Summary: Some people, like the Samaritan woman, are very good at using the invitational approach. They might not be able to give a complete explanation of everything that Christ has done, but they can say, “Come, see a man…could this be the Christ?” Others, like
Discovering Your Style, Part 3
Rev. Brian Bill
Prayer. The woman in the drama is in desperate need of healing. She needs to know that in spite of all that has happened, she can experience the awesome power of God’s love and grace. There are people just like her all around us. Many went to church when they were younger and haven’t been back in years. They need a certain type of believer to reach them. This woman probably wouldn’t respond well to Peter’s confrontational approach or Paul’s intellectual style.
We’ve been learning that God has given each of us different evangelistic styles. 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’re looking at six different styles of evangelism in the New Testament.
Style Biblical Example Text
Confrontational Peter Acts 2
Intellectual Paul Acts 17
Testimonial Blind Man John 9
Interpersonal Matthew Luke 5
Invitational Samaritan Woman John 4
Serving Dorcas Acts 9
Before we tackle the final three styles, I just want to say that I wish I had done this series differently. Instead of combining these approaches in each sermon, it would have been better to take a separate one each week so that we could plumb the depths of these tremendous texts. For the sake of time, we’ll have to put it into overdrive and just skim the surface this morning. Perhaps we’ll come back to these powerful passages at another time.
The Interpersonal Approach
Please turn in your Bibles to Luke 5. Sitting in a tollbooth was a man named Levi, who is also known as Matthew, which means “gift of God.” This gift of God had become one of the hated tax collectors.
He was a Jew who had been hired by the Roman government. Tax collectors were also called “publicans,” or public servants, and were considered to be on the lowest rung of the social ladder because of their shady dealings. Levi’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 then the goods were worth. As a result, these agents were known as extortionists. They operated on a commission system and the commission was whatever they could get away with.
Levi would have liked the new simplified 1040 form I heard about recently:
Line A: HOW MUCH DID YOU MAKE LAST YEAR? ______________
Line B: HOW MUCH DO YOU HAVE LEFT? _____________
Line C: SEND IN AMOUNT ON LINE B.
Levi was considered a thief and a traitor, because he was working for a foreign government. Tax collectors were greatly despised because they served as constant reminders 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.
Tax collectors made people mad and they caused people to be afraid of what might happen to them. We generally feel the same way about the IRS this time of year. According to a survey published in Harper’s magazine, fully half of Americans would rather be mugged than audited by the IRS. The other 50% have probably never been audited!
According to the Rabbis, there was no hope for a man like Levi. He was excluded from all religious fellowship and couldn’t even go into a synagogue. He probably felt like the woman in our drama did. As a customs agent, Levi had a very secure and prosperous job. 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. In verse 28 we read that when Jesus saw him checking tax returns, He looked at him and said just two words, “Follow me.”
This 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, when Jesus said, “Gift of God, today is the day I’d like for you to make the decision to get up and leave all this and attach yourself to me.”
Verse 28 gives us his response: “And Levi got up, left everything and followed Him.” In the original, this sentence reads this way: “And he left all, rose up, and followed him.” This is amazing. Levi left everything even before he got up and went with Jesus! He decided in his heart to leave and then he bolted. He left a troubled job, a distracting lifestyle, and a stable income because Jesus was now his boss. He couldn’t follow Him and stay at the tax collector’s table.