People

People
Ken & Paula Hemphill

The address on the visitor’s card told me that our “prospect” lived in a prestigious neighborhood in Virginia Beach. Accompanied by one of our deacons, I was making our standard follow-up visit to persons who visited our church. When I drove into the driveway, saw the size of the home, and noticed the manicured lawn, I knew this was no routine visit. Our church was made up of salt-of-the-earth, working-class people. We had grown quickly because of the willingness of people to serve, but we were always struggling financially because of the income level of our folks I was thinking to myself that this guy could surely solve some of our money problems if he joined our church. I actually think I verbalized something to that effect to my deacon partner. As I was completing my comment concerning the “prospect” we were preparing to visit, a voice from the porch shattered my dreams of a balanced budget. “Good evening pastor, we’ve been anticipating your visit!” He had been standing in a darkened area on the porch awaiting our visit and in my haste to sign him up for church and recruit him for our budget committee, I had not even noticed him standing in the shadows. I must confess that my first fear was that he had overheard my callous remark. My second was that we would lose a valuable prospect. It was at that moment the Holy Spirit convicted me of seeing this man as a “prospect” and not a person in need. I had to ask myself, “Am I visiting this man based on what he can do for our church or because he is a person of value to the Father and a person with spiritual needs?”

Evangelism is not about prospects but about people. The question is not what a person can do for our church or for us, but what Christ has done and can do for them. If we are going to Splash people with Living Water, we must first see them as individuals created in God’s image. Jesus had both the ability and compassion to see persons for who they are and who they can become. We are often guilty of seeing crowds but not people. We are guilty of seeking out people for what they can do for us and not because of their inherent value. Jesus saw people both from the standpoint of their need and their potential. He sees what people can be when released from their sin and their past failures. The calling of the disciples is a case in point. Luke tells us that the crowds press in so closely to hear Jesus teach that He is forced to commandeer Simon’s boat for a floating pulpit. When He finishes speaking, He rewards the fisherman’s generosity by taking him on a fishing trip. If you think that it sounds strange for a preacher to invite a professional fisherman out on a fishing trip, you are not alone. Peter is dubious about any possibility for a catch since they had fished all night with no results. He considered fishing during the heat of the sun a tiring and unproductive task.

Nonetheless, Peter is so taken by this man who would meet him on his turf that he obeys. You may know the rest of the story. The catch of fish is so abundant that Peter recognizes the authority of Jesus—this is no ordinary man. He begs Jesus to go away because he knows himself to be a sinful man. But Jesus has no intention of leaving. He has seen more than a crude fisherman; he sees a man who has the potential to be a great fisher of men (Luke 5:1-11). The calling of Levi, also known as Matthew, is another illustration of how Jesus focuses on the person. Here is how Luke tells the story: ‘After that He went out and noticed a tax collector named Levi sitting in the tax booth, and He said to him, ‘Follow Me.’ And he left everything behind, and got up and began to follow Him” (Luke 5:27-28). You have probably surmised that tax collectors were not on any popularity list in Jesus’ day. Rome farmed out the taxing system regionally, and the taxes in this area were paid to Herod Antipas. Most tax collectors abused the system to line their own pockets, and thus, Levi, like Zacchaeus, would have been viewed by most as a collaborator with Rome and an opportunist. I am certain that this despised tax collector was surprised that Jesus would select him to be in his inner circle of followers.

When we look at the entire list of the early disciples, we are reminded that Jesus saw need, and He saw potential. In Luke 8, we discover another group of people whom Jesus sees both for their need and their potential. They are simply referred to as “some women.” Women were not always included in ministry assignments in Jesus’ day. In fact, a rabbi (teacher) would not speak to a woman in public. Each woman included in the “some women” category has been healed by Jesus. Mary Magdalene is one of the few women who is actually named. She stands out because of her tremendous need. She had been possessed of seven demons. Not only did Jesus deliver her of the demons, he also called her to be His follower. Mary became a supporter of Jesus’ ministry. Matthew 9:36 provides a wonderful summary statement for the ministry of Jesus: “Seeing the people, He felt compassion for them, because they were distressed and dispirited like sheep without a shepherd.” When Jesus saw people, He saw their pain and their hopelessness. Sheep without a shepherd are helpless and hopeless. Do you believe that people without Jesus are helpless and hopeless? Until we understand the disastrous consequences of sin, we will continue to see crowds and not persons.

