By Kevin McDonald
One of the purposes of the church is to reach those who are not believers. Early on in pastoral ministry, I assumed my job was twofold. First it was to preach good sermons. I would spend hours upon hours writing great sermons each and every week. The second part was to take care of the flock — to nurture and care for those who attended my church. However, the more I did these things, the more I felt like something was missing. While these two functions are essential, I believe there is another that we sometimes miss.
About five years ago I had an awakening that changed my life. I felt like the Lord was beginning to break my heart over those who do not know Him. Today I still spend a lot of time writing sermons, and I still do my best to take care of those already in the church, but there is something else I do as well. I intentionally focus on winning as many people as I can to Jesus. Just recently we won a new Mormon couple to Jesus, and we just celebrated their baptism. We also recently won a single mom to Jesus and she was baptized as well.
My goal is to depopulate hell by winning as many people as I can to Jesus. I believe the purpose of every believer, in part, is to win people to Christ. I often say that when we die we are already going to heaven, and we might as well take as many people with us as we can.
The awakening that changed my life was my recollection of a key series of events. Nine years ago a local pastor visited a neighbor who was not a part of his church. This pastor stopped by his neighbor’s house almost every day and shared Jesus with him. The pastor’s neighbor was not a good person. He was a drug addict, an alcoholic, and a horrible husband and father. But the pastor kept persisting until one day this neighbor was won to Christ. The gospel completely changed his life. Nine years later this neighbor loves Jesus with all his heart and the neighbor is free from the bad things that controlled his life. I know this story so well because this neighbor was me. This pastor kept reaching out past his church walls and it completely changed my life forever. Not only did I accept Christ, but my wife did as well. Later my oldest son accepted Christ, too.
Early on in ministry I lost my focus of reaching people. The Lord awakened me five years ago that I need to go out do the same. I need to share Jesus with everyone who doesn’t know Him. I need to do what my pastor did for me and win people to Christ. With this awakening I have had the opportunity of leading over 1,500 people to the Lord. Some of these people are in ministry now, some had their marriages healed, some were set free from drugs, some became missionaries, and some now share their faith with all they encounter.
I believe that our purpose is to win people to Christ. Sadly, many churches don’t do this. Our church in Murrieta is seeking to win people to Jesus daily. We do this in different ways. I want to share this with you so your church can do the same and win as many people as possible to Christ.
Higher Standards for Leadership
We have raised the bar for leadership in our church. We require every leader and every staff person in our church to do four specific things: Every leader must pray every single day, be in the Word every single day, live a holy life, and be actively sharing their faith. At every staff meeting and every leadership meeting, I go around the table and we all answer as to how we are doing at reaching people for Jesus. Since we have raised the standard in our church for leadership, it has naturally allowed us to focus on those outside of the church.
When I was the pastor in Junction City, Kansas, I had someone leave my church. They were upset and said something to me that I’ll never forget. They said, “We’re leaving your church because you care more about people outside the church than you do for people inside the church.” While this isn’t true, this did strike a chord with me. I realized I needed to help my people catch the same fire.
In Murrieta, we often do evangelism training for our people. This has been done both on a large scale and in smaller settings. Through these trainings, our hope is that people’s hearts would break for those who don’t know Jesus. We also give our people practical tools for how to share their faith. These training sessions have produced much fruit and many people coming to know Jesus.
It Starts With Me
While I teach evangelism and set high standards for leadership, I also know it begins with me. I place very high standards in my own life for sharing my faith. My hope is to win at least one person to Jesus each and every week. I need to lead the charge in pushing outward. When there are victories for people coming to know Jesus, this also gives me stories to share with those in my church when I am preaching. I want my people to know that I, as their pastor, am sharing my faith!
We intentionally reach out into the world through many corporate efforts. We do outreach events where we share the gospel and plant churches where our leaders are encouraged to reach new people and model evangelism.
So many Christians and so many churches have no outward focus. The focus has been on writing good sermons and taking care of what we already have. While this is vitally important, I believe we’re missing the mark when we’re not winning new people. I would challenge all churches and church leaders to reach out and depopulate hell. As Christians, we have the greatest message in all of history. Let’s take this message and change the world!
Kevin McDonald is a lead pastor Gateway Church of the Nazarene, Murrieta, Calif. He has planted 15 new churches and travels the country speaking and teaching on church planting and church renewal.