January is an exciting month with new opportunities. A new calendar is full of possibilities. Many lay down resolutions; others make commitments or goals. Don’t you love the potential of a new year to become a new you?
What if the new year and new you brought about a new church too — a church eager to bring the hope of Christ to a lost world?
Developing a love for a culture that needs Christ takes a church with a heart for outreach and evangelism. The local church that stands on the Word of God — but isn’t evangelizing — is neglecting the primary call of the Word of God. From the pulpit to the pew, we must raise the bar for the work of personal evangelism outreach.
The current default is to separate spiritual things from the rest of life. But the gospel impacts all of life, and Christ calls us to live and share the gospel. Gospel advancement is about relationships. To share the gospel, one must intentionally build relationships.
Engaging people in spiritual conversations, like swinging at good pitches, comes with practice and determination.
Making disciples of all nations requires meeting the general population, crossing generational barriers and engaging in conversation. In John 9, Jesus engages a man who was born blind. During this extended conversation, Jesus modeled the process of a “new you” becoming a new church too.
Here are six questions to consider based on this interaction as you lead your church into the new year.
1. Am I genuinely interested in the spiritual condition of others?
Jesus and His disciples were passing by a man born blind. The disciples asked Jesus about the spiritual cause of his blindness, assuming illness stems from sin. Jesus said it wasn’t due to sin but so that God’s works might be displayed. They were interested in the man’s spiritual condition.
In theory, every believer should be highly interested in others’ spiritual conditions. However, the number of baptisms churches are seeing in a year brings this interest into question. How many people have you come across in the past week? Did their spiritual condition cross your mind? Did you engage them in outreach and evangelism? How interested are you in the spiritual condition of those you pass by daily?
2. Do I initiate conversations?
John’s account of this moment tells of Jesus turning from the disciples, spitting on the ground and putting mud on the man’s eyes. There was likely some type of interaction with the man between Jesus talking to His disciples and making mud. But even if Jesus said nothing, He still initiated the process. The question for us is: Are we taking the initiative?
Not taking the initiative is effortless, isn’t it? I can easily go in and out of the grocery store and say nothing. I go in, get my things and self-check my way out. But I haven’t engaged anyone. I don’t initiate conversation. Taking initiative is a choice and, in our culture today, isolation is a learned behavior. However, starting conversations will be necessary for transforming the culture with Christ.
3. Do I make a Jesus-impact on the lives of others?
Jesus smeared mud on the blind man’s eyes and told him to wash in the Siloam pool. When the man returned, he could see. What an impact! When the Pharisees began questioning, the man dared to answer. When his parents didn’t want to be involved, he stood firm. And when they wanted him to repeat, the man engaged them about their spiritual condition.
You may not make the blind see, the lame walk or the mute speak. However, there are a thousand ways you can affect someone’s life as the Holy Spirit works through you in your everyday actions and conversations. Even before you inquire about their spiritual destination, you can touch lives so that people feel peace and joy as a result of being in your presence. How do people act after they’ve been around you?
4. Do I intentionally seek to follow up with people?
Jesus heard the Pharisees had thrown the man out. When Jesus found him, He followed up on the earlier conversation. So many times, we begin a conversation but never finish it. Obviously, there are times when you cannot continue at the moment so, if possible, we need to intentionally follow up on the conversation at another time. Seek out the same cashier another day. Ask for the same server you had before. Make it a point to seek them out and continue the conversation. You can have micro-conversations with them until that special moment arrives.
5. Do I invite people to believe and follow Jesus?
Now the moment has arrived to invite people to believe. Jesus meets with this man and pops the question of belief. All the time you’ve spent getting to know this person has prepared you for this moment. The time spent in prayer learning to love this person as God does has prepared your heart for this moment.
In one of the follow-up moments, the Spirit will move you to ask the question of belief. Will you pull the trigger? First, ask the person about their spiritual beliefs or their spiritual story. Listen carefully. Actively listen to their story and empathize with them. This connection is vital for trust and the opportunity to discuss Jesus.
6. Do I guide them in discipleship?
Once the man believed, Jesus began teaching him. When someone responds to Jesus in faith, you must continue walking with them in a discipleship role. First, make sure they have a Bible. Encourage them to read a chapter and then ask about it the next time you see them. Then start meeting with them one-on-one to walk through Scripture together and pray. You’re their spiritual parent, and it’s time to train them in the way they should go.
Help your congregation examine their responses to these questions. With each question, rate yourself on a scale of 1 (“Not me”) to 10 (“Exactly me”). Which ones are 5 or below? Why? Take time to pray, asking God to reveal why you are that way. What would it take to increase by one? Again, pray and seek the Holy Spirit’s help.
As you think of committing to a “new you” this year, consider how you could be a part of helping someone else become a new person this year. As new lives are being shaped by the gospel, your church will come alive with the presence of the Spirit.
What kind of year will you and your church have? Will it be one of outreach and evangelism?
This post originally appeared on Lifeway Research.
Published January 18, 2023