The following is an adaptation of the sermon ‘Whom Should I Tell?’ preached by Pastor Michael White on Sunday, 1/20/2019, at CityLight Church. To listen to the full podcast please click
Whom Should I Tell?
Maybe the last chapter left you in a bad place. We’ve established that we have an amazing gift in the Gospel. We have eternal life! We have access to the things of Heaven here on earth!
But we also have a responsibility to share. Ezekiel 3:16-21 taught us that if God asks us to share the Gospel, and we don’t do it, we will be accountable. That doesn’t mean our salvation will be in question; but it does mean we will have to answer in some form of Heavenly accountability for what was done or not done!
But we also noted that Ezekiel’s responsibility was not to share God’s word with everyone; it was to speak to a specific group of people to whom God called him:
“Son of man, I have made you a watchman for the house of Israel…” – Ezek 3:17
Ezekiel was to be a watchman for the “house of Israel.” He didn’t have to travel the world, and spend every waking moment stopping people on the street to let them know that Hell is a real place. He simply had to go where God called Him to go, and say what God called him to say, to whom God called him to reach.
Your job is not to save the world. Jesus already did that! However, God has given you a specific assignment. He has given you access to a group of people – friends, family, and co-workers, in particular – whom no one else can reach! And I would like to suggest that it is your job to 1) find out who those people are, and 2) tell them about the love of God.
God sends specific people to specific places to preach a specific message. We’ve already established that we have to share the Gospel with someone. In this chapter we’re going to work on identifying your “target audience:” defining that group of people God created you to reach with the Gospel message. In the following chapters, we’ll develop specific strategies for reaching those people in ways that are both 1) tasteful and 2) effective.
Jesus Had A Primary Mission
Did you know that God gave even Jesus a specific audience? There were people who came to Jesus in Scripture who were not part of the group He was sent to reach. I know it doesn’t sound nice or fair; but Jesus actually prioritized His ministry around reaching the people God called Him to reach first. Yes, everyone needs help! But God has given you a specific grace to help certain people.
Then Jesus went out from there and departed to the region of Tyre and Sidon. And behold, a woman of Canaan came from that region and cried out to Him, saying, “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David! My daughter is severely demon-possessed.” But He answered her not a word. – Matt 15:21-23a
Why would Jesus completely ignore this woman! She was desperate and needed help! Finally, frustrated with Jesus’ lack of response, the disciples’ emotions got the best of them:
And His disciples came and urged Him, saying, “Send her away, for she cries out after us.” But He answered and said, “I was not sent except to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” – Matt 15:23b-24
Wow. Even Jesus had a primary mission! He knew the primary calling on His life was to minister to the “lost sheep of the house of Israel.” He would not allow Himself to be distracted by a seemingly endless river of dire need flowing towards Him (which is often what full-time ministry becomes, and why full-time ministers so often burn out). He knew His calling; and He refused to be distracted from it.
As we keep reading, we notice that Jesus does end up helping this woman:
Then she came and worshiped Him, saying, “Lord, help me!” But He answered and said, “It is not good to take the children’s bread and throw it to the little dogs.” And she said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the little dogs eat the crumbs which fall from their masters’ table.” Then Jesus answered and said to her, “O woman, great is your faith! Let it be to you as you desire.” And her daughter was healed from that very hour. – Matt 15:25-28
Jesus helped her because she was hungry. We’ll talk about this in the next chapter. The implication is two-fold:
1) We need to be aware of our primary mission. When “ministry opportunities” arise that do not align with our primary mission, we have be very wary about accepting them.
2) We also need to stay available. God responds to hunger. He will send us people who aren’t part of the primary people group He wants us to reach, but show us just how darn hungry they are. He will ask us to put our primary mission on pause to reward their hunger with a touch from Heaven!
Do you see the balance here? Jesus was focused, but He was also available. He knew His primary purpose and He constructed appropriate boundaries to get it done; but he also stayed available so that when someone who was hungry came to seek Him, He was ready and waiting.
