3 Steps to Help Your Congregation Develop a Heart for the Lost

Has your congregation developed a heart for the lost? (Pexels.com)

Pastor, the truth about you is: You are one of the most important people in your community—maybe the most important person.

You are God's messenger and direction-setter for the people of your church.

And your church (along with others in your area) is the only hope for the people in your neighborhoods.

Your church will never be able to play its intended part in the Great Commission without having a heart for the lost ... and you will never be able to lead them unless you have an oversized heart for the lost.

If you want your people to bleed for the lost, you must hemorrhage for them.

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I want to give you a tool for increasing your heart for the as-of-yet unsaved people around you, along with a passage to share with your congregation so they increase their burden for the people around them.

This is so important, please take a minute to pray, asking God to give you an undistracted 10-minute window to speak to you just now as you read.

Step 1: Develop your Heart for the Unsaved

In 1989, a pastor I had never met before encouraged me to pray a prayer I'd never heard before. It was a simple prayer: Lord, I don't ask You for much today. I just ask that You give me Your heart for lost people.

Twenty words. Twenty-two syllables. Seventy letters. One request.

I prayed that prayer every day, slowly and fervently, for the next 90 days. It took me less than 30 seconds total, each day.

At the end of the first week, I saw everyone around me differently. I saw the unsaved as objects of God's affection and the saved as God's means to reach them.

At the end of the first month, I broke down in a grocery store because it occurred to me that of the 50 people standing in lines around me, 30 to 35 of them were going to spend a Christless eternity if someone didn't do something to communicate God's love to them.

By the end of the second month, I determined that I had to do something personally.

I attended my first "Matthew party" (Luke 5:29) to rub shoulders with lost people, and I decided that I would learn to answer every question a pre-Christian might have before coming to Christ.

To do this, I taught a Sunday school class called, "Answering Questions Pre-Christians Ask." After doing a ton of research, I discovered there are eight questions which cover 95% of what pre-Christians ever ask before coming to faith.

By the end of the third month, I felt God leading me to plant a church in order to reach lost people. So, beware! If you pray this prayer, you are in for some changes in the next 90 days.

Pray this Powerful Prayer: Your assignment, if you're willing to accept it, is to pray these 20 words every day for the next 90 days: Lord, I don't ask you for much today. I just ask that you give me your heart for lost people.

Step 2: Help Your Leaders Develop a Heart for the Unsaved

My little Sunday school class had a dozen students in it. Before beginning Questions Pre-Christians Ask, I spent the first lesson walking them through Matthew 4:18-22. It's the passage where Jesus calls four fishermen to follow him, with the promise that he will in turn make them "fishers of men."

In Matthew 4:18, Jesus is walking by the Sea of Galilee. It's a tiny lake—eight miles wide, 12 miles long.

The men he called were all professional fishermen. They'd grown up fishing that lake.

When they woke up early every morning, they were thinking about fishing. On their way to the dock, they talked about fishing. On their way home, they talked about how they could catch more fish the next day.

Those men knew just about everything about that little lake, and just about everything about the fish in it. They knew the habits of each species—where and how they bit best. They knew the changes of the seasons and how those changes affected the catchability of each type of fish.

Most importantly, they knew the market price of each fish. At the end of the day, they would sell most of their fish. The amount they received was what fed their families.

These men fished as if their lives depended on it.

It was to these men that Jesus said, "Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men" (Matt. 4:19). Not just recreational fishers of men, but professional fishers of men.

After I unpacked the lesson, our class started making applications.

If these men knew everything there was to know about their lake, shouldn't we?

If they knew the best conditions to fish in, shouldn't we?

If they knew the best days of the year to catch the different types of fish, shouldn't we?

And if they knew the market price of each fish, shouldn't we as well?

I had just finished my 90 days of "Lord, I don't ask you for much today. I just ask for your heart for lost people."

And I confess, as we were talking about what it might look like to work and pray like professional fishers of men, I broke down and wept.

I gasped out one more question: "What's the market price of the fish God has called us to catch?"

Someone said, "It's priceless."

I asked, "How do you know that?"

"Because God set the price himself. It was the life of his one and only Son."

No one in the class was ever the same again. We learned the answers to the questions pre-Christians asked. Every class member prayed my 90- day prayer. We started living like fishers of men.

Does your heart burn for the leaders in your church to live like fishers of men?

Do a Bible Study with your Leaders about Evangelism

Make a list of the top leaders and staff in your church and ask them to join you for a six-week Bible study so you can share your heart with them.

I know ... they are busy people, but this is something special they get to do with you. They will make it if they can. Get this group study onto your calendar as soon as possible. Try to start within the next four weeks, if possible.

I recommend that you use the book that was at the beginning of all this for me: The God Questions. It's a six-week study that will equip your leaders with answers to the questions unbelievers ask.

The discussions you have as a leadership group will light a fire in their hearts for evangelism.

Take note: You are on a course to change your heart, the hearts of your leaders, your church and the eternities of a lot of people in your community. Expect some opposition.

Overcome it with love, faith and prayer.

Step 3: Teach Your Church to Have a Heart for People who don't Know Jesus

Movements grow in concentric circles.

They start with the leader, spread to a core group and expand to the congregation.

As your staff and leadership team are renewing their hearts for the lost, invite your whole church into the movement by preaching a sermon series.

Preach a series on the importance of reaching lost people.

Find the best place in your church calendar for a series on capturing God's heart and pencil it in. Three weeks is a good length.

In my email course, Momentum Bootcamp, I line out three sermons you can preach to stoke fired-up hearts in your congregation. Subscribe to Momentum Bootcamp here. (It's free.)

Preach a Series on God's Heart for Lost People

Use the passages in Momentum Bootcamp, or chose the ones that have made you weep or that have rocked you to the core.

Matthew 4:18-22 did that for me.

And I love Luke 15: the Parable of the Lost Sheep, the Lost Coin and the Lost Son. There were actually two lost sons, and you will see how great the Father's love is for his children.

Our most recent series on evangelism was called "Each One Reach One." It was a two-week renewing of our call to reach our city.

You can see the messages here:

Each One Matters

How Jesus Reached One

Keep Your Heart Broken for People Who Are Far From Jesus

God loves a broken heart (Ps. 51:17). The problem is that broken hearts heal up. You'll want to repeat this process over and over again.

I find myself praying my 90-day prayer at least every two years. And I preach on evangelism every year.

What's Next?

Implement the 3 Simple Steps

Pray the 90-day prayer. Write it out on a 3 x 5 card and pray it now!

Invite your leaders to a six-week Bible study as soon as practical. They'll probably need a month's advance notice, so look at your calendar and figure out a good time to start. Make it soon, because you're building momentum in your own heart and you don't want that to wear off. Schedule it for as soon as practical.

Schedule a three-week "Capturing God's Heart" (or create your own title) sermon series for three to six months from now.

Hal Seed is the founding and lead pastor of New Song Community Church in Oceanside, California. He mentors pastors who want to lead healthy, growing churches with resources at pastormentor.com.

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