Discovering Your Style, Part 3

John 4:1-42; Acts 9:36-42

March 11, 2001 | Brian Bill

We’ve been learning that God has given each of us different evangelistic styles.   It takes all kinds of Christians to reach all kinds of non-Christians.  All people cannot witness the same way, but all people can witness some way.  We see at least six different styles of evangelism in the New Testament.

Style Biblical Example Text

Confrontational Peter Acts 2

Intellectual Paul Acts 17

Testimonial Blind Man John 9

Interpersonal Matthew Luke 5

Invitational Samaritan Woman John 4

Serving Dorcas Acts 9

As we wrap up this section, it’s my prayer that God will help you identify which style best fits your spiritual gifts, your personality, temperament, and background.  God knew what He was doing when He made you.  Isn’t a great feeling to know that you can be yourself in evangelism?  While nobody fits perfectly into just one of these approaches, you are probably stronger in some styles than you are in others.  

The important thing to know is that the most contagious Christians are those who’ve learned to work within the design God has given them.  As we identify, develop, and deploy what we’ve been given, the kingdom will advance.  When we team up with others who have different styles, our combined strengths can be used to reach virtually any kind of person.

Before we take a look at the final three styles, I just want to say that I wish I had done this series differently.  Instead of combining these approaches in just three sermons, it would have been better to take a separate one each week so that we could plumb the depths of these tremendous passages of Scripture.  For the sake of time, we’ll have to put it into overdrive and just skim the surface this morning.

The Interpersonal Approach

Please turn in your Bibles to Luke 5:27-32.  Jesus is in a town called Capernaum and is walking along the shoreline of the Sea of Galilee.  Capernaum had a large Roman presence and an important “IRS” office.  Sitting in the tollbooth was a man named Levi, who is also known as Matthew, which means “gift of God.”  This gift of God had become one of the hated tax collectors.  

He was a Jew who had been hired by the Roman government.  Tax collectors were also called “publicans,” or public servants, and were considered to be on the lowest rung of the social ladder because of their shady dealings.  People like Levi were the more hated kind of tax collector because they assessed taxes for commerce.  He would estimate the worth of goods that flowed through the major cities in Israel in order to levy a tax.  Unfortunately, this estimated tax was usually much higher then the goods were worth.  As a result, these agents were known as extortionists.  They operated on a commission system and the commission was whatever they could get away with.

People thought of Levi as a publican and sinner.  He was also considered a thief and a traitor, because he was working for a foreign government.  Tax collectors were greatly despised because they served as constant reminders to the people that they were not free.  To make matters worse, they were hated by their Roman employers as well.  Their only friends were fellow tax collectors and others on the same social scale – thieves, prostitutes, and herdsmen.  

According to the Rabbis, there was no hope for a man like Levi.  He was excluded from all religious fellowship and couldn’t even go into a synagogue.  He money was considered tainted and defiled anyone who accepted it.

As a customs agent, Levi had a very secure and prosperous job.  His tax booth was a picture of his physical, emotional and spiritual life.  Isolated by the Romans and Jews alike, he was materially rich, but spiritually bankrupt.  In verse 28 we read that when Jesus saw him at work, He looked at him and said just two words, “Follow me.”

This probably wasn’t the first encounter Matthew had ever had with Jesus.  He no doubt had heard him speak before.  His tax office was right there by the lake of Galilee where the Bible tells us that Jesus taught large crowds.  Maybe Matthew had stood at the edge of one of those crowds and listened.  And now, it was time for the divine encounter, when Jesus said, “Gift of God, today is the day I’d like for you to make the decision to get up and leave all this and attach yourself to me.”

Verse 28 gives us his response: “And Levi got up, left everything and followed Him.”  In the original, this sentence reads this way: “And he left all, rose up, and followed him.”  This is amazing.  Levi left everything even before he got up and went with Jesus.  He decided in his heart to leave and then he bolted.  He left a troubled job, a distracting lifestyle, and a stable income because Jesus was now his boss.  He couldn’t follow Him and stay at the tax collector’s table.

If you would have asked Matthew at this point if he thought Jesus could use him as an evangelist, he would have said, “That’s a good one.  That’s funnier than a flat tax.”  And yet, God does use him in a mighty way.  Look at verse 29: “Then Levi held a great banquet for Jesus at his house, and a large crowd of tax collectors and others were eating with them.”  

I picture Matthew brainstorming for a while as he asks himself, “What do I do well? Let’s start there.”   His first idea came to his mind and he blows it off.  “I throw great parties but I’m a Christ-follower now.  I probably shouldn’t be partying anymore.”   But he can’t shake the idea and finally it hits him: “What if I threw a party with a purpose? Yeah.  What if all my IRS buddies who love to party came and what if I invited Jesus and the guys?  What if they all showed up and hung out at the punch bowl together?  What if Jesus rubbed shoulders with my irreligious friends and what if some spiritual conversations took place?  And what if that led some of my friends to eventually come to faith in Christ?  That would be cool.”   

He wanted his friends to meet Christ.  Psalm 107:2: “Let the redeemed of the Lord say so…” His life was transformed and he wanted others to know about it.  And so Matthew throws a party and the tax-gatherers come.  His network of friends and acquaintances are eating nachos and cheese and watching the Wisconsin Badgers win the NCAA finals.  As he looks around the room, he sees Peter talking to two of his buddies.  Bring it on, Peter!  And there’s John over there – go get ‘em John.  And then he sees Jesus with a whole crowd of people around Him.  “Tell ‘em Jesus. Tell ‘em.” 

We don’t know how many of Matthew’s friends became followers of Jesus as a result of his efforts.  Maybe some did.  Maybe none did.  But that’s not really the issue.  What’s important is that something has happened to Matthew.  Do you see it?  Matthew has become an evangelist.  In a way that is appropriate to his personality and the situation, he’s become a spokesperson for God. 

That night was just the beginning for Matthew.  Being a tax collector, he was good with a pen and paper and for the next three years he recorded what he saw and heard of Jesus.  His book became known as the Gospel of Matthew.

Friends, there was nothing special about Matthew.  He was a lot like us. He was an average, ordinary 9-5 working guy.  All he had, really, was a positive personal experience with Christ, a heart for his lost friends and the guts to try to reach them.  And that allowed God to use him in an extraordinary way … just as God will use ordinary people like us … if we’ll let him. 

Those with the interpersonal style of evangelism specialize in building relationships with others

Matthew didn’t confront like Peter did or engage in a logical argument like Paul did.  Nor is there any mention that he told his story like the Blind Man did.  Those were simply not his styles.  Instead, he relied on the relationships he had cultivated over the years and he invited people into his home. Those with the interpersonal style of evangelism specialize in building relationships with others.  If that describes you, throw some parties on purpose.  Drink some coffee by design with others.  

Here are some qualities that people with the interpersonal approach exhibit:

  • Conversational
  • Compassionate and Sensitive
  • Friendship-oriented

As we’ve been discussing, each style has some blind spots.  Here are some cautions to keep in mind:

  • Don’t value friendship over truth.
  • Don’t be overwhelmed by needs.
  • Be patient.

The Invitational Approach

God delights in using ordinary people, even those of us who’ve messed up pretty bad, in surprising and exciting ways

I love how God picks unlikely people to fulfill his mission!  God delights in using ordinary people, even those of us who’ve messed up pretty bad, in surprising and exciting ways.

The Samaritan woman had three black marks against her.  She was a Samaritan.  She was a woman.  And she was living an immoral lifestyle.

Do you have any thoughts or questions about this post?