FIRST-PERSON: Begin now
OKLAHOMA CITY (BP) -- There are two Sundays each year that provide the greatest opportunity to engage family, friends and people, in general, for invitations to church. Those two Sundays are Easter and Christmas. Even those who are irreligious are more open to attend church on these two Sundays.
So, you may ask, why are you telling us this several weeks before Easter? Because I want to challenge you to develop a list of three lost people whom you can invite to Easter services on April 16. Your list may include a son-in-law, a sister, parents of your child's friend or the checker at the grocery store. The point is that you identify three people whom you know by name or who you can identify with through regular contact.
Begin now praying for them daily with the idea that you will extend an invitation for them to join you for Easter worship. When you pray for them, do so using the Word of God. For example, pray 2 Peter 3:9, "The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance." Pray that God would do a work in each of their lives that would bring them to repentance.
Or pray John 16:8-11, "And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment: concerning sin, because they do not believe in me; concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you will see me no longer; concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged." Ask the Lord to send the Holy Spirit to bring strong and powerful conviction in their lives so that when they hear the Easter message they would come under deep conviction and respond to the Gospel.
Pray also that they will be willing to attend Easter services with you. Be alert to opportunities that God may well provide for you to speak the Gospel into their lives even before Easter. As you know, praying for lost people means God is preparing and using you as a witness to speak into their lives. I have discovered that often He will open the door along the way to drop a brief witness or, on many occasions, He provides a wide-open door through circumstances to speak the Gospel to someone for whom I am praying.
One of the ways to extend the invitation to those for whom you are praying to join you for Easter services is to also invite them to your home for Easter lunch. Sadly, many of us have lost the art of Christian hospitality. We often look to biblical times and think that to sit down at a meal with someone indicates a willingness to come close. This is the reason the Pharisees criticized Jesus so many times. Remember, they said of Jesus that he "ate with sinners." He did so because it showed He cared and wanted to know them beyond a passing "hello." He wanted the opportunity to share the most significant truths with them in a natural and easy setting.
So invite some or all of the people for whom you are praying to join your family for Easter lunch. This invitation will provide opportunity for people to be in a Christian environment and see your family from inside your home. I assure you there will be many natural points of connection that will occur when you can share the Gospel with your family or friends. If nothing else, just talk about the sermon over lunch.
Be ready to carry on the relationship and continue to share the Gospel. Yes, there are those wonderful times when you present the Gospel to someone, or they hear the Gospel in a worship service, and they want to respond immediately. But as our culture moves further away from a Christian worldview, it often takes several times of Gospel conversation before lost people respond to the Gospel. Speak truth, but keep the doors open. Always be respectful. Your job is not to convince or convict -- that is the work of the Holy Spirit. Your job is to pray and share.
Yes, it's several weeks before Easter, but seed planting and cultivation precede the harvest. Now is the time to begin praying for those three people. Do you have them in mind? If not, your first prayer is to ask the Father to place those three people on your heart this week. Then, get on your knees and start the process.
I leave with a word to pastors. Pastors, you lead the way and set the example. Begin now challenging your people. Affirm to your people that you will preach the cross and resurrection on Easter Sunday, and you will make clear the way to salvation through Christ. Start now telling your people you will be prayed up, filled up, powered up and overflowing with the joy of the Gospel.
Praying, inviting, sharing and proclaiming the Gospel will make Easter a day of celebrating the cross and resurrection, but also a day of salvation for many.