While a missionary to my Jewish people for a number of years, I would on occasion get accused of “targeting” Jews. During street outreach in the Big Apple and other major US cities, some of my unbelieving Jewish brethren would take exception to my wanting them in particular to believe in Jesus. When you wear a t-shirt with “Jews for Jesus” emblazoned on your chest, you tend to create a bit of a stir! In other words, I willingly became another kind of target – a lightening rod for Jesus!
On the street I ministered to anyone who was willing to talk about Jesus, while the focus of my visitation ministry was to disciple new Jewish believers and evangelize Jewish seekers. This ministry took place one-on-one with Jewish men in apartments, homes, cafés, offices, and parks – anyplace we could open the bible and interact with truth.
You could say I was targeting, and I was. Today I also target people – people who’ve not yet met Christ. And I think you should too! You see, targeting is not such a negative concept.
Targeting takes place in business, marketing, politics, warfare, and in many endeavors. In the athletic realm, we applaud those who can hit the target – bullseye!
In fact, Jesus targeted people in His earthly ministry. The Lord said:
“The Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost” (Luke 19:10).
The Lord loves His bride, the Church, and He is building His Church. It’s good for us to remember that those who make up the Church are those souls who were once lost but now are found. Yes, evangelism and targeting go hand in hand.
Luke 15 reveals much to us about God’s heart for the lost and targeting. Here in three parables our Lord teaches us about the precious value of one who is lost and the great rejoicing in response to that one who is found. Let’s touch upon these parables and draw an application from each.
In the Parable of the Lost Sheep (Luke 15:1-7), Jesus is accused of eating with “sinners” by the scribes and Pharisees. He then responds in verse 4:
“What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he loses one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one which is lost until he finds it?”
The Shepherd is targeting and for good reason. In the ancient Middle East the shepherd was responsible to his master to see that none of the sheep were lost, killed, or injured. Our Great Shepherd Jesus, calls us to also go after the one which is lost. You see, one person is precious to God and should be to us.
So who is that person in your life and what does it look like to “go after that one?” I don’t know but God does. In my life I currently have a couple of people in my personal sphere of influence I’ve targeted. While pursuing the lost will include unique dynamics because relationships are unique, the principles remain constant. Pursuit principles include building relationship, trust, and rapport. They also include prayer and love demonstrated in good works. Lastly, pursuit encompasses sharing the gospel and truth claims of Jesus and the Bible.
In the Parable of the Lost Coin (Luke 15:8-10), Jesus highlights the thoroughness of the search:
“Or what woman, having ten silver coins, if she loses one coin, does not light a lamp, sweep the house, and search carefully until she finds it?” (Luke 15:8).
Notice her diligence in searching carefully for the lost coin. This exemplifies the character of her search – to be care-full is to be care-filled. As I think about my testimony to the lost people in my life, I pray about how best to proceed.
A couple of years ago, a friend of mine, who was himself targeting, introduced me to a Muslim man I’ll call Abdul. For several months I simply sought to build a friendship with Abdul. We had spiritual conversations and I shared the gospel, but I didn’t give him any evangelistic material. I wanted to give him some literature for him to ponder on his own, but didn’t know what. During that time I simply prayed about it.
Then, while speaking at a Missions Conference in Gatlinburg, I just so happened to meet a missionary to Muslims who was also speaking there. Upon sharing my dilemma, he shared a few tips with me and then gave me two evangelistic pamphlets I would later gave to Abdul. My takeaway from that experience of praying and then meeting someone who had, what I thought, was just the right information: to be care-full in our pursuit is to be prayerful.
Lastly, in the familiar Parable of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-32), rejoicing takes place. Upon returning home, the father receives his son with joy:
“But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring out the best robe and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet. And bring the fatted calf here and kill it, and let us eat and be merry; for this my son was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ And they began to be merry”(Luke 15:22-24).
Jesus says “there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine just persons who need no repentance” (Luke 15:7). May I add, there is also much joy on earth!
In the Kingdom of God, targeting is good. Targeting the lost is our evangelistic focus. When someone is found, rejoice! Until then, be joyful and thankful for the opportunity to love them, serve them, pray for them and proclaim the gospel to them. For the Lord simply calls us to faithfulness in our witness. And when we are faithful, regardless of the results, we have hit the target! Amen.