All the people saw this and began to mutter, “He has gone to be the guest of a ‘sinner.’” But Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, “Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times that amount.” —Luke 19:7–8
Most of us have some negative feelings about evangelism. Rob Bell describes the guy with the bull horn screaming at people passing by that they need Jesus. I find it interesting that people far from Christ were attracted to Jesus. What was his secret? One of my favorite Bible stories is found in Luke 19:1–9, the story of Zacchaeus.
What I find most interesting about the story is that Jesus does not begin with the obvious: Zacchaeus is far from Christ. He is a sinner. Instead, Jesus begins by inviting himself to dinner. Truly a man after my own heart. What was Jesus doing? He was building a bridge so the gospel could be heard. He was demonstrating a true concern for Zacchaeus, the man, not the spiritual scalp.
Sometimes I share with my church the concept of seven touches; there is another one called five touches. Basically the concept is we need to build relationships with people so we can share the good news of Christ. Those bridges can be sports or a lunch. While I was pastor at Lexington, at one time we had four or five people coming to church through bridges built while working out at Gold’s Gym. When you think about the whole gospel message, it is about relationships, a relationship with God and a relationship with others. Relationships are by nature messy. It is easier to preach to someone than it is to get involved in their life. When I came to White Chapel and we began to pray for the families in our community, I warned them that the families in our community had messy lives, and if we were going to pray for them, we would have to get involved in the mess. That has proven true. Various people over the years have made this statement, “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” It is our acts of love that give us the open door to share God’s love. So when you pray for someone far from Christ, realize this means you must be willing to get involved in lives that can be messy lives. Transforming Hearts…Transforming Lives!
Dear Father, as I pray for people I know who are far from Christ, I realize their lives are a mess. I am willing to get involved in their mess if it means I can build a bridge to you. My prayer is that you will show me how to build that bridge. In Jesus’ name, amen.
Dr. Steve Birch, Pastor, White Chapel Church of God, South Daytona, Florida
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