Friday is my day off from “organized ministry.” On a recent gorgeous Friday afternoon in Toms River, New Jersey, my wife and daughter were on a trip, and I found myself with nothing on my schedule.
So, I played golf. I loved it. For me, golf is a release.
A few church people had asked me to join them on the course that day. I turned them all down. I tell my wife playing golf with church people is not worth the money. Spending time with the unchurched for five hours, now that is exhilarating.
In this circumstance, turning down Christians to hit the links with a non-Christian was the most Christlike thing I could do with my time. The friend I played with that day is one of my pray for ones.
When we started Wellspring Church, one of our supporting churches was Manchester (New Hampshire) Christian Church. Its pastor, Bo Chancey, had written a book titled Pray for One. Based on Luke 15, the book profoundly influenced me.
In short, Chancey describes Jesus as he talks to a bunch of stiff-necked religious people. Their undies are in a knot because Jesus actually hangs out with the people he is on mission to save. He tells a few stories about caring for and seeking lost people.
Jesus has the audacity to say he would leave the 99 to go in pursuit of the one lost person. He would drop everything. He would work to bring the lost one home. And then, when the one returned, he would invite others to party with him.
Playing golf with church is not worth the money. Spending time with the unchurched for five hours, now that is exhilarating.
Chancey says we need to wake up every day praying for an opportunity to interact and cultivate a relationship with a one.
I get excited every time someone runs up to me with jubilance because one of their ones is coming to church. It brings me to tears when I get to baptize someone’s one.
When did we stop partying (Christian-style of course) with and for lost people? When did we stop caring? When did we stop pursuing the lost?
How many people have you shared Jesus with in the past 18 months? How many people have asked you why you live the way you do? How many non-Christians are you praying for on a daily basis? How many non-Christians do you know well enough to pray for intelligently?
If you can easily answer these questions, that is amazing. I appreciate your labor in ministry. Keep going. Your labor is not in vain. You are building God’s kingdom.
If you can’t easily answer them, do they bring conviction? Are you concerned with building God’s kingdom or your kingdom (not in theory, but in action)? Are they questions you’ve thought about?
We don’t have time to waste. Each of us should want to see as many people come into God’s kingdom as quickly as possible because his return is imminent.
So how do we build God’s kingdom? Here are a few suggestions.
Pray for one
Start with prayer. Chancey wrote that a prayer for one is a prayer God loves to answer. If the unchurched are at the heartbeat of Christ’s work, then he’ll be thrilled when you go to him praying with a desire for lost people.
Ask him to bring people who don’t know him into your life. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised by how your days unfold.
Pray and look for opportunities. I wake up every day praying for Sandra, Chris, Vinny, Jay, Dan, Gary, Alfonzo and William. God is relentless. Be relentless in prayer.
Pursue the lost through acts of kindness
Kindness with strings attached is not kindness — it’s a wage.
I met four of the people I pray for daily by showing simple acts of kindness. I sit in a coffee shop most days because I’m portable and don’t have an office. I buy cups of coffee and hand them to people as they walk by me. With the coffee I give a card that reads “God loves you and so do we.” It has some information about our church and a link to thewhy.one, which takes them to our website and explains the gospel.
I want to show kindness in a way that makes people ask why. If they ask why, I have an open door to tell them about Jesus. The Book of Romans talks about the kindness of the Lord leading to repentance. Our kindness exemplifies the gospel.
If I force the conversation, is it still kindness? Hasn’t it become a wage? I’ll give you something, but you have to have a 30-minute conversation with me. The "have to" makes it a wage.
And, yes, time is short. I want to share the gospel with as many people as I can. So, I’m relentless in my love for the unchurched and prayerful for conversations to emerge.
Do anything short of sin to reach people
Pastor Craig Groeschel, author and founder of multisite Life Church, coined this phrase: “Do anything short of sin to reach people.” In other words, if it’s not sinful and it could reach people with the gospel — do it.
Playing golf with my one isn’t sinful, so I do it. Marching in a Halloween parade and handing out bottles of water with cards that read “God loves you and so do we” isn’t sinful. It’s an opportunity to reach thousands of people. (Literally. My town goes crazy.)
Get creative. I can’t get creative for you. I don’t know how to creatively reach farmers, city folk, those who perform in the theater, etc. I know how to love the people in my context. Sometimes we’ve been effective, other times we haven’t.
The point is to do something. Try something. Pray through it.
I want to show kindness in a way that makes people ask why. If they ask why, I have an open door to tell them about Jesus.
Pursue your passions with the unchurched in mind
As I said, I love golf. I have a family with three kids under the age of 7. I am a lead pastor working an average of 56 hours per week. I have to get creative with my time. When I take time to play golf, I want to do more than just enjoy myself. I want to make a spiritual impact.
It’s also a passion that grants me hours with someone. That means we have hours of conversation.
You know what else it does? It builds common ground. If people are willing to play golf with me, I am able to get them talking about something we have a mutual interest in. It builds trust. It opens the door naturally to conversations. It helps them see me as a person who is just like anyone else.
When we’re on the golf course, I am looking for ways to guide the conversation in a spiritual direction. Not force. Guide. Sometimes it happens, sometimes it doesn’t. I trust God’s ultimate leading.
As I said, this is a spiritual pursuit. I’ve spent time fasting, praying and thinking over such situations. I don’t take them lightly. They’re not just golf; they’re opportunities.
Disciple with the lost in mind
People often tell pastors, "You don’t care about discipleship because you care about evangelism."
The heck with that. Discipleship and evangelism are not enemies.
We all naturally talk about the things we love. My goal in discipleship is for people to fall more in love with Jesus — to fall so in love with him that they can’t help but get into the community and tell others about him.
I love my wife. Call me. I could talk for hours about her. The same is true of Jesus. As I disciple people, I am trying to guide them to be more and more like Jesus.
Guess what? Jesus loved lost people. He hung out with them. As he left his disciples, what was on the tip of his tongue?
Go into the world (yes, and teach people to obey).
Obeying is going.
If nothing else, start here: pray for one. Wake up and start praying.
Prayer is never to be a last resort; it’s always a first resort.
My prayer, like Paul's, is that your love for God “may abound all the more.” It's easier to talk about people we're madly in love with, whether we're talking to a complete stranger or to our one.
Jason Coache, Lead pastor of Wellspring Church
Jason Coache is lead pastor of Wellspring Church, Toms River, New Jersey.