Becoming a contagious Christian – Making the most of every opportunity

“MAKING THE MOST OF EVERY OPPORTUNITY”

 

Matthew 9:9-13

 

INTRODUCTION

 

For many of us who have been Christians for many years –  church, the Bible, religious talk is very familiar. We use vocabulary that often seems strange to outsiders. Terms that we understand and take for granted can be very confusing to people — e.g. grace [something said at meals – not many do so any more – but this is not what is meant in church usually] anointing, the blood of the lamb, redemption, justification, sanctification ……. they are endless. To the unchurched Christians are strange creatures very often!

 

If we are going to be effective witnesses we need to be aware of this and sensitive to it – we are not trying to con people into joining a secret society – we are simply endeavouring to present to people the good news about Jesus Christ – who he is , what he has done and what he offers to all people. Even if we wished to, we cannot make someone a Christian – that is the work of the Holy Spirit.

 

We need to look for and create opportunities where we can demonstrate and communicate the gospel to people in an honest and clear way – with no hidden agenda.

 

Try to put yourself in the position of a person who is unchurched

 

  1. Imagine you are enjoying a quiet evening at home in front of the TV – there is a knock at the door and two people are standing there – they want to discuss with you your religious beliefs – you are a person who is interested in spiritual things – BUT how do you react???

 

Are you delighted to see them? Do you welcome them with in open arms? Are you going to open your heart and talk about your deepest feelings with a perfect stranger??? I very much doubt it!!

 

Now we do hear stories about Christians who meet strangers on trains, planes and buses etc. and who God uses in these encounters to have a dramatic spiritual impact on someone’s life! These are opportunities God brings our way and we need to be sensitive to the Holy Spirit’s prompting and leading.

 

If we have an attitude of looking for opportunities to share a the good news we will find them – as we travel, at the shop, restaurant, supermarket checkout, garage …….. — as we encounter people on a day to day basis and are aware of them as people and not simply someone to serve our needs I believe we will be able to be more effective witnesses.

 

It is in these situations that the use of tracts is most effective – you can’t have an in depth conversation at a supermarket checkout but you can give an appropriate tract if the opportunity presents itself.

 

However, generally speaking, we confide in and talk about deep personal matters with friends we trust.  This is generally true of all people – while it is true that there are unplanned encounters with people that can be spiritually significant they are the exception — that is usually why we hear about them — they are out of the ordinary! The danger is that we often tend to make the exception the norm!!

 

It is human nature to want to find a shortcut – to do it the easy way!!

Another mistake we make is thinking that we must simply wait for God to bring people into our lives who need the Gospel! BUT that is not how I read my Bible!

 

Jesus didn’t tell us to relax in holy huddles waiting for unbelievers to come to us –  When he was on earth training his disciples he sent them out!! Before he left the earth he gave strict instruction that his followers were to gointo all the world.

 

The onus is on us to TAKE and MAKE opportunities!

 

1. CREATING OPPORTUNITIES.

 

We can make the mistake of looking at the NT through rose-coloured spectacles!

Jesus did not spend most of his time with the religious people of his day – he spent most of it with sinners!

If we are going to be in the business of building friendships of integrity with unchurched people it will take time, effort, and probably a certain amount of discomfort.

 

In most cases we need to win the right to be heard and when we try the shortcut we can be guilty of derailing their spiritual progress – many people have been put off Church, the gospel and ultimately of Jesus Christ because of over-zealous, insensitive, arrogant Christians. I am not saying that there is no room for challenging people but we need to establish meaningful contact – and as we saw last week – it will cost!!

 

HOW to establish contact!!

Invite them round to tea/ meal/ BBQ/ meet them at the pub/ go to a football game with them, go rambling, .. etc…..

 

Some of you will have lots of friends and colleagues who are not believers and the difficulty will be that you can’t develop these friendships with all – trust God to lead in this!!

BUT some of you may be saying “I don’t have any friends who are not Christians – all my friends are in the Church!” You may need to look for way to make contact – What are your interests? Hobbies? Sports? Join a club  — ramblers, gardening, photography, invite your neighbours over for tea, ……..

 

1 Corinthians 9:22-23 22 To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some. 23 I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings. (NIV)

 

ILLUS.: Before I became pastor of this church I ran a carpentry business – I met many unchurched people – I worked in their homes – I had many opportunities to develop conversation!

 

When I became a pastor that dried up – because I am a pastor it is very difficult to make these contacts and friendships – people are suspicious of clergy!!

But I have been able to maintain some of my friends who are not Christians, firstly, because I enjoy their company, and secondly because I desire that they come to know Christ!

 

  1. Besides those friends I try when I have the time to make other contacts – e.g. I play golf – sometimes on my own – I hang about the first tee waiting for someone to go round with – I don’t force the gospel on them BUT look for opportunity to witness is some way, trying very hard not to tell them what I do for a living because as soon as I do I can see a wall go up!

 

WARNING! We do need to bear in mind, however, that we are to be holy, in the world but not of it … THEREFORE we need to ensure that we are being salt affecting others and NOT becoming contaminated salt and thus being render useless!

