While there may not be a magic bullet that can help motivate a congregation to reach out to the lost (or at least invite them to your church), there is a key principle.
I had been open air preaching in Santa Monica here in Southern California, when Arnold Schwarzenegger and his wife walked by. Knowing that wise men follow stars, I followed them and watched them go into the Gap clothing store. I snuck around the back and went in a side entrance, and there I was standing in the gap for Arnold Schwarzenegger.
I had given out thousands of gospel tracts. However, as he walked toward me, I became starstruck, and instead of doing what I normally do and greeting the person, I just held out the tract. Before I could say a word, he let out a deep and loud, “No!” It was all over. I didn’t get to say a word. Fortunately, a short time later, a younger member of our team spent about 15 minutes sharing the gospel with him and his wife.
The next week, three times the number of people showed up to our outreach team. Three times the number! I had found the key to motivating Christians to reach out to the lost—Hollywood celebrities.
In all seriousness, though, my point is this: Every one of us should have an excitement about the gospel that’s far greater than the superficiality of sighting a Hollywood celebrity. We have found everlasting life! The Apostle Paul called what we have in Christ, “the unspeakable gift.” Unfortunately for many, it is indeed unspeakable. Most of us are paralyzed into silence by our fears. They see that reaching this world is indeed a Goliath task.
Despite having the greatest news this world could ever hope to hear, we have a big problem. No one wants to hear it. This sinful world not only loves the darkness and hates the light (see John 3:19), none of them understand or seek after God (see Romans 3:11). As if that wasn’t enough, they are the victims of a powerful delusion.
The Dunning-Kruger Effect
The Dunning-Kruger Effect was the result of a study published by two psychologists back in 1999. They found that a person’s lack of knowledge and skills in a certain area caused them to overestimate their own competence. In other words, we are deluded into thinking that we can jump higher, run faster, and sing better than we can. The Dunning-Kruger Effect is never more evident than when we judge ourselves morally—“Most every man will proclaim his own goodness” (Proverbs 20:6).
Fortunately, God has given us a smooth stone to take down this Goliath. His Law (the Ten Commandments) show us that we are not good. When we examine the Commandments as Jesus did, (see Mark 10:17-19) we automatically address the conscience. That’s where God guides the stone. When the rich young ruler asked how he could find everlasting life, Jesus didn’t use some powerful apologetical argument. He simply addressed his conscience by pointing to the Ten Commandments, which bring the knowledge of sin (see Mark 10:17-19 and Romans 7:7,13).
Let me show you how powerful that Law is by sharing one of many similar emails that came to our ministry. This is from a new Christian who stumbled upon our YouTube channel. He was wanting to share the gospel but struggled as to how to do that. In other words, he had an empty sling:
“I prayed and stumbled across your channel, which I watched countless times. I was, at the time, a Tennessee State Trooper working the third shift. One night God put it on my heart strongly to share his Word in this way [using the Ten Commandments] with my friend, a fellow police officer. At the end of sharing the gospel, he had tears in his eyes and said, ‘All my life I’ve been in many different churches. I knew Jesus died on a cross, but no one ever told me why.’ He accepted Jesus as his savior. He then called more of his friends to come hear the gospel, and by the end of the night, the entire shift had given their lives to Christ. Since then, we started a weekly bible study in my home that grew to over 50 people, mostly strangers we met sharing his word…”
Dealing with Fear
The fear of man is truly a snare (see Proverbs 29:25). We, therefore, need something to help us to get out of the snare. Why do I witness almost daily? What is it that overcomes my fears? It is the knowledge that I have a sobering moral obligation. I am like a doctor who has found a cure to cancer. I whisper to myself, with Paul, “Woe unto me if I preach not the gospel” (1 Corinthians 9:16).
Think of a firefighter who finds himself at the base of a burning building. He looks up to see a woman and two children on the fifth story, screaming in terror for help. Within minutes the flames will burn this precious family alive. He, therefore, forces himself to climb a 60-foot ladder. What he is about to do terrifies him. But he’s not thinking of his fears. He’s thinking of that poor woman, her precious children, and their terrible fate.
Such is the way we deal with our fears—being fearful of not being able to answer questions, fear of rejection, and the fear of approaching a stranger. The book of Jude even uses a firefighter analogy by saying, “And on some have compassion, making a distinction; but others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire, hating even the garment defiled by the flesh” (Jude 22-23, NKJV).
Note the nature of our motivation— “on some have compassion.” Evangelism is another word for compassion. If we don’t love people, we won’t evangelize. And that’s the root cause of a failure to overcome our fears. The firefighter who does nothing, when he sees people in mortal danger, is a coward. Charles Spurgeon said, “Have you no wish for others to be saved, then you’re not saved yourself, be sure of that.” Harsh words, but they are so needed for the self-indulgent contemporary Church.
If you’re not sure how to use the Ten Commandments to bring the knowledge of sin, you can freely listen to our teaching called, “Hell’s Best Kept Secret,” which is on the bottom of the Homepage of livingwaters.com. That will help you get started.