After they had preached the gospel to that city and had made many disciples, they returned to Lystra and to Iconium and to Antioch, strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith … (Acts 14:21-22 NAS)
According to information from the Mission to Unreached Peoples ministry (MUP.org), almost 2 billion people or 27.9 percent of the world are still essentially cut off from access to the Gospel. Although many of these people live in major urban cities, there are still some living remotely and in rural areas. These are the ones that are largely ‘ignored’ by the Great Commission Christian world. Researchers are saying that if all the mission organizations from every continent continue to grow at current rates and increase as well as decrease in the number of missionaries, the least evangelized people of the world will still be 23 to 25 percent in 2025.
As believers of the Lord, we are all called to be God’s witness and to play our role in fulfilling the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20). Not all of us however are specifically called or set aside to be missionaries to preach to the world as the apostle Paul did (Acts 13:2-3). But to those who are called to mission work, whether as a missionary or supporter serving in the ministry, here are some lessons we can learn from Paul in planning strategies to reach the world for Christ.
When on his missionary journeys, Paul frequently evangelized in places of prominence such as the chief cities, cities of provinces, centers of government, main trade routes and other strategic places (Acts 17:16-21). This, of course, does not mean we neglect the unpopular or non-strategic places, but it does mean it helps in reaching a greater crowd through global missions to witness to all the nations (Matthew 24:14).
Reaching out to the crowd, Paul sought to understand the mentality of the people he witnessed to. In Acts 17:16-34, Paul used a different approach in handling the Athenians as compared with the way he handled the Jews in Acts 23:1-11.
Follow-up is important and an essential area for preserving the brethren in the faith. Without follow-up and discipleship, the brethren may backslide and be in a worse state than before (2 Peter 2:21). Paul understood this and returned to the cities of which he had witnessed (Acts 14:21-22; 15:36).
Keeping in contact with the home church or sending organization to report on progress of ministry is also important. Paul reported his progress to the church which sent him (Acts 14:27), and in so doing encouraged new and old missionaries as well as future missionaries.
In short, the strategies of approach to missions are:
Preach in strategic places, yet do not neglect the non-strategic
Seek to understand the people we are witnessing to, and then decide on the right approach
Follow-up on the work that had already begun
Report to the home church or the sending organization on progress regularly
Touch our hearts dear Lord that we may do our part in fulfilling the Great Commission, regardless of our role as a missionary, a helper ministering to the missionaries or as a witness. Teach and guide us Lord on the best way to reach out to the people who are yet unsaved. Help us to be sensitive to the people we witness to Lord that we may by Your Spirit choose the right approach in reaching them. Remind us Lord that we may not neglect the follow up of those who have already been saved to train and make disciples out of them.
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