by Al Engler
When we moved into our home, we learned that our next-door neighbor was hosting an “open table” every Thursday evening at her place. We changed our schedule so that we would be free to attend these dinner parties. What did we do there? We engaged in delightful and quality conversations. We met people we otherwise wouldn’t have met.
Over the years, we’ve seen people come to faith from those dinners. A few of the people we met there are currently reading the Bible with us. More than that, we love the people we’ve gotten to know as our neighbor opened her relational network to us. You might say that they burn in our hearts.
How do we gain such a heart for the lost? Time and prayer. Just as we develop a heart for God by spending time with Him in the Word and prayer, so our heart for people develops as we spend time with them and as we pray for them.
Paul exhorts the Colossians, “Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person” (Colossians 4:5,6, ESV). Here Paul envisions Christ-followers who are spending quality time walking with people outside of the faith. They are having conversations characterized by grace-filled and thirst-creating interaction.
I’m sure it’s been your experience as well that we also gain such a heart for people as we pray for them. Paul tied this concept of prayer and heart together when he wrote, “Dear brothers and sisters, the longing of my heart and my prayer to God is that the Jewish people might be saved” (Romans 10:1, NLT). His prayers for his Jewish brothers and the deep longing he felt for them were inextricably linked. You might say the lost burned in his heart.
Looking again at this part of our vision statement, the last phrase talks about moving the gospel into the nations. It is helpful to contrast the word into with the word to. The gospel moves first to a people group and then into a people group. To move the gospel to a people requires taking the message to a new place. As an earlier sentence of our vision puts it, “Crossing cultures into new cities and nations, teams of mobile pioneers intentionally proclaim and embody the good news of Jesus Christ.”
Once that has taken place and the gospel has gained a foothold, it is up to the natural insiders to move the gospel into that place through loving interaction with the people there. This way of living is what causes the gospel to take root and bear ongoing and generational fruit in a place.
At the center of it all, however, are Christ-followers with hearts afire for the lost. We can only disciple others to have a heart for the lost if we ourselves have a such a heart. The cares and demands of this world can easily begin to smother our passion. May the time we spend with our neighbors and in prayer for them keep the flames burning brightly.
For Your Consideration:
- How are you “spending quality time walking with people outside of the faith”? What natural interests do you have—music, sports, hobbies, and the like—that could help you develop friendships?
- As you pray about the people in your life who don’t yet know Jesus, is there anyone that you feel led to get to know better? What first step might you take to develop that relationship? Or, how might you further develop an existing friendship?
- If you haven’t already, think about how you might incorporate regular prayer for the lost into your time with God. What Scriptures could you pray for them?
Al Engler is the director of Navigators Neighbors in the US. You can subscribe to their blog @ http://www.navneighbors.org/Blog