A number of weeks ago, we started the series called “Just walk across the room” – based on the book by Bill Hybels.
It is all about personal evangelism – through being intentionally inclusive of those around us in our everyday environments – not being pushy.
We started off with baby-steps – just getting to know the names of people whom we interact with daily – some you have “known” for literally years, without ever asking their names.
Even inside of Liberty, it has been great to see how everyone is suddenly more confident to interact, having introduced the name cards!
Story – Charl van Eeden’s daughter going to a youth camp “What’s your name?”
Please keep challenging yourself to learn a new name each day – it also helps to prevent Alzheimer’s as a helpful byproduct!
Hopefully we all realize that we will never have an impact on anyone’s life unless we take a real interest in them: “People do not care how much you know, until they know how much you care!”
We are asking questions, some just superficial ice-breakers, like: “Have you been following the soccer world cup?”
But also some much more discussional questions: “What has been the most meaningful thing that happened to you during this first half of 2018?” (Repeat)
This is a great question, because although it takes matters deeper, it does not necessitate a spiritual answer – it is a great “dipstick-question” to test the waters.
Without prying – it is often quite obvious when someone is willing to open up, and when they want to be left alone.
I actually find that people are quite open, amazed even, that someone seemingly genuinely cares about them!
And is it not just beautiful to hear people’s stories?
I love to hear the stories of “ordinary people” – ordinary people sometimes do the most extra-ordinary things and live extra-ordinary lives, without even realizing it!
I had a chat to someone this week – he and his wife adopted a little girl, cross-racially, who suffers from Cerebral Palsy – they had a daughter of their own, and then they were surprised by having twins – that is extra-ordinary!
At Liberty, we have more than one couple who chose to adopt – including Theo and Lisa who really felt God tell them to adopt Hans because he has Down’s Syndrome – that’s extra-ordinary and inspiring!
Never be afraid to ask: “SO what’s your story?”
If it does turn out to be someone really well-known, they will probably find your ignorance refreshing! (Viv welcoming Jonty Rodes and Hansie Cronje @ Liberty)
It is helpful to keep in mind that it is often unlikely that someone will “immediately” be ready to engage in spiritual discussion, or ask about your walk with God.
We need to walk a road with people, and as we are focusing on those in our normal circles of everyday life, that is not difficult – you see and interact with them almost weekly anyway – just pay attention, just be more intentional and inclusive!
Look for the evidence of the grace of God – in Acts 11:23 it says that when Barnabas was sent to the new believers in Antioch: “he arrived and saw the evidence of the grace of God, he was glad and encouraged them all to remain true to the Lord with all their hearts.”
We need more Barnabas’ in this world today – everyone can see the dark-side of things, but few are true encouragers, true grace-spotters!
If you find it difficult to engage with people, to hear their stories and for them to open up towards you, try to be more of an encourager – try to see the evidence of the grace of God – and when you do see it, point it out!
I find that it gets easier and easier to see the evidence of God’s grace in others and in life in general, once we start to be attentive to the grace of God in our own lives!
When we remember who we were and where we were heading before that “freeze frame moment when Jesus entered our story” and the journey we were on took a gracious and glorious turn – when we are yet again filled with humility and gratitude.
When we remember the grace that we were shown, when we live in that grace – our eyes are opened to see Grace all around!
And when you do get to tell your story – please linger on the grace that you have received!
Last week, we looked at a practical way in which to present the gospel of Jesus Christ to someone else – I trust that you practiced on each other this week?
It was all about man’s search for God and our attempts to improve ourselves, and our efforts to reach God by our striving and religious vigor – futile, all of it!
Please listen to that message, if you have missed it – it contains beautiful scripture references.
Then Jesus came and through the cross bridged the gap between man and God.
The Father took the wood of the cross to build a bridge back to Himself – the bridge of grace.
Jesus Himself is standing on that bridge, saying: “”I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” (Jn.14:6)
Sometimes it is good to use the illustration of the “morality ladder” when you share the gospel with someone – it really helps to get the point across:
Morality ladder illustration Just walk across the room (Bill Hybels) p138.
The clincher question to ask is: “What is your plan to make up for your morality shortfall?”
Again – the gospel of Jesus, the cross that pays the price for our sins, is the only answer, as the apostle Paul confirmed in Gal.2:21:
“I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!”
In our series thus far we have touched on the woman at the well on more than one occasion – I want us to revisit her again today: Jn.4:5-42
Looking that this well-known passage, I want to touch on 5 points for our series:
- Bridge the gap, the chasm, the abyss
This was the very first thing Jesus had to do – He had to establish a connection. Everything about the setting was wrong: Jesus was tired after walking all morning in the baking sun of the Middle-East, the cicadas were singing and the sun was causing mirages to shimmer on the dusty white plain around the well, billows of dust being swept into the air by a scorching wind – something like a scene from a nasty Cowboy-movie!