So, the question Jesus’ ministry poses for you and me is: who is your primary mission?
Paul Had A Primary Mission
Paul was a machine. After Jesus appeared to him on the Road to Damascus, he quickly and fully embraced his calling to share the Gospel with much of the known world at the time. He willingly went wherever God called him, whenever God called him!
Then he came to Derbe and Lystra. And behold, a certain disciple was there, named Timothy, the son of a certain Jewish woman who believed, but his father was Greek. He was well spoken of by the brethren who were at Lystra and Iconium. Paul wanted to have him go on with him. And he took him and circumcised him because of the Jews who were in that region, for they all knew that his father was Greek. And as they went through the cities, they delivered to them the decrees to keep, which were determined by the apostles and elders at Jerusalem. So the churches were strengthened in the faith, and increased in number daily. – Acts 16:1-5
But did you know that even Paul had a primary mission? Watch this:
Now when they had gone through Phrygia and the region of Galatia, they were forbidden by the Holy Spirit to preach the word in Asia. – Acts 16:6
Why would the Holy Spirit ever forbid someone to preach? Isn’t it God’s will that no man should perish (2 Pet 3:9)? Isn’t preaching a good thing? So why, when Paul and Timothy tried to go into new places and preach the Gospel, would God ever tell them no?
This didn’t happen just once by the way:
After they had come to Mysia, they tried to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit did not permit them. – Acts 16:7
What is going on here? Paul and Timothy had plans to preach the Gospel in multiple places, but the Holy Spirit 1) forbade them (v 6), and 2) did not permit them (v 7). What’s the lesson for us?
Just as important as knowing where you are called, is knowing where you are not called. Paul and Timothy had the right heart! They wanted to do the right thing! But God didn’t want them where they were trying to go.
I know so many people in ministry who have the right heart to do the right thing, but try to do it in the wrong place at the wrong time. If we don’t have an active relationship with God where we are listening to His Holy Spirit, we can waste years trying to do good work in the wrong place at the wrong time. Paul and Timothy had a calling to preach the Gospel on their lives! But they still had to listen to God. They still had to ask, Lord, where do you want us to go?
Finally, God showed Paul and Timothy why He had been keeping their schedules open.
So passing by Mysia, they came down to Troas. And a vision appeared to Paul in the night. A man of Macedonia stood and pleaded with him, saying, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” – Acts 16:8-9
Now this is starting to make sense. Paul and Timothy wanted to stay east and preach in what is now modern-day Turkey; but God wanted them to head west to what we know as Greece. God told Paul and Timothy not to go into certain places so they would be available for their primary mission when God gave them more details!
What would have happened if Paul and Timothy had gone into Asia or Bithynia? Maybe they would have preached, but their preaching wouldn’t have been fruitful. Maybe they would have preached, but they would have been in danger. Maybe they would have been stepping on someone else’s toes! What if there were people in Asia and Bithynia whom God wanted to raise up to preach; and by going into those places – even with the good heart and the right intentions – Paul and Timothy would have been stifling someone else’s growth?
What an exciting adventure it is to walk with God! Paul and Timothy were gradually feeling out what God wanted them to do. They didn’t put on blinders and plow forward into something that seemed good, even though God hadn’t blessed them to do it! They knocked on doors to see if God wanted them to go! When He didn’t want them to go to a certain place, the Holy Spirit said no; but when God was ready to tell them their mission, He swung doors wide open and made their destination abundantly clear.
Do you see why it’s so important to know your primary mission? Don’t waste your time trying to do the right thing in the wrong place. God created you to do something unique: something special that no one else in the world can do as well as you! But if you want to walk that out, you have to listen to God and find out what it is.