A Few Suggestions to Draw People to Jesus

Always have bait handy.
I was making an early morning trip to the airport and in a desperate attempt to stay awake, I began channel surfing the radio to find an interesting talk show. I settled on a program where an interview was being conducted with a man who made his living as a “crappie” fishing guide. Yes, people make their living taking other people to catch “crappie.” I am aware that this sounds like a pretty boring topic to a man who doesn’t fish. And I don’t! But the truth is it was rather fascinating. This elderly gentleman talked with authority. In fact, I quickly became convinced that he knew more about “crappie” than the fish knew about each other. He discussed their habits like he had been swimming with them. He explained the various baits that needed to be employed to catch this particular variety of fish in different climatic conditions. He recommended buying several of each of these lures so the fisherman would be prepared in every circumstance. In conclusion, he insisted that anyone serious about catching “crappie” would never leave their home without their rod and reel and a well-stocked fishing tackle box. He declared that you could just never tell when and where the “crappie” would be biting. The serious fisherman is always prepared.

This entertaining interview quickly became for me a convicting message from the Holy Spirit. If I am serious about “fishing” for men, I need to know more about the “people” I am trying to catch. But the most convicting issue for me came from the story about the well-stocked tackle box. I realized that I often left home without any “lures” that I could use to “make a splash” for Christ. I began to carry tracts and other kinds of spiritual lures that would assist me to Show People Love and Share Him. It was not long before I was prompted to write the series of little books called “Kingdom Promises” (see Appendix 2). I began to carry these little books in my tackle box. I had discovered that people might refuse a tract but they will accept a little book because it has perceived value. Now I regularly “cast” these books into the waters where I think “people” may be receptive to the Gospel. I give them to waitresses, flight attendants, and new friends I meet along the way. One time at a restaurant, I was being seated by a hostess who was a lovely Indian lady. I asked her if she had recently moved from India. She responded with a lovely smile and an enthusiastic “yes.” I asked her if she was a Hindu and the response was equally enthusiastic. I told her that I was a Christian and then asked her if she was curious about the identity of Jesus. I will never forget her response—”We all are!” Then I asked if she would be interested in reading a little book that told her about Jesus. Her positive response was followed by several “thank yous” when I gave her the He Is book.

Be Approachable.
We can read a text so many times that we overlook an important detail. Matthew 8:2a gives us an important clue to Jesus’ effectiveness in ministry that could be missed: “And a leper came to Him and bowed down before Him.” Right away a man with a serious skin disease came up and knelt before Him. A leper approached Jesus! Lepers didn’t approach anyone. They were prohibited from doing so. Leprosy was considered to be a contagious disease, and lepers were outcasts who were forced to live in leper colonies. When they saw someone approaching, they would cry out, “Unclean, unclean!” The leper not only came because he believed Jesus could help him, he came because he believed Jesus would help him. Do people ever approach you for a ministry need? If not, why not? When we observe the life and ministry of Jesus, we are constantly reminded that people were drawn to Him. Children wanted to be around Him. A woman with an issue of blood would brave the ridicule of the crowd to grab His garment. The blind and lame sought Him out. Rulers and centurions desired His assistance. Why? Because they were needy, and He was approachable! They were drawn to Him because they had seen the clear evidence that He genuinely cared about people. When people observe that we genuinely care about them, they will be drawn to Christ in us. Let’s think together about a few examples. Do you call the waitress or the waiter in a restaurant by name? Do you ask their name if they don’t have a name tag? What about the clerk at the register in the grocery store? Or your mailman? Do you reach out to the people in your sphere of influence?

Here again is where “having bait” is effective. I was in the Atlanta airport when I sensed that the “fish might be biting.” A Delta employee looked harassed as she explained to another irate customer why the plane would be delayed. I walked up and could read her thought—”I can’t handle one more complaint.” I addressed her with a smile and indicated that I thought she could use a little promise from God. I handed her the Kingdom Promise book entitled But God. She wept as she declared “God must have sent you today.” I have regularly given the Kingdom Promise books to people I meet where I work out and play golf. The other day one of them called out to me, thanking me for the little book and declaring what an impact it had made in his life. Fill your tackle box with any bait you think might help you catch men and women for Christ. Make a cast and trust God to give the results.

