Discovering Your Style (Part 3)
Luke 5:27 John 4:7 Acts 9:36
In the last couple of weeks we have 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.
During this series we’ve learned that there are three different stages of evangelism: cultivating, planting and reaping. We have introduced the idea that God has given each of us different evangelistic styles. It takes all kinds of Christians to reach all kinds of pre-Christians. All people cannot witness the same way, but all people can witness some way.
We’ve looked at the Confrontational style of Peter in Acts 2; the Intellectual style of Paul in Acts 17; The Testimonial Style of the Blind Man in John 9. Today we will look at the other three:
Interpersonal Levi Luke 5
Invitational Samaritan Woman John 4
Serving Dorcas Acts 9
The Interpersonal Approach. Please turn in your Bibles to Luke 5:27. Sitting in a tax-booth 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 was considered a thief and a traitor, because he was working for Roman government. Tax collectors were greatly despised because they served as constant reminders to the people that they were not free.
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. 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 27 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. 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.” He decided in his heart to leave and then he followed. He couldn’t follow Him 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 would have said something like that’s funnier than a flat tax.” And yet, God does 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 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 His friends? What if they all showed up and hung out at the punch bowl together? What if Jesus rubbed shoulders with my 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. And so Matthew throws a party and the tax-collectors come. His network of acquaintances are eating nachos and cheese and watching the ball game; as he looks around the room, he sees Peter talking to two of his buddies. And there’s John over there with a couple of them. And then he sees Jesus with a whole crowd of people around Him, he thinks “Tell ‘em Jesus.”
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. 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.
There was nothing special about Matthew. He was a lot like us. He was an average, ordinary 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?
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 be overwhelmed by needs.
• Be patient.
Next, 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, in surprising and exciting ways. 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. 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. 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. Jesus establishes that worship is more about attitude than location when he says in verse 24: “God is spirit, and His worshippers must worship Him in spirit and in truth.”
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?”
When she says, “come,” it’s really a command. 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.
She doesn’t want them to just hear about Jesus, she longs for them to actually know Him as forgiver and maybe the Christ. It’s an invitation that few turn down as we see in verse 30: “They came out of the town and made their way toward Him.”
She has been so impacted by Jesus that she can’t help but invite others to come and meet Him personally. Her desire is for them to experience the same grace and forgiveness that has been given to her. Because of her reputation in town, she would not have had much credibility. Normally, no one would listen to her. She witnesses the same way that Philip did in John 1:46 when he said, “Come and see.” And, since it’s obvious that she’s met someone great, many accept 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.
Here are a few blind spots that you should be aware of:
• Be willing to talk about Christ.
• Don’t get discouraged if people refuse your invitation.
Third, The Serving Style
The last style is called the serving approach to evangelism. This is best demonstrated by a woman named 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.”
She is known as a disciple, 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. Both names mean, “Gazelle.” She was not lazy by any means but was quick to respond when someone needed help. When she saw a need she jumped on it! Miss Gazelle 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. This phrase literally means that she was “full of good works.” Verse 39 helps us see that she was a seamstress, but she was doing more than just sewing. 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.”
Apparently her unique contribution was so important to the church, that when she died, God raised her back to life! Surrounded by the robes and other clothing she had made, Peter prays and she miraculously starts breathing again! We don’t hear about what happens next but I don’t think she went out on a speaking circuit to give her testimony. I’m convinced that after she regained her strength, she went right back to her quiet and unassuming service.
Here’s a principle for those of you who employ this style: Small things done with great love will change the world.
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 Dorcas 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.
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 us identify which style best fits our spiritual gifts, our personality, temperament, and background. God knew what He was doing when He made us. Isn’t it a great feeling to know that we can be ourselves in evangelism? While nobody fits perfectly into just one of these approaches, we are probably stronger in some than we 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 contagious, infectious faith, we’ll have opportunity to use a variety of these approaches, depending on the individual we are trying to reach. Some of us need to be stretched outside our preferred style and be willing to utilize a different approach when we need to.
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.
Each of these six Bible characters – Peter, Paul, the Blind Man, Matthew, the Samaritan Woman, and Dorcas – all met Jesus and had their lives radically transformed by Him. And then God used their personalities to impact others. Folks, the fields are ready, and there’s a lot to do. Let’s figure out what we’ve been designed to do and then be quick to tell others about Christ.
United Methodist Church
218 College Street
P. O. Box 327
Ducktown, Tennessee 37317
Sunday School: 10:30 a.m.
Sunday Morning Worship: 11:00 a.m.
Rev. "T" Reamsnyder, Preaching