Reaching the World
An imposing, but not impossible task
Confronted with the last commission that Jesus gave His followers (Matt. 28:18-20), we may ponder on what strategies or techniques we should adopt to accomplish such an enormous task. We face the challenges of reaching nonevangelized nations and ethnic groups, along with the growing secularization of Western nations. In recent years the emergence of neo-pagan spirituality posits new challenges and opportunities for our evangelistic endeavors.
So how can we reach the world for Jesus? I submit that above methods or techniques, a most important step in this process is to have a clear understanding of the mission Jesus bequeathed to us. The Scriptures show that Jesus had a clear vision of His mission. In the context of His encounter with Zacchaeus, Jesus illustrated and then clearly stated a crucial aspect of His mission. Since Jesus’ mission is our mission, let us reflect on the story of Jesus’ encounter with the tax collector.
Jesus’ Mission Statement
The story of Zacchaeus illustrates and states Jesus’ mission. That tax collector had a strong desire to see Jesus. He may have thought that only Jesus was able to give him what money could not buy. So Zacchaeus was planning to find a way to see Jesus; however, in the process he wanted to remain unnoticed and unseen. To mingle with a crowd and try from a distance to glimpse the face of Jesus would not work, since Zacchaeus was small in stature. So he became creative; he figured out which road Jesus was passing through, ran ahead, and climbed into a sycamore tree. Zacchaeus did not know Jesus’ mission statement, so he thought he’d found an excellent way to see Jesus yet remain unseen.
Zacchaeus thought he was the one looking to find and see Jesus, but now, seeing Jesus looking up at him, hearing Him mention his name, Zacchaeus begins to realize: It is not I who am searching, looking to see Jesus, but it is Jesus who is looking and searching for me. “And when Jesus came to the place, he looked up and saw him, and said to him, ‘Zacchaeus, make haste and come down, for today I must stay at your house’ ” (Luke 19:5).1
What did You say, Jesus? You must visit me? Why “must”? Why me? Are You planning to punish me for my shortcomings and evildoings? What is Your agenda? What is the main purpose of Your desire to see me and visit me?
When the people saw Jesus visiting the house of the tax collector, they started to grumble, saying: “He has gone to be a guest with a man who is a sinner” (verse 7). It is very remarkable that Jesus finishes this visit by explaining the “must” of His visit, and He does so by revealing His mission statement: “For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost” (verse 10).
Said Jesus, Please, when you try to interpret My actions, see them in the light of My mission, My purpose of life and ministry: “I have come to find and save, not find and punish.”
Our Mission Statement
Today Jesus invites His followers to identify themselves with His mission statement. He is looking for partners, those who are willing to make His mission statement their own. It is the supreme desire of our Redeemer to have in me and you someone who will make His mission statement a living reality. How would our churches look today if every member had the same mission statement? What environment, what atmosphere, would prevail in our churches? How would our young people feel in our churches?
Unfortunately, many young people have the impression that often the adults in our churches take only part of the mission statement seriously—namely, the part about finding and bringing in, but not the part that speaks about saving and thus loving and caring as Jesus did. When one looks at the retention statistics of many of our congregations, it becomes obvious that we have to change something. We need a reformation that leads us to Jesus’ full mission statement.
Throughout His ministry, Jesus stressed the importance of loving, forgiving, and caring. That’s why He was not ashamed to mingle with those considered to be society’s sinners and outcasts. This is why He left the crowd that was following Him and visited Zacchaeus, the tax collector. It is also of great interest to note that the Gospel of Luke does not record any rebuke or reproach while Jesus was in the house of the sinner Zacchaeus. Jesus simply shared His love and acceptance.
Looking at Jesus, Zacchaeus understood: “Jesus has no other agenda but to help me and save me!” This love of Christ not only converted Zacchaeus, but also brought him to a reformation of his life, to a divine transformation.
Ellen White wrote: “Christ came to bring salvation within the reach of all. Upon the cross of Calvary He paid the infinite redemption price for a lost world. His self-denial and self-sacrifice, His unselfish labor, His humiliation, above all, the offering up of His life, testifies to the depth of His love for fallen man. It was to seek and to save the lost that He came to earth. His mission was to sinners, sinners of every grade, of every tongue and nation. He paid the price for all, to ransom them and bring them into union and sympathy with Himself. The most erring, the most sinful, were not passed by; His labors were especially for those who most needed the salvation He came to bring. The greater their need of reform, the deeper was His interest, the greater His sympathy, and the more earnest His labors. His great heart of love was stirred to its depths for the ones whose condition was most hopeless and who most needed His transforming grace.”2
The life of Christ clearly demonstrates that change in life is achieved more successfully through love and care than through sermonizing, confrontation, or criticism. As Ellen White reiterates: “We must expect to meet and bear with great imperfections in those who are young and inexperienced. Christ has bidden us seek to restore such in the spirit of meekness, and He holds us responsible for pursuing a course which will drive them to discouragement, despair, and ruin. Unless we daily cultivate the precious plant of love we are in danger of becoming narrow, unsympathetic, bigoted, and critical, esteeming ourselves righteous when we are far from being approved of God.”3
Warm, loving, caring churches are places where people feel accepted no matter what. These kinds of churches are places where people want to come, and want to bring with them their friends and neighbors. And if, in addition to this, every member becomes a loving, Christlike person, he or she will be a living, walking center of influence for Christ and His kingdom.
Jesus not only gave His life for sinners—He ministered to those whom He encountered, meeting their physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual needs. He spent a significant amount of time just caring for people and healing them. Yes, His ultimate goal was to save them, to give them eternal life, but Jesus knew that salvation is accepted only when it is offered by someone who loves, who cares, who meets our needs.
Let us never forget Jesus’ mission statement. May it become our mission statement as well. If we are serious about reaching this world for Christ, we have to follow Christ’s example.
We need more love for one another, more love for the erring, more love for the young, more love for our neighbors, more love for those who do not yet know Christ, more love for God Himself, more love for His Word, more love and acceptance for His mission statement.
People who experience Christ’s love cannot help loving others and witnessing to them. Let us pray that Christ’s mission statement becomes ours as well! With Christ’s mission statement we also have His promise to be with us until the end of days, and to bless our efforts for His glorious harvest. “For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost” (Luke 19:10).
- Unless otherwise noted, texts in this article are from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1979, 1980, 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
- Ellen G. White, Testimonies for the Church (Mountain View, Calif.: Pacific Press Pub. Assn., 1948), vol. 5, p. 603.
- Ibid., p. 605.