Peter, James, and John knew how to catch fish, but Jesus challenged them to fish for people. And when it comes to fishing, this principle applies: The smaller the net, the smaller the catch. Jesus cast a large net when he told his disciples, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8).
Are we casting a wide enough net to advance the kingdom of God? In an article called “Why You Must Double the Size of Your Geographical Target Area” (seniorpastorcentral.com), Brian Jones says he was surprised when he saw a Google map showing where people live who attend the congregation he leads, Christ’s Church of the Valley in suburban Philadelphia. For 17 years CCV focused its marketing and ministries exclusively on residents living within a 10-mile radius of their building, only to discover that a sizeable number of people involved at CCV live outside that 10-mile radius. Brian admits his church has missed evangelism opportunities because for years he’s been saying, “People won’t drive that far,” when actually people were already doing it.
The Lord’s instruction in Luke chapter 14 stretches our thinking about effective outreach.
Pursue the Underserved and the Overlooked
When you plan a luncheon or dinner, Jesus said, your guest list shouldn’t focus on easy targets like friends, family, and wealthy neighbors who will repay you with reciprocal invitations to their own social gatherings. No, Jesus said, “Invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed” (Luke 14:12-14).
Are we overlooking the needs of individuals who live right under our noses? If we focus only on “Jerusalem” and “Judea” (others like ourselves who live nearby), we will miss opportunities to serve and reach our “Samaria” (groups culturally or ethnically different from ourselves), not to mention others who reside in “the ends of the earth”—in the far-flung nations of the world.
In Indianapolis where I live, individuals from China, Korea, Egypt, Japan, and other countries come to our church building for a weekly ministry called English Talk Time. Previously these neighbors were overlooked in our church’s programs. Now each week volunteers from our church teach English, build relationships, and share the gospel with these new friends. Have you been overlooking anyone in your ministry area?
Go to Those Who Can’t Come to You
Not everyone is mobile, and some who can drive will not travel to our church buildings. In Jesus’ story, the rules of engagement require, “Go out quickly into the streets and alleys of the town” (v. 21). And since there is still more room at the banquet table, Jesus said, “Go out to the roads and country lanes and compel them to come in” (v. 23). Notice, it’s “go out to them,” not just “hope they will show up.”
People loved by God live on city streets and country lanes, on college campuses and military bases, in apartment buildings and gated condominiums, in hospitals, nursing homes, grass huts, and prison cells. Pockets of unreached people abound. Will we step into their environment instead of waiting for them to come to ours?
Is it time to cast a bigger net?
David Faust serves as the Associate Minister at East 91st Street Christian Church in Indianapolis, Indiana.
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