Be Relational as You are Contagious (Luke 5:29); the Church Must Also Be Relational
Prepared and preached by Pastor Steve Rhodes for and at Bethel Friends Church in Poland, OH on Sunday, March 8, 2020
Think about your relationships. We are all influencing other people for good or for bad. You are, we are, influencing other people.
When we think of the phrase “Relational evangelism,” the operative word is “evangelism.” If we are not sharing the Gospel with them then we really do not love them.
If we think about Phil. 2:5-11. Jesus died for our need, but what was the need? We needed salvation. He gave Himself up for us. Who are we giving ourselves up for?
I was researching this message and I was reading from the book Becoming a Contagious Christian and I was encouraged. I was encouraged because the best fertile ground for sharing the Gospel is NOT door to door evangelism, or “cold” calls. There is nothing wrong with those types, but the best fertile ground is in your relationships. If you want to be used of Jesus, be a friend. But don’t stop there. Be a friend and share Jesus with the friend.
Becoming a Contagious Christian says:
The fact is, all of us experience discomfort when someone outside our circle of friends tries to influence us about personal, significant matters. We all naturally gravitate toward people we already know and trust. Friends listen to friends. They confide in friends. They let friends influence them. They buy from friends — and that’s true of both products and ideas. So if we’re going to impact our world for Christ, the most effective approach will be through friendships with those who need to be reached. We’ll have to get close to them so they can see that we genuinely care about them individually and that we have their best interests in mind. Over time, that will earn their trust and respect.
My theme today:
Theme: Build relationships and share the Gospel.
Let’s read Luke 5:27-32:
27 After that He went out and noticed a tax collector named Levi sitting in the tax booth, and He said to him, “Follow Me.” 28 And he left everything behind, and got up and began to follow Him.
29 And Levi gave a big reception for Him in his house; and there was a great crowd of tax collectors and other people who were reclining at the table with them. 30 The Pharisees and their scribes began grumbling at His disciples, saying, “Why do you eat and drink with the tax collectors and sinners?” 31 And Jesus answered and said to them, “It is not those who are well who need a physician, but those who are sick. 32 I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.”
- Let’s talk about the passage.
- Jesus talks to Levi, who is also called Matthew, and says “follow me.”
- The man immediately follows Jesus. There are no questions asked. It could be that they had conversations previously. He drops everything and follows.
- When he decided to follow Jesus there was no turning back.
- Verse 29 shows this to be true. He was a new believer and what did he do? He decided to share this with others. He decided to have a party. We now call these parties “Matthew parties” after him.
- We would think Matthew would invite the religious people to his party in order to communicate, “I am now one of you,” but that is not what Matthew did. He invited the other tax collectors.
- Tax collectors were known as thieves in those days. They were known as sinners who held allegiance to Rome. The tax collectors would take from other people extra money that would not go to taxes.
- But Matthew invited them over.
- What else did Matthew do? He invited them to his house.
- Matthew was willing to sacrifice his own home and pretty much have them over for a barbecue.
- This is an evangelism principle called “barbecue first.” We are to get to know people as we share the Gospel with them and they will listen more.
- I look at this and think, “I must be willing to host others (non-believers) in my home for the Gospel.”
- Think about it.
- Do you try to connect with those you know who are non-believers?
- Are you praying for opportunities to share Jesus with them?
- Then, you, we, must build relationship so we can share the Gospel.
- So, these people are now all at Matthew’s house and you know who else is there? Jesus is also there.
- Jesus was later called a sinner because He ate with them, so what. He didn’t care.
- Jesus is there and they are all telling jokes, they are eating and they are drinking. Jesus was later called a glutton and a drunkard for eating with these types, but He didn’t care, He wanted to minister (see Matthew 11:19).
- I don’t know what type of jokes Jesus was telling, but I think He had a good sense of humor. Maybe He said, “Why do cows go to math? Because they need a cooooow-culator…”
- They are partying. They are getting to know each other.
- Sometimes this is tough.
- Do we have many non-Christian friends?
- We are the church and the church leaves the building every week and one of the best ways that we are to be the church is in our relationships.
- Where do you find people?
- Suppose that you want to build relationships with non-Christians, but you wonder where to find people.
