Q: My pastor encourages us to reach the lost, and I know that’s important, but I have to be honest—I don’t feel equipped to do it! Honestly, I don’t really know how to go about it in a way that would be authentic and not feel forced or unnatural. Is it normal to feel this way?
A: I know exactly how you feel. Maybe an example from my own life will help you.
I recall the time this confession suddenly blurted out of my mouth as I was praying: “I don't know how to reach people for You!”
I was discouraged and angry at my lack of fruit in the church God had called me to serve for the past 25 years. Standing at the altar in our auditorium, I cried out for direction and anointing to accomplish the mission of our church: to reach people with the gospel and disciple them into spiritual maturity.
In the intensity of the moment, as I revealed my heart to God, I finally admitted the root of my frustration and disappointment: I didn’t know how to reach the lost for Jesus. At that point, I had been in ministry for more than 40 years. I had been a missionary. I had planted churches. I had led the same congregation for 25 years. Yet I was admitting the glaring truth that I had no idea how to reach people for Christ.
I’ve lost count of how many workshops, seminars and conferences I have attended over the years to learn how to evangelize with more relevance and effectiveness in today’s world. I've read enough books to fill a small library regarding the state of the harvest, the socioeconomic and cultural demographics of our latest generations, and the most up-to-date techniques that would make me truly effective at reaching people for Jesus.
However, it appeared that the net result of my information gathering had been to leave me even more insecure about my gifts and skill level to do what God had called me to do. It seemed I wasn’t smart enough, cool enough, creative enough or daring enough to do what the experts were telling me I had to do to reap the harvest.
Thus, the crux of my complaint to the Lord: “You have called me to reach people for You, but I don’t know how to do it!” Almost as soon as I uttered my confession to Jesus, I heard His tender response: “You’re right, Richard. You don’t know how to reach people with the gospel. But I do! My Spirit knows how to reach and impact people in every culture and every generation with My Good News. You just need to let My Spirit lead you and do the work through you.”
It was that simple. God had been drawing this confession out of me all along. I only needed to come to the place where I could see the futility of trusting in my own gifts, skills and passion to reach the harvest for God, and to honestly confess my inadequacies so I could once again trust in the great promise that launched the church into the world: “You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you” (Acts 1:8, NKJV). Then, and only then, will any of us be His witnesses.
I am now walking in new confidence and freedom in ministry. My new motto is, “I don’t know how to reach people, but the Holy Spirit does!” I simply need to focus on following the Spirit’s direction and trust in the Sprit’s power to convict and change hearts. I am asked only to do the easy part. He does all the hard stuff.
What a relief to know that I don’t know! What confidence to know that He does! I am casting my nets out again, but this time I will follow the Master Fisherman’s instructions. That I do know how to do!
By: Richard Casteel, senior pastor of Grace Chapel (Scottsdale Foursquare Church) in Scottsdale, Ariz.