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Biblical Models for Outreach

If we are to follow the example of our Lord, then we must be preachers of the gospel. We are the ones God has chosen to sow the seed and to reap the harvest when it is ripe.
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God’s Preaching Mission for His Servants

God chose Israel to be His special people. He was their God, and they were His servants. As such, the LORD assigned them the responsibility of preaching His message of justice and salvation to all nations, including both Israelites and Gentiles. This is a favorite theme of Isaiah:

Here is my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen one in whom I delight; I will put my Spirit on him, and he will bring justice to the nations… In his teaching the islands will put their hope… I will keep you and will make you to be a covenant for the people and a light for the Gentiles, to open eyes that are blind. (Isa 42:1, 4, 6; Matt 12:18-21).1
[The LORD] says, “It is too small a thing for you to be my servant to restore the tribes of Jacob and bring back those of Israel I have kept. I will also make you a light for the Gentiles, that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.” (Isa 49:6; Acts 13:47).
How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, “Your God reigns!” … The LORD will lay bare his holy arm in the sight of all the nations, and all the ends of the earth will see the salvation of our God. (Isa 52:7, 10; Rom 10:15).
The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. (Isa 61:1; Luke 4:16-21; Matt 11:5; Luke 7:22).

Daniel preached to Gentile kings. For example, Daniel and his three friends were faithful to the LORD. They revealed God’s word to Gentile kings, and, as a result, those kings acknowledged that their God was indeed the God of gods:

The king [Nebuchadnezzar] said to Daniel, “Surely your God is the God of gods and the Lord of kings and a revealer of mysteries, for you were able to reveal this mystery.”  (Dan 2:47; see also 3:28-29; 4:34-37; 6:25-27).

Jonah reluctantly preached to Gentiles. The Book of Jonah tells two parallel stories of Jonah preaching to Gentiles. In both cases: “The word of the LORD came to Jonah” (1:1; 3:1), “Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it” (1:2; 3:2), and “Jonah prayed to the LORD” (2:1; 4:1-2). In the first case, “Jonah ran away from the LORD and headed for Tarshish” (1:3); in the second, “Jonah obeyed the word of the LORD and went to Nineveh.” (3:3). In the first case, “the LORD provided a huge fish to swallow Jonah” (1:17); in the second, “the LORD God provided a leafy plant… to ease Jonah’s discomfort” (4:6). In both cases, the Gentiles behaved more appropriately than Jonah:

Then they cried out to the LORD, “Please, LORD, do not let us die for taking this man’s life. Do not hold us accountable for killing an innocent man, for you, LORD, have done as you pleased.” Then they took Jonah and threw him overboard, and the raging sea grew calm. At this the men greatly feared the LORD, and they offered sacrifice to the LORD and made vows to him.” (1:14-16).
The Ninevites believed God. A fast was proclaimed and all of them, from the greatest to the least, put on sackcloth. (3:5; see also 3:6-9).

Jonah had done the absolute least he could possibly do. He did not want to preach to Israel’s most hated enemy. He did not want the LORD to forgive them and show them mercy and kindness. He would prefer that God destroy them. But God expected more of His people, more of His prophet. Finally, at last, Jonah proclaimed to them,

“Forty more days and Nineveh will be overthrown.” (3:4). Nevertheless, his minimal effort produced the fruit of repentance (3:5). God relented: “When God saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways, he relented and did not bring on them the destruction he had threatened.” (3:10).

When the Pharisees and scribes demanded a sign, Jesus responded by recalling these two episodes in the life of Jonah:

He answered, “A wicked and adulterous generation asks for a sign! But none will be given it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. The men of Nineveh will stand up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it; for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and now something greater than Jonah is here.” (Matt 12:39-41).

Jesus preached the gospel everywhere he went to both Jews and Gentiles.

Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness among the people. (Matt 4:23).
Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.” (Matt 9:35-38).
Meanwhile his disciples urged him, “Rabbi, eat something.” But he said to them, “I have food to eat that you know nothing about.” Then his disciples said to each other, “Could someone have brought him food?” “My food,” said Jesus, “is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work. Don’t you have a saying, ‘It’s still four months until harvest’? I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest. Even now the one who reaps draws a wage and harvests a crop for eternal life, so that the sower and the reaper may be glad together. Thus the saying ‘One sows and another reaps’ is true. I sent you to reap what you have not worked for. Others have done the hard work, and you have reaped the benefits of their labor.” (John 4:31-38).

If we are to follow the example of our Lord, then we must be preachers of the gospel. We are the ones God has chosen to sow the seed and to reap the harvest when it is ripe.

