EDITOR'S NOTE: This column is part of the call to prayer issued by Frank S. Page, president of the SBC Executive Committee, to pray for revival and spiritual awakening for our churches, our nation and our world during 2013. Baptist Press is carrying columns during the year encouraging Southern Baptists to pray in specific areas and for specific needs in petitioning the Father for spiritual awakening.
SAN ANGELO, Texas (BP) -- In seminary, students knew we had to be very intentional to connect with and share the Gospel with people who have not been engaged with its message. That intentionality included classes in evangelism and campaigns around the campus to engage the community.
Sadly, it was easy to live life in the seminary bubble of people just like me, who do many of the same things as I. In a nutshell, the bubble isolates people from the world, disengages them from ministry to the lost, and gives a false sense of security. The bubble is not limited to the campuses of seminaries or Bible colleges; it also unfortunately affects local churches.
Getting outside the bubble requires us to be people of prayer.
My pastorate, Hillcrest Baptist Church, now realizes we were living in the bubble. It sounded something like this: "I can't participate in this upcoming outreach event because I do not know any lost people!" Hillcrest is one of the 70% of churches that have plateaued or are declining. We have a church full of people who socialize with people from church and hang out with people from church. Sadly, we do not engage those outside our circle.
The looming question is how do we exit the bubble? We do not just wake up one day and the bubble is gone. I wish it were that easy, but it's a process. The first step is actually one of the most painful; we must realize we are living in a bubble, a painful realization in itself. We must come to terms with our complacency with the Gospel. Face it; living in the bubble greatly hinders our ability to reach out with the Gospel message of hope.
I am reminded of Luke 10 where Jesus tells His disciples to pray to the Lord of the harvest because workers are needed. The journey that we continue is difficult. Getting outside the bubble takes effort. The second step is to do whatever it takes to engage those around us with the Gospel. We are the workers for the harvest! We must be people of prayer. In prayer, we must seek the face of God. We must be willing to submit ourselves to His will.
Thirdly, to move outside the bubble, we must start praying for the lost by name. If we are to become workers in the harvest then we must start praying for that harvest. It has to be more than "God bless the lost." If we, as believers, are not praying for the lost by name, we assume it doesn't matter. "Someone will reach them. Someone else will step up. They have to because I don't know any lost people." Right?
Praying for the lost by name will do great things in our hearts. First, we are calling names before God of someone who desperately needs His grace. Second, God begins to burden our own hearts because the lost is now someone we know. It's personal! God begins to move in our own hearts as we intercede for salvation for the people we know. Third, a sense of urgency develops as we begin to strategize to reach them.
Prayer is the catalyst that begins the process of moving outside the bubble.
While prayer is foundational it is not the only thing that must happen. As Luke 10 indicates, we must be involved with the unsaved. This is the part of the journey that requires intentionality. We must seek opportunities to engage with people outside the bubble. Again, prayer will play a vital role in the beginning of this process, as God will reveal those opportunities. We must be willing to take them. Sometimes this takes us out of our comfort zone. It may mean talking to someone we do not know. It may mean breaking our normal routines to seek new opportunities. There are many different ways this may unfold, but we must be willing to submit to the leadership of the Holy Spirit within our lives.
One of the hardest parts of this journey is spending quality time with those in need of God's saving grace. Through quality time, we begin to better know people. We know their hurts, their joys and even their needs at their present point in life. Giving time is difficult, especially in our busy, driven schedules, but it is an intentional, necessary step in meeting people and developing relationships.
This journey may seem daunting! The very thought of spending time with the "tax collectors and sinners" may not be high on our priority list. Obviously this is the case, since we are living inside the bubble.
It's time to make new priorities. Let's seek the Lord of the harvest for workers. Let's pray for the harvest, the lost and each other. Let's seek new opportunities, even if that takes us to uncomfortable places. Let's make time to build relationships in hopes of sharing the Gospel.
I challenge each of you as you read this to make the choice and commitment to live outside the bubble! I am intentional in my journey to get out of the bubble. Will you begin this journey with me to be the people God intends for us to be for His glory alone?
Todd Peebles is pastor of Hillcrest Baptist Church in San Angelo, Texas.