Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it (Matt. 7:13-14).
Jesus was saying that the majority of people don’t enter the narrow, small gate (Jesus) or walk on the narrow way that leads to everlasting life (Heaven). Instead, most people enter the wide gate and walk on the broad road in life (a life without Jesus) and spend eternity in “destruction” (Hell). That truth should motivate Christians to share Jesus with lost people.
But how do we identify lost people? If most people are without Christ, then lost people are all around us. Who are they, and how can we recognize them?
Identifying Lost People
When I went to Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in 1980, one of the Evangelism professors had just died. His name was Oscar Thompson. Dr. Thompson was writing a book entitled, Concentric Circles of Concern. After his death, his wife, Carolyn, helped complete his work in 1981. In that book, the Thompson gave seven strategic, “concentric circles” of relationships that help any believer discover lost people with whom they can share Jesus.
Moving from the innermost circle of one’s “self” to the outermost circle of a person whom we have never met (person “X”), those concentric circles are: (1) self; (2) immediate family; (3) relatives; (4) close friends; (5) neighbors and business associates; (6) acquaintances; and (7) person “X.”
Circle 1—Self. The soul-winner who shares Jesus with lost people must make sure that he himself is saved. It would be a tragedy for someone to tell others how to know Jesus in salvation, only to discover at the end of life that he is not a genuine follower of Christ.
You might say, “That could never happen. Anyone who tells others about Jesus must be saved.” But the Bible clearly teaches that on the day of final judgment, many who think they are saved and en route to Heaven will discover they are not saved and are on their way to Hell.
Jesus said in Matthew 7:21-23, “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in Heaven will enter. Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; Depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.’” According to Jesus, “many” will think they are saved only to discover at the final judgment that they are lost! How dreadful!
Paul urged us to test and examine ourselves to see if we are really saved. He says in 2 Corinthians 13:5, “Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves! Or do you not recognize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you—unless indeed you fail the test?”
In chapter 6, we looked at several biblical indicators that assure a person of salvation.
You know you’re saved because the Bible says so. The Bible clearly states that whoever repents, believes in Jesus, and receives Him is saved.
You know you’re saved when you love other Christians.
You know you’re saved when you sense the presence of the Holy Spirit in your life.
You know you’re saved when you desire to obey God.
You know you’re saved when you desire to read Your Bible.
You know you’re saved when you experience answered prayers.
These tests help you discern whether or not you are saved.
Circle 2—Immediate Family. Most everyone has immediate family members who are lost. Perhaps your spouse is not a Christian. Maybe your children have grown into their teenage years and have not yet trusted Christ as Savior. Maybe your parents or siblings are not saved.
As soon as Andrew became a follower of Jesus, he introduced his brother, Simon (Peter), to Jesus (John 1:35-42). Likewise, when the Philippian jailer received Jesus as Savior, he made sure his family also came to faith in Christ (Acts 16:34).
Circle 3—Relatives. Just as people have immediate family members who are lost, they also have extended family members—uncles, aunts, grandparents, grandchildren, nieces, nephews, cousins, and so forth—who are without Christ and need to hear the Gospel.
Years ago my wife began to pray for several of her relatives who did not know Jesus. She felt led to pray especially for one of her uncles who lived far from us. Within a year, he accepted Jesus as his Savior and Lord. I’m convinced that my wife’s prayers helped to cultivate the soil of his heart so the seed of the Gospel could bear good fruit (Matt. 13:8, 23).
Circle 4—Friends. Do all of your friends know Jesus as Lord and Savior? One of the most sincere ways of being a good friend is to share Jesus with someone who is lost. It should be natural, especially since that person is someone with whom you already have a connection.
Paul loved his Jewish friends and wanted them to be saved. He said in Romans 9:1-4a, “I am telling the truth in Christ, I am not lying, my conscience testifies with me in the Holy Spirit, that I have great sorrow and unceasing grief in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were accursed, separated from Christ for the sake of my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh, who are Israelites.” Paul was willing to forfeit his own salvation (be “accursed, separated from Christ”) if his Jewish friends would come to Christ! Now that is being a real friend!
Circle 5—Neighbors and Business Associates. Our neighbors, coworkers, and classmates provide excellent witnessing opportunities. My mentor in prayer, Don Miller of Fort Worth, Texas, once told me that every Christian should use the acronym, “N.E.W.S.” to share Jesus with his neighbors. It stands for “North, East, West, and South.” Every believer should get to know his neighbors to the north, east, west and south of his home, pray for them, and ask the Lord to give him the opportunity to witness to them.
The same applies to business associates. When I was in seminary, I worked at a grocery store. I made a prayer list of all my fellow employees and began to pray for them. God immediately started opening doors for me to share Jesus, and several of them became Christians!
A great example of witnessing to ones’ neighbors and associates is the Apostle Levi (Matthew). As soon as he began following Jesus, he invited his neighbors and business associates to his home for a meal so they could meet his new Savior, Jesus (Luke 5:27-29). Donna and I have friends who named their son Matthew, praying he will be a person who invites those he knows to Jesus. Matthew has grown into his parents’ vision and prayers; the boy has never met a stranger, and he invites them to Jesus and church!
Anyone can get to know their neighbors and associates at work, school, or other places, begin to pray for them, and then share Jesus as the Lord opens doors for that to happen. And He will open those doors!
Circle 6—Acquaintances. Most every day you interact with others such as bank tellers, store owners, waitresses, etc. These are people you see periodically on an ongoing basis. Write their names down and start praying for them. Ask the Lord to give you the opportunity to witness to them. It will be a fun adventure as you see God prepare the way for you to share Jesus!
Circle 7—Person “X”. This category refers to the stranger you meet for the first time and you sense that God wants you to share Jesus with him or her. God will do that sometimes. Philip had never met the Ethiopian eunuch before, yet God called Philip to share Jesus with him (Acts 8:26f).
Here in Memphis, I go periodically with others from our church to Beale Street to pray for people and share Jesus with them. It always surprises me how many are open to hear our personal testimonies and listen to us share a brief Gospel presentation.
I also embraced a great method of sharing Jesus with strangers back in 2006. A staff member at our church, Phil Newberry, and I were eating lunch at a restaurant. He asked the server to tell us her name. He then said, “We’re about to pray for our meal. Is there any specific way we can pray for you?” She teared up and said, “Yes, there is!” She then gladly gave us her prayer request. Later, we were able to share Jesus, even though before that day we had never met her! I’ve since used that simple witnessing method to share Jesus with hundreds of restaurant servers.
When the Holy Spirit prompts you to witness to someone, even if that person is a stranger, go ahead and do it. That prompting does not come from your sinful, fleshly nature. Nor is it from the devil. Every prompting to share Jesus comes from the Holy Spirit! And it is always good to obey Him.
You do not have to know someone personally to witness to him. You just need to love that person with the love of the Lord.
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