Put People’s Needs over Regulations and Institutions.
As I reread the gospels while writing this material, I was surprised to notice how frequently Jesus’ healing miracles occurred on the Sabbath. Yet as I thought about it, it made perfectly good sense. People who are in need would naturally gravitate to a place where religious people, who might take pity on them, would be gathered. Tragically, they must have often been disappointed by the callousness of those who were in charge of the synagogues and Temple in their day. Most of the religious leaders were more concerned with preserving the institution and obeying regulations than with meeting the needs of those who came seeking help. Does this sound familiar? Are we sometimes more concerned about maintaining a building or preserving a traditional way of doing things at church than we are about meeting people’s needs? I once spent the night in a major southern city. It was a Saturday night, and I wasn’t preaching the next day. I discovered that there was a large evangelical church only blocks from my hotel. I arrived in time for Sunday school only to discover the front doors were locked. After trying several entry points, I turned to leave. An elderly church member chased me down the street, inviting me to come around to the back where there was an open door. I suggested that he might want to inform someone the front doors were locked. Without hesitation, he responded, “Oh, we have to keep those doors locked to keep the needy out.” I’m sure the church was inundated with the “homeless,” but I was nonetheless grieved by a strategy that would keep the “needy” out. Jesus was headed to Jerusalem for a Jewish festival. On his way, He encountered a man who had been lying by the Pool of Bethesda for thirty-eight years, hoping to be healed by the waters believed to have curative power. Jesus posed a curious question, “Do you wish to get well?” (John 5:6). The man’s response is pitiful. He indicated that he had no one to help him into the pool. Have you ever considered how many people on their way to worship in Jerusalem had passed this man without ever asking about his need or offering to help? They were so focused on their religious responsibility to fulfill the Sabbath requirements and their own issues that they couldn’t see the obvious needs around them. Jesus healed the man and told him to roll up his bedroll and walk.

When the Jews saw the man carrying his bedroll, they expressed no joy at his healing. They simply declared that it was illegal for him to carry his bedroll on the Sabbath. On another occasion Jesus was teaching in one of the local synagogues on the Sabbath. A woman was present who had been disabled for eighteen years (Luke 13:10-17). Jesus healed the woman with a caring touch, and she immediately began to glorify God. This is what the synagogue and the Sabbath should be about, right? The leader of the synagogue quoted Genesis, declaring that six days are enough time for one’s labor. Jesus rebuked the leader by indicating that any one of them would untie his ox or donkey and lead it to water on the Sabbath. In other words, they showed more compassion for their animals than they did for people. That hits a little close to home, doesn’t it? I see people who are far more concerned about the welfare of a stray pet than they are for the lost in their community. You may remember that the Pharisees rebuked Jesus for allowing His disciples to pluck grain on the Sabbath. Jesus reminded them that David ate the sacred bread, which was reserved for the priests. He then declared that the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath and that He desired mercy and not sacrifice (Matthew 12:1-8). The Sabbath was created to meet man’s needs, not to place a legalistic burden on man.

God is concerned about the welfare of His people. Are we so concerned with “running the church” that we are tempted to forget why it was established in the first place—to meet needs and reach the lost? I once heard of a church that made it clear “kids” from the community were not welcome. They were afraid that they might mark up the halls with their wild antics. One self-righteous member simply declared, “These kids just don’t know how to act in church.” The church is a hospital and not a museum. We should be touching lives, not preserving sacred traditions. When Jesus forgave the woman taken in the act of adultery, He put her spiritual condition above the desire of the legalists who wanted Him to participate in her stoning. He not only offered forgiveness; He warned her about the dire consequences of future sin. Jesus’ concern was for her deepest need. Do we manifest more concern for our institutions and regulations than we do for people? If we are forced to answer “yes” to this question, we may have put our finger on the reason for our inability to reach and minister to those living all around us.

Look for Those Who Seem to be Invisible.
Jesus drew people to Himself like a magnet draws metal filings. Many of those persons would have been “invisible” to their neighbors. You remember the story of Zacchaeus the tax collector. He was probably the brunt of jokes because of his size, but he was certainly despised because of his profession. He worked for the hated Romans and took advantage of his neighbors. Who wanted to be seen with a man like this? Jesus did! Matthew tells the story of a Canaanite mother from the region of Tyre and Sidon who persisted in following Jesus crying out for Jesus to have mercy on her daughter. This mother was desperate! Her daughter was tormented by a demon. Jesus’ own disciples were embarrassed by the woman’s loud outbursts. “Send her away, because she keeps shouting at us” (Matthew 15:23c). The disciples are clearly embarrassed by the behavior of this woman. They wished that she would simply disappear. Perhaps they would have been more patient if she had been a Jew instead of a Gentile.

Rather than send her away, Jesus acknowledges the woman’s faith and cures her daughter. The list of culturally invisible persons to whom Jesus ministered would include lepers, widows, fallen women, women in general, children, tax collectors, known sinners, political leaders, and even religious leaders. I know you are thinking that surely children can’t be in that list; everyone loves children. Mark tells us that some people were bringing their children to Jesus so that He might touch them. Guess who wants to turn them away? Right, again! It is the disciples, the intimate group of followers whom Jesus had chosen to carry on His ministry (Mark 10:13-16). I find that I am quick to put people into categories and then avoid those who make me most uncomfortable.