The formal missions of Peter to the Jews and Paul to the Gentiles.

I [Paul] presented to them the gospel I preach among the Gentiles… they added nothing to my message. On the contrary, they recognized that I had been entrusted with the task of preaching the gospel to the uncircumcised, just as Peter had been to the circumcised.
For God, who was at work in Peter as an apostle to the circumcised, was also at work in me as an apostle to the Gentiles. James, Cephas and John, those esteemed as pillars, gave me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship when they recognized the grace given to me. They agreed that we should go to the Gentiles, and they to the circumcised. (Gal 2:2, 6-9).

Principles of Preaching

Throughout his ministry Jesus teaches us the key principles of preaching.

We are called to shine as lights in the world.

Jesus and Paul emphasize that we must preach the gospel as a community and as individuals:

You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven. (Matt 5:14-16).
Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, “children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.” Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky as you hold firmly to the word of life. (Phil 2:14-16).

The fruit determines the validity of our preaching mission.

Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them. (Matt 7:15-20).

We must preach everywhere to everyone.

This point is key to the Parable of the Sower (Matt 13:1-23). In the parable, the farmer scatters the seed everywhere: along the path, on rocky places, among thorns, and on good soil. He doesn’t just sow it on the good soil. He scatters it on all types of soil and lets the soil itself determine if it produces a crop. This randomness may seem difficult for us to understand, but it is the Lord’s way.

The idea of preaching everywhere is also part of the great commission:

Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matt 28:18-20).
He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.  Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.” …  After the Lord Jesus had spoken to them, he was taken up into heaven and he sat at the right hand of God. Then the disciples went out and preached everywhere, and the Lord worked with them and confirmed his word by the signs that accompanied it. (Mark 16:15-16, 19-20).
He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:7-8).

Pair preaching.

Following the pattern set by Jesus, preachers in the first century were sent out “two by two” (Mark 6:7; Luke 10:1; Acts 11:30; 12:25; 13:2-4; 15:39-40; cf. Eccl 4:9-12).

The book of Acts and the New Testament letters also discuss preaching principles.

The message we are to share is the good news of the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ.

But when they believed Philip as he proclaimed the good news of the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women. (Acts 8:12).
[Paul] proclaimed the kingdom of God and taught about the Lord Jesus Christ—with all boldness and without hindrance! (Acts 28:31; cf. Matt 3:23; Mark 1:14-15; 1 Cor 15:1-4).

We must be instructed in the Scriptures as preparation to preach. Paul exhorted Timothy (and us):

But as for you [Timothy], continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, and how from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.
All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I give you this charge:
Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction. (2 Tim 3:14-4:2; cf. Luke 24:44-49).

We must diligently plant and water; God will give the increase. Paul wrote to the Corinthians:

What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe—as the Lord has assigned to each his task. I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow. So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. The one who plants and the one who waters have one purpose, and they will each be rewarded according to their own labor. For we are co-workers in God’s service; you are God’s field, God’s building. (1 Cor 3:5-9).

Specific Examples of Personal Preaching

Naomi to Ruth. Naomi was a wonderful mother-in-law. No doubt, she taught her daughters-in-law the promises of the LORD. This preaching is evident because when it came time for Naomi to return home to Bethlehem, she encouraged them to stay behind in Moab,

“But Ruth replied, ‘Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God.’” (Ruth 1:16).

Legion to his own people. Once healed and in his right mind, Legion wanted to go with Jesus, but Jesus refused, insisting instead that he go back home and preach to his people:

As Jesus was getting into the boat, the man who had been demon-possessed begged to go with him. Jesus did not let him, but said, “Go home to your own people and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.” So the man went away and began to tell in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him. And all the people were amazed. (Mark 5:18-20; cf. Matt 4:25).

Samaritan woman to the Samaritans. After her remarkable interaction with Jesus at Jacob’s well, she returned to preach the good news to the people of the town, leading many of them to believe in him:

Then, leaving her water jar, the woman went back to the town and said to the people, “Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Messiah?” They came out of the town and made their way toward him. Many of the Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me everything I ever did.”
So when the Samaritans came to him, they urged him to stay with them, and he stayed two days. And because of his words many more became believers. They said to the woman, “We no longer believe just because of what you said; now we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this man really is the Savior of the world.” (John 4:28-30, 39-42).

Lois and Eunice to Timothy. Timothy’s mother and grandmother were faithful women in the Lord. No doubt, in their everyday lives, they were wonderful influences on him. Paul praised them, “I am reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you.” (2 Tim 1:5).

Joe Hill,
Austin Leander Ecclesia, TX


  1. All Scriptural citations are taken from the New International Version 2011

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