As Jesus is resting His back against the rough wall of the well, trying to squeeze into the little shade available at midday, He notices a figure making her way towards the well – coming closer He can make out that she is carrying a water-jar on her shoulder and that she may well be Samaritan.
She keeps coming closer, He keeps sitting – a meeting seems inevitable, or is it?
There are a number of reasons to ignore her: Jesus is tired, hungry, thirsty, waiting for His disciples, there is still a long road ahead of them; she is female, of a despised half-breed nation – not keen on a conversation herself.
So we see the gap, the chasm, the reasons not to connect, then we hear: “Will you give me a drink?”
You see him on Tuesday morning – You drive a fairly nice car, he/she doesn’t; different language, race, culture, gender, social standing – all the reasons not to connect: “Will you give me a drink?”
In fact, this is such a severe example, mostly, in 95% of cases you and I do not have to bridge such a huge abyss.
Remember that we are looking to intentionally be more inclusive towards those within our daily circles – most of the people within your daily circle are not that different from you – most of us do not have Nigerian human trafficers within our circles, normally the gap to bridge is just a gap, a fairly small gap that can be bridged with a smile, a few steps, and a “Hi, my name is…, what’s yours?”
I think we should ask ourselves some questions in this regard:
- Am I intentionally open to the Holy Spirit when I am with people who are different to me – different race, culture, religion?
- In my normal conversations each day, am I intentional to break down unhelpful stereotypes (e.g. racism) and to build bridges?
- Am I willing to be stretched beyond my normal comfort zones – after this service just take a step to cross some barrier: racial, language, or how about generational – I’d love to see some youngsters connect with the oldies and vice versa!
- Ask a question
We just heard the question that Jesus asked: “Will you give me a drink?”
Not exactly rocket-science!
A simple question is the best way to check the door – some doors are tightly shut, locked and triple-bolted, others are ready to swing open!
Remember that our only responsibility is to do what we hear the Holy Spirit saying – no more.
Not everyone is ready to accept Jesus, even though you have a nifty little diagram to show them – don’t go there unless you really feel the Holy Spirit lead you to.
Your ability to ask questions will help you to “feel” where people are at.
Most of us do not struggle with the normal ice-breaker questions – but it often gets tricky to take things deeper – here are a few helpful questions:
“Why do you think there are so many religions in the world?
“Do you think it is possible for anyone to really know if there is a God?”
“What do you think is the most common misconception about God?”
“Do you think that there can really be such a thing as “unconditional love”?
“What do you hope is true about God’s nature?”
- Be patient
Looking at this passage, one cannot but be impressed with Jesus’ patience with this lady – she is all over the show:
“You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?”
“you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water?”
“give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.”
“Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem.”
What was she smoking, or did the sun just get to her?
Some lesser mortal might well have said: “Will you shut-up and listen, I’m trying to get you saved here – no wonder 5 husbands have left you already!”
Thing is; Jesus did not see her as an evangelistic project: “Let’s get this girl saved.” He saw her as a person, a real person, living in a real world, with real needs, stuff and even issues.
Often we get stuck on the sin in people’s lives, but they are living in sin, to them it is quite normal, it is often only after someone comes to Christ that their conscience becomes active again, as they allow the Holy Spirit to bring conviction.
Be patient and allow God space to work, while you treat the person with respect, dignity and encouragement!
- Beware the bunny (trail)
We all heard that last question: “Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem.”
It is the equivalent of: “Why do bad things happen to good people?” or
“How can a God of love allow so much suffering in the world?”
Sometimes this question is simply a smoke screen – “I am not sure if I want to face my own state right now, so let’s throw a curve ball and escape!”
It may be an indication that the person is not ready at that moment, or it may just be a nervous twitch on their way to making the greatest decision ever!
Ask the Holy Spirit to help you – because not all “smoke screens” are relevant, some people just feel they need to ask!
- Give hope
In this scene Jesus promised the thirsty lady a well of eternal, internal, living water.
It’s important that we represent Jesus well – there are incredible advantages to receiving the Gospel of Jesus – none more so than to be restored to the Father!
We are called to share hope through grace – forgiveness, restoration, dignity, freedom from bondage, rest from works, etc.
But please do not overstep and promise things like wealth, a happy marriage, stable employment, or any other temporary, earthly, benefit.
The gospel is not a candy store which hands out trinkets to sweeten the deal.
*The gospel of grace, forgiveness and restoration is enough! (Repeat)
Often, as people start to walk with God, taking responsibility for their own behavior and choices and making adjustments, we do see broken marriages restored, etc. – but these benefits can never take center stage!
Keep walking, your journey has just begun – stay patient with an ear to the Spirit.