Amy Carmichael (1867-1951), poured out her life in sacrificial service for the Kingdom of Christ as a missionary in India. She was the founder of the Dohnavur Fellowship, a haven for homeless children, especially the young girls that Amy helped escape from temple prostitution. She served in India for fifty-six years and never took one furlough. Her passion for souls serves as a model to us all, as expressed in these lines.
Oh for a passionate passion for souls.
Oh for a pity that yearns!
Oh for the love that loves unto death,
Oh for the fire that burns!
Oh for the pure prayer-power that prevails,
that pours itself out for the lost.
Victorious prayer in the Conqueror’s Name,
Oh for a Pentecost.
You can be sure that something is wrong when our hearts are untouched with a desire to see people come to Christ. Jesus wept over Jerusalem. His heart was filled with compassion when he gazed at the multitudes. Likeness to Jesus always includes love for the lost. As another great missionary, Andrew Murray, said: “The enthusiasm for the kingdom is missing. And that is because there is little enthusiasm for the King.” If you don’t love people, you have to ask yourself: “Do I love Jesus?”
We all know that coming to church and coming to Christ are two different things. But the former may, and often does, lead to the latter. When the community is functioning as the body of Christ, the corporate life of love becomes a powerful apologetic for the reality of Jesus.
John 13:35 (ESV)
By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.
God is made visible to the world through the embodied love of those who follow Jesus (cf. 1 John 4:7-12). And so it is appropriate for us to think about methods for bringing people to our fellowship.
The research of the American Growth Institute revealed that people who come to church do so because they have been influenced by:
Pastor – 6%
Sunday-school – 5%
Walk-in – 3%
Program – 3%
Special need – 2%
Visitation – 1%
Evangelism Crusade - .5%
The figures are not very promising are they? It is hard to get excited about a new program when the yield on the investment is so low. Maybe we have been fishing with the wrong equipment!
That same research did provide another statistic. Seventy-nine percent of those who come to church say that they were influenced by a friend or relative. Relationships.
Just think about. This is how it has always been. Peter was brought to Jesus by Andrew, his brother. Nathanael first heard of Christ from Phillip. Too often we think about evangelism in terms of passing out tracts, or witnessing to the stranger who sits next to us on a plane. The Lord can, of course, bless this. But our first and primary “mission field” is the circle of people we already know. Relatives. Coworkers. Neighbors. Classmates. This is where we must start.
Praying for Power
But our sharing of the gospel will not in and of itself bring anyone to faith. Paul said to the Thessalonians that the gospel had come to them not only in word, but also in power, and in the Holy Spirit, and with full conviction (1 Thess. 1:5). We must have power.
This is why Jesus told the disciples to “stay in the city [Jerusalem] until you are clothed with power from on high” (Luke 24:49). Only when they had received power would they become effective in witness (Acts 1:8). We should take our cues for prayer from the early church:
Acts 4:29-31 (ESV)
“And now, Lord, look upon their threats and grant to your servants to continue to speak your word with all boldness,  while you stretch out your hand to heal, and signs and wonders are performed through the name of your holy servant Jesus.”  And when they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak the word of God with boldness.
They prayed for power, they were filled by the Holy Spirit and then they spoke the word of God with boldness. We need the same today.
That is one of the reasons why a key strategy in evangelism is focused prayer. We are conscious (although not nearly conscious enough) of our impotency and weakness without Christ. “Apart from me you can do nothing,” Jesus said (John 15:5). We know that a proud, self-sufficient, lukewarm church, oblivious to its desperate need for Christ, makes the Lord sick to his stomach (Rev. 3:14-17). And we believe his promise: “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me” (v. 20, ESV).
As you pray will you seek the Lord for a fresh outpouring of his Spirit, grace, and power on your life and church? And will you ask Him for a passion for the lost – not just a general desire for the salvation of nameless, faceless people in the world. But a consuming burden for the conversion of sons and daughters, fathers and mothers, brothers and sisters, employers and professors, classmates and coworkers, friends and neighbors. Whose salvation will you seek the Lord for this year?