Yet, when I read about the ministry of Jesus, I am convicted. I learn that it is precisely those persons who were the most receptive to Jesus’ message of hope and spiritual healing. The reaction of the disciples to the “invisible people” hits too close to home for us to ignore, doesn’t it? “Those kids from the projects just won’t fit in here. We don’t want those skater kids at our church; they will be a disruptive influence. Those people living in the trailer park wouldn’t feel comfortable here.” But this book really isn’t about the church reaching out; it is about you reaching out. Who can you think of in your sphere of influence, “your splash zone,” that you often overlook, either intentionally or unintentionally? Jesus was effective at meeting the needs of those the world ignored, the invisible, because He saw valuable individuals. After all, Jesus said the physician came for those needing a doctor, not for those who think they are well. Are we sensitive to the hurting and invisible people in our neighborhood, at work, or at school? Or are we drawn only to those who already have their act together?

Do the Unexpected.
Jesus was a master of the unexpected act of kindness. This is precisely how He splashed people with Living Water. He openly speaks to the scorned Samaritan woman. He even asked for her assistance, thus treating her with respect. He invited Himself to the home of Zacchaeus. The joyous response of Zacchaeus tells us how truly lonely he was. Jesus allowed a prostitute to wash His feet with her tears and dry them with her hair (Luke 7:36-50). He physically touched a leper and allowed Himself to be touched by a woman with a chronic illness. He invited “some women” into His inner circle of followers (Luke 8:1-3). Over and over, Jesus did the unexpected act of tenderness. He validated these individuals’ worth.

Mark tells us of a remarkable event that was such an unexpected act of kindness that it contributed to the betrayal of Jesus. Everything about the event is extraordinary. Jesus was at the home of Simon, the leper. This one fact alone was shocking but then Jesus allows a woman to pour expensive oil on His head. We are told that some guests were incensed that the oil was wasted. They thought it could have been sold and the receipts given to the poor. It appears that this unexpected act of kindness tipped the scales for Judas who then determined to betray Jesus. He must have been thinking that no one so kind and gentle could be the conquering King (Mark 14:3-11). But Jesus was and is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords and He drew people to His kingdom by seeing them as individuals in need of a King who offered acceptance, forgiveness, and wholeness. Today people will be drawn to our King when we allow Him to demonstrate His love through us.

You Must See People and Have Compassion on Them.
Matthew 9:35 serves as a summary statement of the “people-centered” strategy of Jesus. “Jesus was going through all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the Gospel of the kingdom, and healing every kind of disease and every kind of sickness.” What compelled Him to face the grueling task of moving from town to town? Matthew provides the answer: “Seeing the people, He felt compassion for them, because they were distressed and dispirited like sheep without a shepherd” (9:36). Compassion comes from a proper understanding of the condition of the lost and the passion of the Good Shepherd to meet their needs. People who do not know Christ are like sheep without a shepherd. Not moved yet? Do you fully comprehend the condition of sheep whose shepherd leaves them alone? They are bear bait! Sheep must have a shepherd to protect and care for them.

On another occasion, Jesus tells a parable about a shepherd who had a hundred sheep and discovered that one was missing. This shepherd, without delay, leaves the ninety-nine to search for the lost sheep. He knew it could not survive the night alone. Do you fully understand that persons without Christ are like lost sheep in danger? They are in danger of spending eternity in hell, separated forever from the presence of God. As you encounter people, do you believe the Good Shepherd can and will use you as He meets their every need? Here is a promise that will encourage you to splash a little Living Water on everyone you meet: “The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). Just ask the Father to help you see people with His eyes and to feel with His heart. Ask Him to give you the confidence to believe He is sufficient for every situation.

Questions to Ponder
-Do I see people as they are, or do I see them for who they can be in Christ?
– Do I tend to group people into artificial categories and ignore those who make me uncomfortable?
– When have I been guilty of putting institutions and regulations above people?
– Am I approachable? What can I do to be more approachable?
– What unexpected act of kindness can I do that will minister to someone this week?
– Am I willing to ask God to give me a heart of compassion for the needs of the people around me?

Reflections
– What led Jesus to select the men and women who became His intimate followers?
– What did Jesus see in us that would cause Him to give His life for us?
– In your opinion, why did Jesus see people whom others often overlooked?
– Who are the “invisible people” in your splash zone? Each person has various areas in his/her splash zone. Your family and relatives are your closest zone. Your neighbors are your next zone, then your colleagues at work, etc. Who are you thinking of right now?

Assignment
In Appendix 4 is a chart to help you to think through your splash zone. Before you begin his/her next reading assignment, place the name of at least one person in each splash zone on the diagram.

The above article, “People” was written by Ken & Paula Hemphill. The article was excerpted from Hemphill’s book, SPLASH (Show People Love And Share Him).

The material is copyrighted and should not be reprinted under any other name or author. However, this material may be freely used for personal study or research purposes.

This article may not be written by an Apostolic author, but it contains many excellent principles and concepts that can be adapted to most churches. As the old saying goes, “Eat the meat. Throw away the bones.”

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