Summary: To reach the lost, we must have relationships with the lost.
A. Let me start by asking you a few questions: Where do you go when you have a problem? Whom do you turn to when you need help or advice on some important issue in your life?
1. Are you more likely to turn to someone you know or to a stranger?
B. How do you feel when stranger comes to your door or calls you on the telephone and tries to talk with you about political issues, replacement windows or religion?
C. How much attention do you pay to all the junk mail that is addressed “To Occupant” that crowds your mailbox every day?
D. Now please don’t misunderstand me. I’m not going to deny that God sometimes uses these techniques to touch people with the truth.
1. Regardless of the approach – street preaching, door knocking, direct mail, bumper stickers, etc. – there will always be an occasional story to prove that these efforts have some validity.
2. But I believe that people are becoming more and more immune to impersonal approaches to evangelism.
E. The fact is that all of us experience discomfort when someone outside our circle of friends tries to influence us about personal and significant matters.
1. We all naturally gravitate toward people we already know and trust.
2. Friends listen to friends. Friends confide in friends. They let friends influence them.
3. Therefore, if we’re going to impact our world for Christ, then one of the most effective approaches will be through our relationships.
F. Back in sermon #3 from this series we talked about the formula for impacting our world. That formula included high potency and close proximity.
1. We have been talking about our potency as we have discussed authenticity, compassion and sacrifice.
2. Today we want to address the need for close proximity.
3. The most powerful salt in the world has no impact when left in the shaker.
4. The most authentic, compassionate and sacrificial Christians on the planet will not influence anyone until they have contact with them.
5. So in today’s lesson we will explore the building of relationships with those we hope to reach.
6. We don’t have to look very far in our Bibles before we find examples of this approach to reaching people for the Lord.
I. Biblical Evidence
A. Let’s start with the example of Jesus.
1. It’s amazing that we often overlook the fact that Jesus spent the majority of his time with those outside of the religious establishment.
2. Time and distance tend to soften history and the sinners that Jesus hung around with can seem more safe and sanitized than the ones that we might encounter today.
3. But such was not the case For example, the tax collectors Jesus associated with really did extort large amounts of money from the downtrodden people around them, and the prostitutes He expressed compassion for actually engaged in illicit sexual activity as an occupation.
4. Jesus intentionally rubbed shoulders with the lowest of spiritual reprobates of His day because they mattered to God and He wanted to lead them into the family of God.
5. When we let that truth soak in, it’s natural to recoil a bit and say, “How could Jesus do that? He was the sinless Son of God, didn’t he understand how corrupt they were?”
6. Of course he knew how corrupt they were. He knew how lost they really were.
7. That’s why He tried to reach out to them.
B. Another role model for us is the Apostle Paul.
1. He said in 1 Corinthians 9:22-23, “I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some. I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.”
2. Paul cared enough to stretch himself in order to make contact with people and influence them toward Christ.
3. Paul put forth great effort to build bridges between himself and unbelievers.
C. Let’s consider also the example of Matthew recorded in Luke chapter 5, verse 27 and following.
1. You’ve got to give Matthew a lot of credit.
2. Matthew had become a Christian after having been a tax collector, which, in those days, was about one notch above being part of the mob. If you were a tax collector, you essentially had a license to extort.
3. But Matthew’s encounter with Jesus had changed his life, and as a result, he had an immediate concern for his friends.
4. His natural desire was to help them find what he had found.
5. The real question for him was, how? He hadn’t been through an evangelism seminar. He hadn’t graduated from seminary. He didn’t have any tracts.
6. He didn’t think he could get them to go to church with him, so he decided to bring the church to them.