Over the last couple of weeks we’ve been learning that God has given each of us different evangelistic styles. We are learning that it takes all kinds of Christians to reach all kinds of people. All people cannot witness the same way, but all people can witness some way. We’ve looked at the Confrontational style of Peter, the Intellectual style of Paul, the Testimonial style of the Blind Man, and this week we are going to be looking at three more styles.
But before we get going this morning, let me challenge you with a question: Have the last 10 weeks of sermons on evangelism moved you to action? Have you shared your faith even once? Have you looked for opportunities to communicate the gospel with anyone? Have you prayed that God would provide you with opportunities to be a witness for Him?
If we want to see the mission of God accomplished, we must put our good intentions to action and spread the message of Christ. James warns us in James 1:22 not to fool ourselves. He says, “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.”
Just as we learned that anyone can take part in the Testimonial approach of evangelism that we saw last week in the story of the Blind Man, I believe everyone can take part in the three approaches we will be looking at today as well. The first is called the Interpersonal approach and we find a case study of this approach in Luke chapter 5.
The Interpersonal Approach
In Luke 5:27 we find a man named Levi, who is also known as Matthew, sitting in a tollbooth. Matthew was one of the Jewish first-century society’s most hated types of people – he was a tax collector.
This meant was that he was a Jew who had been hired by the Roman government. Tax collectors were considered to be on the lowest rung of the social ladder because of their shady dealings. A tax collector’s job was to estimate the worth of goods that flowed through the city in order to levy a tax. Unfortunately, this estimated tax was usually much higher than what the goods were worth. As a result, tax collectors were considered extortionists. They operated on a commission system and the commission was whatever they could get away with.
Matthew was considered a thief and a traitor because he was working for a foreign government. Tax collectors were hated because they served as a constant reminder to the people that they were not free. To make matters worse, they were hated by their Roman employers as well. Their only friends were fellow tax collectors and others on the same social scale like thieves and prostitutes.
According to the Rabbis, there was no hope for a man like Matthew. He was excluded from all religious fellowship and couldn’t even go into a synagogue. As a customs agent, Matthew had a very secure and prosperous job and his tax booth was a picture of his physical, emotional and spiritual life. Isolated by the Romans and Jews alike, he was materially rich, but spiritually bankrupt.
What we read probably wasn’t the first encounter Matthew had ever had with Jesus. He no doubt had heard him speak before. His tax office was next to the Sea of Galilee where Jesus had often taught large groups of people. Maybe Matthew had stood at the edge of one of those crowds and listened. And now, it was time for a divine encounter. In verse 28 we read that when Jesus saw him checking tax returns, He looked at him and said just two words, “Follow me.”
Verse 28 gives us his response: “… Levi got up, left everything and followed Him.” He decided in his heart to leave and then he bolted. He left a troubled job, a distracting lifestyle, and a stable income because he knew that he couldn’t follow Jesus and stay at the tax collector’s table.
If you would have asked Matthew at this point if he thought Jesus could use him as an evangelist, he might have just laughed. Yet, God chose to use him in a mighty way. Look at verse 29: “Then Levi held a great banquet for Jesus at his house, and a large crowd of tax collectors and others were eating with them.”
I picture Matthew brainstorming for a while as he asks himself, “What do I do well? Let’s start there.” An idea comes to his mind but he blows it off. “I throw great parties but I’m a Christ-follower now. I probably shouldn’t be doing that anymore.”
But he can’t shake the idea and finally it hits him: “What if I threw a party with a purpose? Yeah. What if all my IRS buddies who love to party came and what if I invited Jesus and the guys? What if they all showed up and hung out? What if Jesus rubbed shoulders with my irreligious friends and what if some spiritual conversations took place? That would be cool.”
His life was transformed and he wanted others to know about it. So Matthew throws a party and the tax collectors come. Imagine the scene. His network of friends and acquaintances are just having fun – eating buffalo wings and watching the NFL season get underway. As he looks around the room, he sees Peter talking to two of his buddies. And there’s John over there talking to some others. And then he sees Jesus with a whole crowd of people around Him.
We don’t know how many of Matthew’s friends became followers of Jesus as a result of his efforts. Maybe some did. Maybe none did. But that’s not really the issue. What’s important is that something has happened to Matthew. Do you see it? Matthew has become an evangelist. In a way that is appropriate to his personality and the situation, he’s become a spokesperson for God.
That night was just the beginning. Being a tax collector, he was good with a pen and paper and for the next three years he recorded what he saw and heard of Jesus. His writings became known as the Gospel of Matthew.
