He went on to say, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless the Father has enabled them.” (John 6:65)
After reading the Introduction to Fishing On The Other Side, Pastor John Alexander emailed his response regarding "people who want to be reached". As I stated in the book, there are thousands of people who live near you and the place where your church gathers for worship who want to be reached with the gospel. However, not everyone knows that they want to be reached and not everyone wants to be reached. John breaks it down this way:
- I think there are some who want to be reached,
- some who don't know they want to be reached,
- and still others, because of their hardness of heart, who don't want to be reached at all.
In Fishing On The Other Side, I am only dealing with the first-two categories. I am not interested in trying to reach people who don't want to be reached. Yes, God can change their hardened hearts and if you have a relationship with someone who does not want to be reached; my advice is to continue to be Jesus to them and pray earnestly for them. However, I want to encourage you to find and reach out to people who know that they want to be reached and people who don't know that they want to be reached.
People who know that they want to be reached are open to the gospel and are waiting for someone to introduce them to Christ. They are more likely to seek out a church to visit than the people in the other two categories. That is why it is important that Christian churches maintain a visible presence in their communities, both online and offline. However they are most likely to respond to the gospel in the context of a relationship with someone who is already a follower of Jesus. George Barna, who has done a significant amount of research in this area breaks it down like this:
Looking at the data, among all non-Christians and lapsed Christians, three in 10 (30%) say they prefer a “casual, one-on-one conversation.” But the percentage is higher among those for whom spirituality is significant (40%) than among those for whom it is not (27%). Similarly, non-Christians and lapsed Christians who agree strongly that they have unanswered spiritual questions are more likely to say they prefer one-on-one conversation (45%) than those who don’t have such questions (20%). www.Barna.com
Those who don't know that they want to be reached are not hostile to the gospel, they just don't know that they need to gospel. They may pay attention to the prompting of the Holy Spirit, but they have not yet connected their inner longing with Jesus The Way. These are the ones that I refer to in the book as people who are not searching for a church, but are looking for something that they didn't know a church had to offer. In other words, they may be looking to fill a non-spiritual need in their lives such as day care for their children or simply the need to connect with other people. They may do internet searches for child care centers or things to do near them. A church with a properly optimized website may show up in such search results if they offer what these people are looking for. However, even those who don't know that they want to be reached are more likely to come to faith in Christ through observation and conversation. Observation of the lives of friends and relative who have been living out their faith and conversations with people who are, "...prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have." (I Peter 3:15)