Now after he had seen the vision, immediately we sought to go to Macedonia, concluding that the Lord had called us to preach the gospel to them. – Acts 16:10
Peter Had A Primary Mission
Peter was a busy man. In Acts 2, he gives the first sermon after the early church gets baptized in the Holy Spirit with the evidence of speaking in tongues. In Acts 3, he heals a man lame from birth. In Acts 4, Peter and John were arrested by religious leaders for preaching the Gospel; but instead of becoming afraid, they asked God to give them even more boldness to share the Good News (Acts 4:29)!
Peter was a man who was sent by God: he was willing to go wherever God sent him, whenever God sent him. But did you know that even Peter had a primary mission?
The next day, as they went on their journey and drew near the city, Peter went up on the housetop to pray, about the sixth hour. Then he became very hungry and wanted to eat; but while they made ready, he fell into a trance and saw heaven opened and an object like a great sheet bound at the four corners, descending to him and let down to the earth. In it were all kinds of four-footed animals of the earth, wild beasts, creeping things, and birds of the air. And a voice came to him, “Rise, Peter; kill and eat.” But Peter said, “Not so, Lord! For I have never eaten anything common or unclean.” And a voice spoke to him again the second time, “What God has cleansed you must not call common.” This was done three times. And the object was taken up into heaven again. – Acts 10:9-16
Peter was sent to the Jewish people. Up until Acts 10, he hadn’t played a role in getting any Gentiles saved. His primary mission was to the “lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Matt 15:24): just like Jesus! But God was about to change all that. God was telling Peter not to call the Gentiles “common” (v 15). He was getting Peter ready to have his primary mission changed!
Now while Peter wondered within himself what this vision which he had seen meant, behold, the men who had been sent from Cornelius had made inquiry for Simon’s house, and stood before the gate. And they called and asked whether Simon, whose surname was Peter, was lodging there. While Peter thought about the vision, the Spirit said to him, “Behold, three men are seeking you. Arise therefore, go down and go with them, doubting nothing; for I have sent them.” – Acts 10:17-20
Here is that balance again. Peter already had his primary mission! But at a moment’s notice, God asked Peter to change his focus. He asked Peter if he would be willing to minister to Gentiles. Peter, because he was hearing from the Holy Spirit, was prepared. He knew what to say! So when an opportunity to share the Gospel arose, he was ready.
The Healthy Balance
What does all this have to do with sharing the Gospel? This chapter is devoted to asking God to help you define your “target audience:” Lord, whom do You want me to tell? You have to tell someone! But you don’t have to tell everyone.
You have a primary mission: just like Jesus, Paul, and Peter. God will send you to 1) specific people and 2) specific groups of people so you can tell them about Jesus. It’s not your responsibility to save the world (Jesus already did that)! But it is your responsibility to identify whom God is asking you to reach. Then, ask Him for a strategy to talk to them, and set out to engage.
Our Christian mission is not to sit on our hands and close our mouths, keeping salvation all to ourselves for fear of being tainted by the world. But our mission is also not to beat people over the head with something they don’t want to hear! Our mission is to go where God calls us to go, and tell the people He asks us to tell.
Here is why all this is so important: once God defines whom He wants you to tell, He will anoint you to reach those people! Remember that it is wasted effort to try and do something God hasn’t anointed you to do, even if it’s a “good thing” and you do it with a good heart!
I believe in situational grace. That means God will anoint you to do His work: in a certain place, at a certain time. Situational grace is an empowerment from Heaven to persevere, no matter how difficult things get: as long as you stay where God has called you do be.
Here is how God explained this concept to the people of Israel:
And it shall be that if you earnestly obey My commandments which I command you today, to love the Lord your God and serve Him with all your heart and with all your soul, then I will give you the rain for your land in its season, the early rain and the latter rain, that you may gather in your grain, your new wine, and your oil. – Deut 11:13-14
God wanted to bless His people! But they had to correctly position themselves to receive His blessing. They had to love God, and love His word. They had to do what He asked them to do (i.e. they had to be obedient). His promise was to give them rain for their land in its season: in the right place (“your land”), and the right time (“in its season”)! God wants to bless you! But you have to be in the right place, at the right time.
