Dr. Kevin Parker - 2018

Dr. Kevin Parker serves as a state missionary and director of media services for the Baptist Convention of New Mexico.

Who needs Jesus? Who needs to hear the Gospel? Think that through. This article describes people, lost people, people who need Jesus. It covers everyone, every individual, everywhere. All of them need Jesus, just like I need Jesus. Believers must tell them about Him.

Where are the lost people? Every believer can look around them and find three categories of people: Accessibles, Influencers and Outliers. Other models of categorizing lost people can also help Christians find non-believers. Models are only tools to help believers see lost people. And, seeing non-believers is the first step to telling them about Jesus.

“Accessibles” are individuals to whom believers have easy access. “Influencers” are people who shape a believer's society and culture. They may be harder to access, and an individual believer may not know them. Their positions, roles and work extensively impact many people. “Outliers” do not influence society's structure, nor are they easy to access. However, God placed them inside every believer's circle of spiritual concern. They need Jesus, too.

Believers should consider people "lost" until they discover that they believe in Jesus and have surrendered to follow Him. Any other situation calls for ongoing, repeated evangelism.

Also, each category contains people with whom sharing the Gospel will be challenging. Personalities, relationship health, perceptions of power, expectations about a person's response and other factors complicate soul-winners' work. The list of challenges is endless. But, God's truth and the work of His Holy Spirit can overcome anything.

The “Accessibles” category can include few or hundreds of people, depending on a believer's setting. It contains six groups: family members, friends, neighbors, co-workers, service people and social media connections. Christians usually enjoy relatively easy access to them, whether in-person or virtually. Everyone has one or more unbelievers in this category.

Family Members include two levels of family. Level one contains a person's spouse, children, parents and siblings. Level two targets in-laws, spouse's siblings, children's spouses, grandchildren, grandparents, aunts and uncles, nieces and nephews and a sibling's spouse. If one assumes living parents and two children per family, those two levels encompass 24 family members.

Friends are people whom a person knows but who do not fall into other groups of Accessibles. In the friendship, both individuals enjoy and pursue one another's presence and interaction, whether that happens often or infrequently.

Neighbors live nearby, next door, across the street, upstairs, downstairs or over the back fence. As a "rule of thumb," they live in every home touching or within a 500'-radius circle/sphere centered in the middle of your home. An individuals' circle/sphere could have a radius greater than 500'.

Co-Workers include every person at a workplace (including bosses, supervisors, owners) whose activities bring them in contact with you frequently enough that they recognize you.

Service People serve you in some occupation and with whom direct interaction is possible (even if you do not interact). They can be bank tellers, grocery store checkers, food servers, plumbers, repair people, doctors, nurses, receptionists, technicians, mechanics, mail carriers, delivery drivers or others.

Social Media Connections includes every individual with whom a saint has a friend, fan, follower, or similar social media connection. Social media platforms cover services like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, Tumblr, Snapchat, WhatsApp, TikTok, Reddit, Parler and others.

The “Influencers” category encompasses a vast group of people. To some believers, this group appears as the hardest to penetrate. But, sharing the Gospel with "Influencers" can have a widespread impact. They consist of three groups: structure builders, social pressure influencers, and crisis helpers. Each group has a unique sub-culture that presents barriers to sharing the Gospel. But, God can breach those barriers.

Structure Builders shape the laws and systems that govern a believer's society. They include government leaders and workers, lawmakers and rule-makers, judges and lawyers, as well as activists and protestors, lobbyists, and representatives of political groups and special interests. Spiritual awakening among this group can alter a society's core nature.  

Social Pressure Influencers include social media influencers, content producers, entertainers, actors, musicians, and media personalities. Believers often know their names, but accessing them for a personal, spiritual conversation is difficult. Their influence upon culture underlies the need and urgency to reach them with the Gospel. Their messages and opinions easily and quickly travel to their audiences and usually enjoy broad acceptance and repeated consumption.

Crisis Helpers’ task is intense. They influence life's longevity and freedom. Emergency service providers, enforcers (police and security officers), crisis responders and similar people comprise the group. They protect and help anyone. Everyone assumes they are nearby, ready and available at any moment to assist during life's troubling and vulnerable moments. Their role in society is essential. They need Jesus, just like the people they help.

The “Outliers” category, like a sequence of "big," "bigger" and "biggest," comes last. It is the largest category of people who need the Gospel. As a "catch-all," it contains everybody else on the whole planet. Five groups comprise the category: nearby strangers, distant strangers, outcasts, criminals and difficult people. All of these people need to hear the Gospel.

Nearby Strangers are community members and random strangers that populate the same area as a believer. Because they are numerous and common, they can become almost invisible. No connections and no relationships offer bridges for sharing the Gospel. Still, believers have a responsibility to reach this "highways and hedges" group. Without intentionality, a Christian can live day after day, totally unaware of the "sea" of nearby strangers surrounding him or her.

Distant Strangers are the appeal of mission trips. They live in other communities, other states, other countries or on distant continents. The Bible tags them as "the ends of the earth." This group is the most popular "Outlier" group. It fuels many believers' passion for giving financially toward missionary efforts. Believers sacrifice vacations to travel and share the Gospel with distant strangers.

Outcasts are rejected people. Generally, fellow community members avoid them. They often gather together in groups for community and survival, developing "pocket cultures" that further distance them from other people. They include homeless people, refugees and similarly stationed people. Their unconventional lifestyles and suspicion of others challenge Gospel sharing but does not prevent it.

Lawbreakers, inmates, criminals and disruptors fill the Criminals group. They violate social norms and laws and steal and damage property, threatening life both directly and indirectly. Yet, the Gospel can move among them. Evangelism inside prisons has spawned prison churches and prison church movements. Though they can be difficult to access and intimidating for some believers, these people still need Jesus.

Finally, Difficult People already appear in other categories. Believers often avoid or neglect them when sharing the Gospel. Everyone has a list of difficult people and criteria for who goes on it. Those lists collect a person's opponents, enemies, undesirables and generally disliked individuals. But, such lists must never hinder the Gospel - ever. God wants them to hear His story. To Him, each of them is worthy of the effort.

That is who needs Jesus! Accessibles. Influencers. Outliers. Tell them all! Go. 

Kevin Parker is editor of the Baptist New Mexican news journal and GoBNM.com, news and information outlets for the Baptist Convention of New Mexico.

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