"As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up; so that whoever believes will in Him have eternal life."
There is a difference between outreach and evangelism. Outreach can take many different forms. It can be service. It can be advertising. Outreach can (and should) contain evangelism. But it doesn't always.
Sometimes Christians fall into the trap of preaching ourselves. Preaching our churches. Preaching our favorite doctrines, moral battles, pressing burdens, or our pet programs.
To be sure, there is a time and a place for all of that.
But Christians must also remember the counsel of Paul, the Apostle to the Gentiles:
For we do not preach ourselves but Christ Jesus as Lord, and ourselves as your bond-servants for Jesus' sake. (2 Corinthians 4:5)
We do not preach ourselves. We preach Christ Jesus as Lord. We present ourselves as servants of others for Jesus' sake. Our service to them can take many forms. Primarily we serve them by declaring to them the truth that salvation is found in no one else other than Jesus. That's why we don't preach ourselves. That's why we preach Christ Jesus as Lord.
Paul is only teaching what Jesus taught before. John's Gospel traces an important theological theme from the beginning of Christ's earthly ministry to the end.
"As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up; so that whoever believes will in Him have eternal life." (John 3:14-15)Jesus came to be lifted up. This language illustrates the death that Jesus came to die. Jesus chose the imagery of Moses lifting up the serpent in the wilderness to vividly depict that His death on the cross would be for the salvation of all who look to Him and believe.
So Jesus said, "When you lift up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am He, and I do nothing on My own initiative, but I speak these things as the Father taught Me. And He who sent Me is with Me; He has not left Me alone, for I always do the things that are pleasing to Him." As He spoke these things, many came to believe in Him. (John 8:28-30)
"And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to Myself." But He was saying this to indicate the kind of death by which He was to die. The crowd then answered Him, "We have heard out of the Law that the Christ is to remain forever; and how can You say, 'The Son of Man must be lifted up'? Who is this Son of Man?" (John 12:32-34)
You can (and should) read the whole account in Numbers 21:1-9.
In these short verses we see a picture of divine judgment and deliverance. Judgment is upon the people for their sin against God. God in His graciousness and lovingkindness presents to them a possibility for redemption. The means are odd. Look to the object of your deliverance. Find salvation by trusting in what God has said is the remedy.
All who believed God were delivered.
All who did not believe perished in the desert.
Jesus chose this imagery. Paul counseled believers to live in accordance with this truth. God has ordained the foolishness of preaching to be the means by which He saves people from the judgment they deserve.
Moses could have argued with God that there were many more sensible plans to deal with the problem of fiery serpents biting people than forming a bronze serpent and lifting it up on a standard. Today, we come up with all sorts of things (other than lifting up the Son) that seem more reasonable to deal with the brokenness around us.
Our strategies may make sense to us. They may be reasonable. But woe be unto us if we fail to honor our God by lifting up the Son!
For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not come to know God, God was well-pleased through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe. For indeed Jews ask for signs and Greeks search for wisdom; but we preach Christ crucified, to Jews a stumbling block and to Gentiles foolishness, but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. (1 Corinthians 1:21-24)
Take ActionTo be equipped to preach the gospel fully, faithfully, boldly, compassionately, and lovingly we must be saturated in the truth of God's word. Read, read, and read God's Word. All of it. Not just the parts you like or are most comfortable with.
There are also two excellent resources I can recommend for you to grow in your ability to communicate the gospel and lift up the Son:
Let the church lift up the Son that all may glory in our great and compassionate God who sent His Son into the world to reconcile sinners unto Himself!