Jerry Ferrso is an associate pastor at Lancaster Baptist Church. He and his wife, Bonnie, have been serving with me in ministry for almost twenty-five years. I appreciate their faithfulness and the opportunity to labor together with them. Jerry directs the soulwinning and outreach ministries of our church. I asked him to write the post below about making the Great Commission one of our highest summer priorities.
As church leaders, we challenge others to reach the lost. We remind them it is Christ’s last command and should be our first priority. We encourage them to schedule time for purposeful outreach.
But sometimes we need to step back and ask ourselves, Am I doing it? Am I actually reaching people with the gospel?
It’s easy to go through motions without fulfilling the heart of the Great Commission—leading people to salvation through Jesus Christ.
How can we keep reaching souls a priority in our lives? Below are four reminders:
1. Remember you’ve been commissioned to go.
There is something encouraging to me in remembering that God has specifically commissioned me with His gospel. I am His ambassador.
And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.—Mark 16:15
When we remember that we’ve been commissioned to deliver a message with this urgency and importance, it adds weight to our responsibility.
2. Remember you need compassion as you go.
The ministry of Jesus was characterized with compassion. He didn’t see people as numbers but as souls. Even as Christ gave His disciples the Great Commission, He reminded them of the eternal needs attached to fulfilling it.
He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.—Mark 16:16
One of the interns in our ministry recently asked me how to stay motivated in his witness. Remembering this verse, I replied, “The reality of Hell is a huge motivation.” In truth, it is.
It’s easy to become halfhearted in our witness—to become content with simply inviting people to church or handing them a gospel tract. Of course, at times this is the most appropriate course of action. However, sometimes we become lackadaisical because we are hardened to eternal realities.
Jesus saw the multitudes and was moved with compassion. Remembering the reality of Hell and the truth of the gospel should thrust us into action; it should add an urgency to our witness.
3. Remember you need to connect with people.
I’ll never forget a conversation I had as a teenager. A newly saved Christian, I was a young soulwinner and eager to share the gospel. While on a scheduled time of soulwinning in the streets of my city, I asked a man on the street my lead in question: “Are you 100 percent sure that if you were to die today you would go to Heaven?”
His reply surprised me: “That’s really a personal question.”
At first, I was taken aback. But the more I thought about it, I realized that yes, asking people about their relationship with God is a personal question. Therefore, I need to learn how to develop a personal connection with people before I ask this question.
The Apostle Paul recognized the need to connect with people as well, and he was willing to go to any inconvenience to create a bridge with those he longed to reach.
To the weak became I as weak, that I might gain the weak: I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some. And this I do for the gospel’s sake,—1 Corinthians 9:22–23
Connection takes place in two ways. First, it happens when common ground is shared. This requires being observant. It may be as simple as noticing a ball cap someone is wearing of the team you follow; it may be seeing the piano in the living room and asking who plays; it may be commenting on the roses in the yard. Take a moment to establish a sense of common ground with those with whom you speak.
Second, connection takes place when people sense your love. Although they may not put it into words, people can sense if our motives in reaching them are rooted in compassion and genuine love. Of course, this requires that we really do have compassion and genuine love.
4. Remember you need the Holy Spirit to bring conviction.
Ultimately, it is the Holy Spirit who is the true Soulwinner. Only He can convict people of their need for Christ and convince them to place their faith in Him.
Nevertheless I tell you the truth; It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you. And when he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: Of sin, because they believe not on me;—John 16:7–9
It is encouraging to me to remember that this delicate work of conviction is not my job—only the Holy Spirit can work on the heart.
However, the Holy Spirit does use His Word to bring conviction. Thus it is our responsibility to share God’s Word with those who do not know Christ. The Holy Spirit then uses His Word to point out the person’s sin and the righteousness available through Christ.
Are you looking?
Over the years, I’ve noticed that my oldest daughter seems to have a gift for shopping. Not only does she love to do it, but when she goes out, she brings something home—every time!
Jaclyn’s success in shopping is simple: she goes out looking—specifically, attentively.
If we would go out soulwinning with the same tenacity of focus—specifically, attentively looking to reach the lost—perhaps we would be more successful in our efforts.
Are we going out as a matter of duty? A preplanned part of “ministry”? Or are we going because we’ve been commissioned by God? Are we seeking to show others the compassion of Christ? Are we remembering the eternal realities of the people we meet and then earnestly seeking to make a connection with them? Are we taking the conversation beyond a simple invitation to church, sharing God’s Word, and allowing the Holy Spirit to bring conviction?
Are we fulfilling a routine? Or are we truly reaching the lost?