No One is Interested.
As we ponder our need to tell others about Christ, another matter that may hinder us is a perception that no one is really interested. I understand this feeling and have had it myself. Even as I have grown to a better and more mature outlook on reaching out to others, including much more dependence on God, I have not yet seen a vast increase in the number of people wanting to talk about him. I realize that may be a deficiency on my part, and I am still seeking to grow in my efforts to reach out to others.
Jesus’ words in Matthew 9 have given me a better perspective on people’s openness.
35 And Jesus went throughout all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction. 36 When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. 37 Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; 38 therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest” (Matthew 9:35-38)
In verse 37 Jesus said the harvest is plentiful, meaning that many people were open to entering the kingdom of God. I’m not certain Jesus intended that to be a statement of truth for all times and places. In fact, for a long time I thought it only applied to his circumstances then because it did not seem to me like there was much of a harvest where I was. More recently, though, a closer look at the passage makes me think there is still a great harvest around us. Two insights about Jesus’ words are important in this regard.
First, verse 37 is based on verse 36. In other words, the reason Jesus said the harvest is plentiful (v. 37) is because he saw a crowd of harassed and helpless people standing there (v. 36). This suggests that as long as verse 36 is true, verse 37 will be true. As long as there are harassed and helpless people, there will be a harvest. We may have a lot to learn about how to work in God’s harvest field, including how to approach these people, but the many broken people all around us today indicate that there is a harvest.
Second, verse 36 is based on verse 35. The reason there was a crowd of harassed and helpless people gathering around Jesus is that he had been teaching, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and healing people. People were attracted to Jesus and so gathered around him. People are still attracted to Jesus today. They are not always attracted to our churches, and in fact, increasing numbers do not want to be a part of the church. But they hold Jesus in high regard, and this indicates there is a harvest. Again, we may have much to learn about reaching them. If they choose to follow him, we will also have to learn how to help them understand the importance of the church and participate in it meaningfully. But their attraction to Jesus indicates there is a harvest.
So, it seems to me that, as long as people are harassed and helpless and are also attracted to Jesus, there will be a harvest of people open to the kingdom of God. What, then, are we to do with our notions that there isn’t very much interest? I’ll share five perspectives on this:
- The first one is a bit challenging. It is the question, Have we been actually reaching out to others enough to really know? If we have been actively reaching out to people by praying for opportunities, probing for interest, and speaking when we can, and we have found very little interest, then our perspective has some real life experience to support it. Or, stated differently, if we have been doing the kinds of things Jesus was doing in Matthew 9:35 and no one seems to be interested, that may give us a basis to rethink some things. But if it is just a feeling that is not based on actively seeking to reach out to others, perhaps such a conclusion is premature.
- Interest and openness are not our primary our role and responsibility. The condition of people’s hearts is a matter that is primarily up to them and to God’s working on them. In contrast, our primary calling is to live the life, be prepared to give a reason for our hope, and do so gently and respectfully. This we do regardless of how well people respond—whether positively, apathetically, or negatively.
- On the other hand, however, God may indeed use us to help open people’s hearts to him. When we do good deeds in the right manner, we are letting our light shine in such a way that others may see and give glory to God (Matthew 5:16—for more insight on this verse here). Similarly, the submission, respect, and purity of our lives may open a person to the gospel (1 Peter 3:1-2). We can also pray for people to be open to the word (Romans 10:1). Though our primary responsibility is not to open people’s hearts but to speak, and though we cannot fully understand what makes people open to Christ, God may still use us in various ways to help open their hearts to him.
- We need to gear up to be in a state of readiness to speak for the long haul. We’ve been seeking to “be prepared” (1 Peter 3:15-16), and we may always feel the need for more preparation. Regardless, once we are prepared enough to speak, we need to make sure we are continually seeking for opportunities. If these do not come immediately, we may get discouraged and lose our focus. Jesus said sowing is hard work and that those who sow are not always the ones who get to reap (John 4:37-38). All this indicates it may take some time for people to come to Christ, so we need to persevere in the hard work of sowing the seed of the word over the long haul. This includes praying for opportunities, watching for opportunities, probing for interest, and actually speaking the word. What do you need in order to stay focused on this calling for the long term?
- If many workers find even a few opportunities each, there will be much interest in Christ. Instead of calling attention to a lack of openness, in the passage above the Lord focused on the lack of workers. He said there were only a few workers and that we should pray for more (Matthew 9:37-38). Elsewhere in the New Testament, we do indeed read about many people speaking the word (Acts 4:31; 15:35). We can act on this insight by praying for workers, continuing to prepare ourselves, and staying alert to any opportunities God may give us, even if it seems like there aren’t many. For more on how the ministry of Empowering Subjects helps equip subjects of the King to be the workers Jesus called for, see here.
There are many things that may hinder us from speaking to others about Christ, and we have discussed several of them in this series of posts. It is good and right to think and talk about how we might more faithfully fulfill our Father’s mission. But there is also an enormous danger of thinking we are doing something about God’s mission merely by reading or thinking about it. In fact, however, if nothing changes, nothing changes! We have to actually do something.
May I encourage you, then, to take a small step by reviewing whichever barrier you believe hinders you the most and praying God will give you the strength to overcome it and the opportunity to speak for him.
Not convinced the Lord wants you to speak? See here
Had bad experiences reaching out or seen inadequate models? See here
Intimidated by society’s rules against judging or talking about religion? See here
Not enough time? See here
Not where you need to be spiritually or in your understanding? See here
Don’t know how to bring up the subject of Christ? See here
Don’t know what to say? See here
Afraid they’ll ask hard questions? See here
Have a fear that you’ll do harm or be rejected or lose a friend? See here
Don’t really think anyone is interested? See the post above.
Again, I relate to every one of these barriers and either have faced them or still am. But I am trying to gather the divine insights, resources, and courage to speak anyway.
Again I encourage you to actually do something. Reread one of the posts. Pray for God’s help and courage with the barriers that hinder you most. And keep on praying for God to give you opportunities, to see them, and to make the most of them. Take a step. Do something. Telling others that Jesus is Lord and Christ is the will of God.