- Think about ways to get together with people you know. Are there relationships that could go deeper?
- People you used to know, are there relationships that you can reconnect with?
- People you would like to know, are there people that you can connect with but just haven’t?
- What about having a block party?
- What about having just a few neighbors over for dinner?
- There is also the ability to strategically shop at the same places and go inside at the gas station. Talk to the people who are at the cashier’s station. Build that relationship.
- Have a holiday party
- Have a “pie” party. This is a party where you invite people over and then they all pick up a pie on their way home from work.
- Go golfing with others
- Share everyday activities with others.
- Watch the game together.
- Make sure that you are looking to transition to spiritual conversations.
- Don’t wait too long to tell people you are a Christian.
- Don’t get drunk even if they are.
- If people share something ask if you can pray for them.
- If people are commenting on scenery give credit to God.
- Health clubs are good opportunities to meet people.
- Sporting events are good opportunities.
- Be creative.
- God will use your relationships.
- Most people come to know Christ through relationships.
- Be relational as you are contagious. Build relationships and introduce your friends with your best friend, Jesus.
From Becoming a Contagious Christian
Mark learned this lesson the hard way. It happened a few years ago when our church was putting on a week-long presentation that combined contemporary music and drama to communicate Christianity to people who don’t normally go to church. He had bought four tickets for the Friday night performance, and along with his wife, Heidi, had invited another couple. But that couple cancelled at the last minute. Now it was the day of the event, and they were holding two extra tickets with no one to bring. Mark drove home from the office that evening, and as he turned into his driveway, he saw the young couple who lived next door walking on the sidewalk in front of his house. They weren’t married, had shown no inclination toward spiritual interests, and he only knew them by their first names. Still, he figured, why not give it a shot? “Hey, Scott!” he called out. “I was wondering if you two are busy tonight. You see, I’ve got these extra tickets to a concert at our church.” He quickly tried to dispel any stereotypes they might have and to convey that this would feature music they’d really like, that there would be professional-quality and up-to-date drama, good sound and lighting, and so on.
And then he asked if they would like to go. Push the pause button for a moment. If you think along the lines I do, you’re probably admiring the confidence Mark showed in forthrightly explaining this opportunity and inviting a couple he’d barely even met. It was the kind of thing a lot of us think about doing but find it hard to muster the needed courage. The only problem, as he found out, was that it was probably too bold and too quick. It risked the possibility of scaring them away not only from this, but also from future chances for interaction. Scott glanced shyly at his girlfriend for a moment and then looked at the ground. Somewhat awkwardly he finally said, “Um … thanks anyway, but I don’t think we’ll go this time … but, well, if you’d ever like to get together in the backyard for a barbecue, let us know.” As they walked away, Mark thought to himself, “Why didn’t I think of that? In fact, that’s the very thing I’ve been teaching in my evangelism seminars for years: you’ve got to barbecue first!”
It’s so important that we make investments in friendships — what I sometimes call paying relational rent — in order to gain the person’s trust and respect, as well as to earn the right to talk to them about spiritual issues. Interestingly, Mark did follow up later with Scott. After a few weeks he called him and suggested that the four of them see a movie and then go out for dessert afterwards. When the night came, Mark and Heidi decided that they would not bring up topics related to church or Christianity. They knew they’d already gone too fast, and they determined to “barbecue” several times with the couple before even thinking about trying to steer the conversation into matters of faith. But to their surprise, that same night in the restaurant, Scott himself asked some questions of a spiritual nature!
So, my encouragement to all of us is that we build relationships with non-Christians and share the Gospel in the relationships. Don’t push it, but do wait for the opportunity.
Do you know Christ?
God created us to be with him. (Genesis 1-2)
Our sin separated us from God. (Genesis 3)
Sins cannot be removed by good deeds (Gen 4-Mal 4)
Paying the price for sin, Jesus died and rose again. (Matthew – Luke)
Everyone who trusts in him alone has eternal life. (John – Jude)
Life that’s eternal means we will be with Jesus forever. (Revelation 22:5)
 Hybels, Bill; Hybels, Bill; Mittelberg, Mark; Mittelberg, Mark (2008-09-09). Becoming a Contagious Christian (p. 98). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.