warren’s Daily Hope Devotionals. © 2011 Jon Walker. Used by permission.

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