Look up and look out?

By James Merritt

Without a doubt, one of the most important roles of any leader, particularly a pastor, is to cast a vision for the people he leads. Jesus was the master caster of vision. In fact on one occasion, Jesus was talking to his disciples as they were out in the countryside, and he used his very surroundings to cast a vision we should all have every day as believers in the gospel of Christ: “Don’t you have a saying, ‘It’s still four months until harvest’? I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest” (John 4:35, NIV).

One of the missing elements in the church is not just a passion for evangelism but also a vision for evangelism. Casting vision is, for the pastor, important and imperative. It is important that the vision be taught, and it is imperative that the vision be caught. This is very important to understand: a vision that is taught but not caught leads to a pipedream; a vision that is caught and taught leads to a product. The product, in this case, is disciples, for this is what we have all been tasked to do: make disciples.

I have found that casting a vision begins always with the vision caster. That may sound redundant, but a pastor must realize this is the one thing he cannot delegate to anyone else. Your people will simply not see higher or further than you do.

First, you just constantly talk evangelism. From your rising up to your sitting down, from your coming in to your going out, you must talk about compassion for unbelievers, commitment to reaching unbelievers, communicating with unbelievers and God’s desire for the conversion of unbelievers. You can’t talk about Jesu , the gospel or evangelism enough.

Then you must constantly teach evangelism. The best way something is taught is to make sure it is caught by example. Frankly, I don’t understand how a pastor can even sleep well at night if he goes days, weeks and months without sharing his faith, having a list of unbelievers he prays for regularly and letting his people know that he practices what he preaches.

Then you teach it by demonstrating it. One great way to cast vision is by preaching the gospel some way in every sermon. Paul said unapologetically that the gospel to him was of “first importance.” I am convinced whenever you heard Paul preach one thing, you were sure to hear was the gospel. By preaching the gospel, giving people a chance to respond to the gospel and baptizing those who do, you cast a vision both verbally and visually to your people each week you are gathered.

Which, by the way, is one great reason baptism is so very important to the life of the church. This is one way the vision is cast for you! Make much of baptism. Always talk about its importance. Explain its significance. Show exactly why immersion is, in itself, a very picture of the death, burial and resurrection of Christ.

Your church should have various tools, whether it be written or verbal, where a gospel witness can be left or shared. When you use those tools yourself to lead someone to Christ, let it be known. This is why you must constantly testify to evangelism. Never be ashamed to share the when, where and how you brought someone to faith in Christ.

I have proposed a method using four simple concepts: bad news, worse news, good news and best news. Recently, I led two caddies to Christ on a golf course while playing golf and simply shared what I did—how I started the conversation and ended it.

First, I asked permission. I simply asked if they minded if we talked about spiritual things.

Second, I shared the bad news—we are all sinners separated from God.

Third, I shared the worse news—there is nothing we can do to solve our sin problem.

Fourth, I shared the good news—that Jesus did for us what we can not do for ourselves by dying on the cross for our sins and coming back from the dead to seal the payment.

Fifth, I shared the best news—that forgiveness and eternal life are free gifts, therefore, all we have to do is accept it.

Finally, I asked if they would like to pray to receive Christ, and they were ready.

I then end by sharing what I did anyone can do.

Then you must constantly track evangelism. By this I mean you must keep the fire of evangelism burning especially hot in your next-generation ministry. The average age of conversion in America today is 13. That is neither surprising nor discouraging. Indeed, we should want people to trust Christ in their early years, so they can live most of their lives for Jesus! Yes, we must be careful with those who are younger, but the precociousness of children today and their exposure to the ways of the world and its false teaching has never been higher. We should be making disciples beginning with children and intensify it as they mature into adolescence.

Regardless of how you share your vision, you must share a vision, and I think there is no better one than the Lord himself shared. His words are still true—if you will look out and look up you will indeed see ripe fields and fruit ready to be picked. You have the Lord’s word on it.

Published May 30, 2018

James Merritt

Pastor of Cross Pointe Church in Duluth, Georgia.