Friends, there was nothing special about Matthew. He was a lot like us. He was an average, ordinary 9-5 working guy. All he had, really, was a positive personal experience with Christ, a heart for his lost friends and the guts to try to reach them. And that allowed God to use him in an extraordinary way … just as God will use ordinary people like us … if we’ll let him.
Matthew didn’t confront like Peter did or engage in a logical argument like Paul did. Nor is there any mention that he told his story like the Blind Man did. Those were simply not his styles. Instead, he relied on the relationships he had cultivated over the years and he invited people into his home. Those with the interpersonal style of evangelism specialize in building relationships with others. If that describes you, why don’t you throw a purposeful party?
Here are some qualities that people with the interpersonal approach exhibit:
• Compassionate and Sensitive
As we’ve been discussing, each style has some blind spots. Here are some cautions to keep in mind:
• Don’t value friendship over truth.
• Don’t get overwhelmed by needs.
• Be patient.
The Invitational Approach
I love how God picks unlikely people to fulfill his mission! God delights in using ordinary people, even those of us who’ve messed up pretty bad. Let’s turn to John 4 to see how Jesus redeems and then releases someone into ministry.
Here we read about an encounter that Jesus had with a woman who had three black marks against her.
1. First of all, she was a Samaritan. Normally the Jewish people and the Samaritans avoided each other like the plague. In fact, instead of going through the land of Samaria when they were traveling, the Jews would walk all the way around the border, which made their trip three days longer, just so they wouldn’t have contact with their despised neighbors. Verse 4 tells us that Jesus “…had to go through Samaria.” Jesus had a divine appointment with this woman and he intended to keep it.
2. She was a woman. During the time of Jesus, men were not supposed to talk with women. That didn’t stop Jesus from asking her for a drink of water in verse 7.
3. She was immoral. As she came to the well to get some water, the deep emptiness and thirst in her heart was almost more than she could bear. She was an outcast because of the choices she had made. Jesus knows all about her when he says in verse 18: “…you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband…”
When she first started talking with Jesus, she tried to conceal the truth about herself. We’re the same way, aren’t we? Our natural tendency is to cover up and hide behind masks. When Jesus confronted her with the truth about her life, she was dumbfounded. But, instead of feeling condemned, she sensed that Jesus saw through her façade and loved her in spite of how she had been living.
After confronting the truth about herself, the woman is now confronted by the truth about Jesus. Take a look at verse 19: “Sir, I can see that you are a prophet.” She recognized that He had to be from God and so she asked him a question about the best place to worship. She wanted to argue religion, but Jesus wanted her to face reality.
Verse 25 reveals the steps she is taking in her own understanding of who the Messiah is. She’s in process. Jesus makes it very clear in verse 26: “I who speak to you am He.” As she begins to put everything together, she’s struck by the fact that Jesus knows everything about her and is still willing to talk to her. She can’t get over it. She is so startled by this that she left her water jar by the well, ran back to her town and said to the people in verse 29: “Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Christ?”
She compellingly invites everyone to come and know Jesus. Actually, she’s both excited and a bit reserved when she says, “This can’t be the Christ, can it?” She knows these people think of her as trash so she asks them to check it out for themselves.
So she invited them to hear about Jesus and look at their response in verse 30: “They came out of the town and made their way toward Him.”
This woman had been so impacted by Jesus that she couldn’t help but invite others to come and meet Jesus personally. Her desire was for them to experience the same grace and forgiveness that had been given to her. Because of her reputation in town, she would not have had much credibility. Normally, no one would listen to her, so she witnessed the same way that Philip did in John 1:46 when he said, “Come and see.” And, since it’s obvious that she’d met someone great, many accepted her invitation.
Verse 39 reveals that many Samaritans believed in Christ because of the woman’s testimony. Then, as they listened to Jesus for themselves many came to know Him personally. Look at verse 42: “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.”
She made the invitation. She did it with enthusiasm and she was convincing. The people responded to her request and came face-to-face with Jesus. Many of us can do the same thing. We might not feel comfortable giving logical arguments for the existence of God or maybe we’re hesitant to have lost people in our homes like Levi did, but we can extend invitations.
A recent poll by George Barna shows that about 25% of adults would go to church if a friend would just invite them. That means one in four of your friends would come if you would ask them to come. I hope you’re planning to ask some friends to join you next Sunday as we take the entire sermon time to present the gospel and give people an opportunity to come to Christ. Our Back to Church services are designed for you to use as a tool in reaching your friends for Christ.
