One of the challenges churches have is getting the Gospel (the message of Jesus Christ, who came to seek and save those who are yet in their sin and “lost”) to those who really need it! Often churches fall into the trap of simply “preaching the gospel” to pews full of people who have already heard the message, responded to it, and nod their heads while muttering “amen” (some have used this figure of speech to describe it… “preaching to the choir” – preaching to people who already agree with you).
My experience as a pastor over the years has confirmed the value of an effective evangelism strategy that works! A Biblical method, you might say, modeled by Matthew (or Levi) when He began his journey as a new follower of Jesus. The account is found in Luke 5:27-32 (read it for yourself).
Matthew (Levi) was looked upon as a notorious “sinner” by the religious community – a “tax collector” – complicit with hated Rome, a compromiser, a cheat, someone who “ripped off” fellow Jews to enrich himself. He was a guy who REALLY NEEDED GOD according to the religious elite! The rigorous religious crowd – “the Pharisees and scribes” – hated them!
But one day Jesus visited Matthew’s (Levi’s) tax booth had a conversation with this “sinner man” and the upshot of it all was, before Jesus left, he issued this invitation/challenge… “Follow me!” Matthew (Levi), was convinced of his sin and need of what Jesus had apparently talked about, he “left everything, rose, and followed Jesus!” Incredible story! Jesus had that kind of effect on people!
So what does Matthew (Levi) do? He is so impressed by Jesus, His message, and the personal change that has come to his life since he began following Jesus, that he decides to have a reception for Jesus at his home (the Bible calls it “a great feast”) and invite his old “tax collector friends” and others he knew to meet Jesus and hear His story – His appeal.
When the scrupulously religious crowd heard about it, they criticized Jesus and his disciples saying, “Why are you guys “eating and drinking with ‘tax collectors’ and sinners!”
Jesus’ response was classic! He said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick! I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance!”
Enter “evangelism strategy that works!” What if we encouraged brand new followers of Jesus – Christians who still had a sparkle in their eyes, passionate love for the Lord in their hearts, and zeal to share their new-found “friend” and “Savior” with others, to host a “reception” in their home (or a nice local café) and share their story. And then have a sincere, experienced, Spirit-filled follower of Jesus there to explain succinctly the Gospel message along with an invitation for any of the guests there that day to begin their own journey “following Jesus.
Hey, I’ve seen it work! It’s an effective strategy to get the Gospel message to the people that really need it! One problem though… There’s always someone from the “scrupulously religious crowd” around to criticize that you’re “hanging out” with “sinners!” My advice? Pay more attention to what Jesus had to say about that matter, than the critics!