When I graduated college, I went to work as a Risk Arbitrage trader at one of the biggest banks on Wall Street. For almost five years, I was incredibly happy. I was working long hours, but I loved the work. I was making lots of money, and I loved the people with whom I was working! But one day, all that changed. For years, the hand of God had been on my life to work in that industry. I had God’s situational grace! But one summer, I felt less and less satisfied. I was sick of the early mornings and late nights. I wasn’t excited about my work any more.
Out of nowhere, I started having existential moments at work. I would stand up in the middle of the trading floor, watching other traders interact and make trades. But all I could think was, What is the point of all this? Am I really making a difference?
One Saturday, I was looking out the window of our living room (my wife and I had been married almost 2 years at that time). Our apartment had a perfect view of my work building (not the healthiest setup in hindsight!). I started to pray, and God gave me a vision of my work building shaking violently, and splitting in two. I asked Him what it meant. Get ready for a moving and a shaking, I heard Him reply.
Several months later, I was let go. The bank didn’t want to be heavily invested in Risk Arb anymore, and I would pay the price. Part of me was shocked and hurt; but part of me completely knew it was coming. God had warned me that His situational grace was lifting! It would soon be time to move on and do something else.
I was blessed with a 6-month severance package, so I had plenty of time to stop and consider next steps. I interviewed for several roles in finance that were very similar to what I had been doing; but none of them felt right. I would get to the final round interview, and everything would go better than expected; but for whatever reason, it wouldn’t work out. Then one day, the Lead Pastor at my church approached me about a role on staff. Our church needed an Executive Pastor: someone who could do the church finance and administration during the week, and then preach on Sundays. Was I interested? One month later, I started in full-time ministry; and since that day, I have never looked back.
Are You Satisfied?
Are you happy with where you currently are? Do you feel the hand of God on your life? Are you doing what He created you to do?
If not, I believe it’s because of one of three reasons:
1) Maybe you’re not in “your land.” Maybe you’re in the wrong job, the wrong city, or the wrong relationship. If you’re sharing the Gospel with people but it seems like nobody’s listening, ask God: Lord, is this my land? Is this where you’ve called me to be?
2) Perhaps it’s not your “season.” Maybe God is getting ready to bless you, but He has to build a foundation in you first. When I first became a pastor, I thought I was going to take the Christian world by storm! I wrote a book by age 28, because I knew God had given me something to say. But I had to wait for the right season to see the hand of God on what I was doing. The difficult truth is some people just have a hard time hearing from a young pastor! But the older I get, the better it gets.
3) The third possibility has nothing to do with you, or with God. Maybe the enemy is trying to frustrate your plans. When I preached this message in church, I stopped and ministered to a young woman who was an actress in the middle of service. She knew she was called to New York City; and she knew she was born to be an actress! But she kept hearing this nagging voice: Give up. Move on! That is not the voice of God’s Holy Spirit! That is the voice of the enemy. When God speaks, you will be encouraged; but when the enemy speaks, you will be overcome with insecurity and doubt.
So how do you know the difference? Talk to God. Lean on His Holy Spirit. Ask Him if you are where you are supposed to be. Ask Him if you are doing what He called you to do! Ask Him if you’re sharing the Gospel with the people you’re supposed to reach. As you ask Him, He will tell you.
Make a list of five people God wants you to talk to. Ask Him: God, where do You want me to go? Whom do You want me to tell? I believe that as you ask God, He will tell you.
Keep that list of five people in a prominent place in your home: your fridge, your desk, or even taped to the door as you leave your apartment. Ask God to fill you with a passion to reach those people, and plant a seed so they can fall in love with Jesus. In the coming chapters, we’ll talk about formulating strategies that are both 1) tasteful and 2) effective so you can share the Good News and see them give their lives to Jesus.
© Michael D. White, 2019. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Michael D. White with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.
 For another example of Jesus’ moving on to His mission despite an obvious need from people who were looking for Him, see Mark 1:32-39.
 Acts 9:1-8