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All Things to All People

How can we teach the lost?

You Ought to Be Teachers! (3)

For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win the more…I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some. 1 Corinthians 9.19, 22

To teach the lost
The writer of Hebrews says we “ought to be teachers.” As we have seen, that means we as disciples of Jesus Christ need to work hard at teaching one another, using the basic doctrines and more profound and demanding teachings of the faith to build one another up in the Lord. We should be growing together as we consider Jesus and urge one another on to maturity in Him.

No Christian is exempt from this calling; each of us needs to discover the best ways faithfully to fulfill our calling to teach other Christians. As J. I. Packer wrote in his book about growing older, Finishing Our Course with Joy, there are always new things we can learn and new people we can lead in being and making disciples.                             

But we’re also called to teach the lost. In fact, Jesus has given us His Spirit and promised us His power so that we might be His witnesses to the lost people around us (Acts 1.8). Like teaching our fellow Christians, teaching the lost requires that we keep a few things in mind.

Works and words
First, it is important that we remember that good works, as necessary as they are, will save no one. People do not come to faith in Jesus Christ by observing our good works.

Now it’s true that the lack of good works can be a stumbling block for those we might be trying to persuade to believe the Gospel. We don’t want to hinder our teaching about Christ by failing to live like Him. Good works are the ways we show Christ’s love to the people around us, so we should be zealous to do them and always ready for every opportunity to show the love of Jesus to the people in our Personal Mission Field (Tit. 2.14; 3.1, 8, 14).

But the power of the Gospel is not transmitted by works alone; rather, the Gospel must be communicated by words, words that convey the Good News that Jesus Christ, crucified for our sins, has been raised for our justification, so that we, by grace through faith, might follow Him as Savior and King, and enjoy the blessings of eternal life, here and forevermore. That is the Gospel, and no one will come to faith and salvation apart from hearing this Good News (Rom. 10.14).

Be consistent in living the hope of the Gospel, and you might pique others to want to learn it from you about that hope (1 Pet. 3.15).

Second, we need to understand the mindset and needs of the lost people we’re trying to teach. Like the ancient sons of Issachar, we must try to understand the times in which we live, and the people to whom God has sent us, so that we might know both what to do and what to say (1 Chron. 12.32).

Sometimes the language of the Gospel, so precious to us in the household of faith, can sound like religious gibberish to our lost neighbors. Moreover, the things we find to be so meaningful about our relationship with Jesus might not speak to them at all; they may have other needs and interests that focus their thoughts and capture their affections. We won’t be effective as teachers if we insist on speaking in our language rather than theirs – the language of their interests and needs.

If we’re going to “be all things” to the people around us, in order that by “all means” some of them might come to know the Lord and join us as His followers, we need to become good listeners and ready responders.

Work hard!
As good listeners we will take the time to get to know people. We’ll invite them to talk about themselves, their background and interests, their hopes, longings, disappointments, and fears. As caring listeners we’ll take our friends and the things that matter to them to the Lord in prayer, asking Him for wisdom to teach them Jesus in ways specific to their interests and needs. We’ll want to talk often with people, doing our best to keep the focus on them, so that we might learn better how to share the Good News of Jesus.

Then, we’ll look for various means whereby we might do that – our personal testimony, for example, or the story of how a friend came to find in Jesus the hope of glory. Perhaps we will come across a book or a CD of hymns or other Christian music that we can share. Or maybe we can connect our lost friend with a Christian we know who has a similar story.

We’ll need to think in terms of ongoing conversations with the lost people in our lives, to build the relationships and credibility teaching Jesus to them requires. Pray faithfully for the lost. Take a sincere interest in them. Engage them in conversation as you can. And be ready to turn your conversations toward spiritual matters as the Lord leads.

If we really want to teach the lost people in our everyday lives, we’ll have to work hard through listening, prayer, searching the Scriptures, gathering resources, and making the most of every opportunity to sow the Word of Truth into their lives. We’ll need patience, grace, and a nonjudgmental attitude if we’re going to keep a conversation going with our lost neighbors.

We are called to teach them, and we have been empowered for the task by God’s indwelling Spirit. The responsibility for making that witness happen, however, is entirely on us.

For reflection
1.  Why do you think Christians are reluctant to talk to their lost friends about the Lord?

2.  Outline your own personal testimony of the difference Jesus has made in your life.

3.  How can followers of Jesus encourage one another to greater faithfulness in teaching others about Jesus?

Next steps – Preparation: Begin praying daily for the lost people you will see that day. Look for opportunities to get to know them and to begin showing them the love of Jesus. Make this part of your daily life as a follower of Jesus.

T. M. Moore

You can download all the studies in this series, “Disciples Making Disciples,” by clicking here.

Two books can help you prepare for teaching opportunities with the lost people in your Personal Mission Field. The first, Understanding the Times, provides background understanding for what lost people think and how they live. Order your free copy by clicking here. The Gospel of the Kingdom will allow you to work through your understanding of the Gospel, so that you’re ready to teach it whenever an opportunity arises. A free copy can be yours by clicking here.

Thanks for your prayers and support
If you find ReVision helpful in your walk with the Lord, please seek the Lord, asking Him whether you should contribute to the support of this daily ministry with your financial gifts. As the Lord leads, you can use the Contribute button at the website to give with a credit card or through PayPal, or you can send your gift to The Fellowship of Ailbe, 360 Zephyr Road, Williston, VT 05495.

Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in the Champlain Valley of Vermont.
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