The “Perfect” Prospect

As we meet new people we immediately size them up: what or who do they look like, are they outgoing or timid, friendly or belligerent, etc. As Christians we also need to be attentive to what kind of prospect they might be to hear the Gospel, being careful not to decide (in our mind) whether they will or will not accept it. But what are we looking for in a prospect—the “perfect” prospect?

Over and over Jesus taught the common people; He even said that the Gospel was revealed not to the wise, but unto babes (Matthew 11:25). Paul wrote that not many wise, not many noble, not many powerful, according to this world are called by the Gospel (1  Corinthians 1:26). Yet both Matthew and Zacchaeus were rich and accepted the Gospel. Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea both seem to be influential, yet they recognized Jesus as the Christ. So, the fact that a person is rich or powerful doesn’t mean they may not be a good prospect. Many “poor people” seem unable to look beyond today and so are not good prospects. A person’s financial status is not a good indicator of whether or not they are a good prospect.

Surely a religious person will be a better prospect than a non-religious one. Yet in Jesus’ day the religious were the ones who rejected Him, while those who were at least seemingly less religious heard Him gladly. Too many religious people see themselves as already saved and “have need of nothing” (like the church at Laodicea), while worldly people are keenly aware of what they lack.

One man told me, “I’ve lived life my way for 32 years and look where I am, maybe it’s time I tried another way.” He had been married and divorced twice, was living in a tiny apartment filled with stuff he had borrowed from us—all he owned were a few shorts, t-shirts, and a pair of flip-flops (this was in the Caribbean). He had a good paying job, but partied it all away every weekend—he knew what he needed. It’s interesting that two of the places where Paul spent more time than others were Corinth and Ephesus, both worldly cities, filled with worldly people, yet the Lord told him, “I have many people in this city” (Acts 18:10). So how a person is living right now may or may not indicate a good prospect—I know several “bikers” who now preach.

The “perfect” prospect will be one that immediately understands and verbalize his/her agreement with the Gospel when you’re teaching, right? In a word, “no.” Too many times I’ve left a first study or the first visit to set up a study “knowing” this person would be baptized inside of three months only to see them do nothing. In fact, that reaction is almost like a stop sign for me now. If they can in fact be that easily persuaded, frequently they do not continue, like the seed sown in the rocky soil. No, first reaction is not always a good indicator.

Who then, is the perfect prospect? The parable of the sower (or the soils) gives us the answer. What we are seeking are those good and honest hearts, who when they hear the Gospel, believe it and then obey it and continue growing in it. It may take awhile to produce fruit, you may have to deal with some denominational “weeds” before they will obey, but a heart honestly seeking truth is the mark of a good prospect. So how do you identify the honest heart? There is no easy answer; it only becomes apparent as you teach them. One of the best indicators that you have an honest heart is when they either buy a new Bible, or ask you what version of Bible they should buy—they are serious enough to invest some money in their search for truth.

There is no short cut or “formula” for knowing whom the best prospects are—faith comes by hearing, and hearing from the Word of God (Romans 10:17) That takes time, which is why it’s so important to teach as many as you can—don’t worry, God’s Word will always have an effect. I studied with four or five from a Pentecostal church and from that one study they learned a woman couldn’t preach over men, so they no longer allowed a woman to be their preacher. Are they Christians today? Not that I know of, but the Word did produce one change in their service to God. Who knows what the future will bring?

Solomon’s wisdom, as expressed in Ecclesiastes 11:6, is a good way for us to close as well, “In the morning sow your seed, And in the evening do not withhold your hand; For you do not know which will prosper, Either this or that, Or whether both alike will be good.”