 

HOW? – by keeping in close fellowship with God and with God’s people – gathering with God’s people to worship, fellowship, learn, prayer, and share — we gather for these things – to be strengthened and encouraged and then we scatter into the world to be salt and light!! {“Out of the Saltshaker” by Rebecca Manley Pippert}

BUT if we are going to scatter into the world and invite people into the kingdom of God – THEN we need a strong base – a strong spiritual family where there is love and support and encouragement  – REMEMBER Jesus’ words

John 13:34-35

34 “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (NIV)

 

When we behave as a family  – and love each other deeply from the heart – then we will attract attention – BUT when we become disgruntled because things aren’t going as we would like, when we take unnecessary offend because we don’t like this or that – – when we have an unforgiving spirit – -when we seek our own selfish agendas rather than the good of the whole Body then we will not bring glory to God and our witness will be ineffective, or non-existent or both.

 

What is your relationship with your brothers and sisters in Christ?? Are you bitter, angry, holding a grudge? IF you are then you are hindering the effectiveness of the Church, you are damaging your own spiritual life and you are making God very unhappy! The World in which we live makes ME No.1  — in the world it is bad enough BUT in the Church it is dishonouring to God. Whatever happened to servanthood ? – to putting the needs of others and the good of the body first?

Philippians 2:3 3 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. (NIV)

 

If we as a Gathered Church can’t reflect the character of Christ in our love and care for each other how on earth do we expect to reflect that same character of Christ to a watching world??

And we will not get to know and love each other unless we spend time with each other – NOT only with the people we like and get along with and agree with BUT also with those who we differ with!!

 

ILLUS.> Some of you have said to me “I don’t know so-and-so …. Or I never get invited out to tea/meal!”  HAVE you made an effort to get to know people, invite them to tea, made an effort to speak to them after the service ?????

 

Paul tells us …

Galatians 6:10 10 Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers. (NIV)

if we don’t do it to each other how can we do it to others???

Just as we need to make an effort to love fellow Christians so too non-Christians.

 

 

A LESSON FROM MATTHEW

Matthew 9:9-13

9 As Jesus went on from there, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax collector’s booth. “Follow me,” he told him, and Matthew got up and followed him.

10 While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew’s house, many tax collectors and “sinners” came and ate with him and his disciples. 11 When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and ‘sinners’?”

12 On hearing this, Jesus said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. 13 But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” (NIV)

 

Matthew got converted and he invited his friends for dinner AND he invited Jesus!! Why not have a Matthew Party  – invite all your unbelieving friends AND Jesus!!

 

2. USING OPPORTUNITIES

 

We often make a mistake of thinking we must all do evangelism {a word that frightens many}  in the same way. There are many different approaches and style.

A confrontational style  {Peter} might suit one and not another – it might hinder some unbelievers – it puts them off.

An Intellectual approach  {Paul}- discussion and philosophical argument.

A testimonial approach – {the blind man} – simply telling what Jesus means to you / has done for you.

An Interpersonal approach {Matthew} —

An invitational Approach { the Samaritan woman at the well}

A service Approach {Dorcas}

A conversational Approach {Jesus with the woman at the well}

… one might be more like you – maybe you have ability to use different ones at different times.

 

ILLUS.: extract from “Out of the Saltshaker” by Rebecca Pippert. p.127/8.

 

What this illustrates is that we need to be aware of opportunities to witness and BE READY to do so when such situations arise ….

 

1 Peter 3:15 15 But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, (NIV)

 

While the Christian life is a Spiritual one we can be guilty of over-spiritualising at times! How do we know what to say in certain situation — of course we need to be led by the Spirit BUT the more we prepare an practice the more effective and skilled we will be.

3. “Talking” OPPORTUNITIES.

 

What do we say when there is an opportunity to speak?

Of course there is no ONE right way!

It helps to have done some thinking / preparation in advance!

  • TESTIMONY – think through, maybe even write down, what you would say if someone asks you why you beam a Christian!

 

  • DIRECT QUESTIONS – “Contagious Christian” by Bill Hybels p.180. Often we are too eager to unload on people what we think they need – instead of drawing them out and letting questions arise in them.    Francis Schaeffer use to say they you had to get people lost before they could be found.

All too often we are trying to answer questions people are not asking!!

 

  • SIMPLE GOSPEL EXPLANATION – sometimes we are guilty of trying to be complicated and sophisticated in our explanations of the gospel.

ILLUS.: Like the little boy who asked his mum where the rain came from. She replied, “Ask daddy when he comes home.” “Oh”, said the boy, “I don’t want to know that much.”

 

If someone asks the time don’t tell them how to make a clock!!”

 

ILLUS.: Religion = D-O : Christianity = D-O-N-E.  Go on to explain that true spiritual life is not by doing good deeds but by faith in what Jesus has done on the cross.

 

ILLUS. The Bridge diagram — see OHP’s

 

ILLUS.: Aeroplane example – difference between believing certain facts and placing one’s faith in a person – You can have a PhD. in Aerodynamics BUT knowledge alone won’t take you anywhere. You have to act on what you know, climb aboard the plane trusting it to take you where you want to go!

Knowing certain facts about God is not the same as being a Christian – you must act on what you know!

You have to climb aboard the plane – walk across the bridge!!

 

Above all – maintain your own spiritual life – and pray – pray and pray again!!

 

{Next Sunday Evening – wrap up and discussion – Q’s & A’s }

 

 

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