People who gravitate toward the invitational style exhibit some common qualities:
• Enjoy meeting new people
Here are a few blind spots that you should be aware of:
• Be willing to talk about Christ.
• Consider which events to invite people to.
• Don’t get discouraged if people refuse your invitation.
The Serving Style
The final style is called the Serving approach. This is best demonstrated by a woman named Tabitha, or Dorcas. Please turn to Acts 9:36: “In Joppa there was a disciple named Tabitha (which, when translated, is Dorcas), who was always doing good and helping the poor.”
Tabitha was known as a disciple, or a follower of Jesus. She served and people knew it was because of her Savior. That’s her identity. She was saved to serve. Tabitha is her Jewish name and those who speak Greek know her as Dorcas. She was a devoted disciple who used her gifts and abilities to further the kingdom.
The Bible says that she was always doing good and helping the poor. Verse 39 helps us see that she was a seamstress. Since there were no OLD NAVY stores in Joppa, making clothing was a task assigned to women in that culture. But she was doing more than just sewing on her Singer machine. She utilized her abilities in evangelism as she served others and pointed them to Christ. Her life reflected Matthew 5:16: “…let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.”
1 Peter 4:10 sums up the importance of serving: “Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms.” As we serve others, the church is strengthened and lost people are drawn to Christ.
Some of you really excel in this style because God has given you a special ability to serve. Perhaps you’re a quiet practitioner of acts of kindness just like Tabitha was. You notice needs that others don’t even see and you find joy in meeting them. This style is one of the most important evangelistic approaches because service-style evangelists touch people nobody else can reach. Whether it’s making meals, sewing clothes, or fixing cars, God can use you to point people to Christ.
Here are some traits that servers generally exhibit:
• Attach value to menial tasks
• Show love through actions
There are also some things to be careful of:
• Be ready to use your words to talk about Christ.
• Don’t underestimate the value of your service.
• Communicate the spiritual motivation behind your acts of service.
As we wrap up this part of our series, it’s my prayer that God will help you identify which style best fits your spiritual gifts, your personality, temperament, and background. God knew what He was doing when He made you. Isn’t a great feeling to know that you can be yourself in evangelism? While nobody fits perfectly into just one of these approaches, you are probably stronger in some than you are in others. Which of these styles reflects who God has custom designed you to be?
The fact of the matter is if we’re serious about having an infectious faith, we’ll have opportunities to use a variety of these approaches depending on the individual we are trying to reach. And as we’ve pointed out, when you need help, team up with another Christ-follower who may be able to communicate Christ from a different angle. When we partner with others who have different styles, our combined strengths can be used to reach virtually any kind of person.
The important thing to know is that the most contagious Christians are those who’ve learned to work within the design God has given them. As we identify, develop, and deploy what we’ve been given, hearts will be cultivated, the seed of the gospel will be planted in minds, and people will surrender their lives to Christ.
Chuck Swindoll tells a story about some animals who decided they should do something about the problems in the world. So they organized a school. They adopted a strenuous curriculum of running, climbing, swimming and flying. To make it easier to administrate, each of the animals had to take all the subjects.
The duck was excellent in swimming; in fact, he was better than his instructor. But he made only passing grades in flying, and was very poor in running. Since he was so slow he had to drop swimming and stay after school to run around the track. This caused his webbed feet to be badly worn, so that he was only average in swimming. But average was quite acceptable, so nobody worried about that — except the duck.
The rabbit started at the top of his class in running, but developed a nervous twitch in his leg muscles because he had to stay after school to work on his swimming. The squirrel was excellent in climbing, but he encountered constant frustration in flying class because his teacher made him start from the ground up instead of from the treetop down. The eagle was a problem child and was severely disciplined for being a non-conformist. In climbing classes he beat all the others to the top of the tree, but insisted on using his own way to get there…
The obvious moral of the story is a simple one — each creature has its own set of capabilities in which it will naturally excel — unless it is expected or forced to fill a mold that doesn’t fit. When that happens, discouragement, and guilt can lead to mediocrity and defeat. What is true of creatures in the forest is true of believers in the church. God has not made us all the same. He never intended to. He planned and designed our differences, our unique capabilities, and our evangelistic styles.
Each of these six Bible characters – Peter, Paul, the Blind Man, Matthew, the Samaritan Woman, and Tabitha all met Jesus and had their lives radically transformed by Him. Then God used their personalities to impact others. May we allow Him to do the same through us.
Friends, the fields are ready, and there’s a lot to do. Let’s get to work.