I just got back from a family trip to Las Vegas, Nevada. It’s a wonderful city and my family and I always have a great time when we go. I highly recommend visiting Vegas if you have the opportunity.
The issue of a Christian family in big, bad Sin City is a different post for a different time. Instead, I’d rather speak to something I remember from my previous visit to Vegas.
Our last trip to Las Vegas was a few years ago. I was around 10 or 11, but I don’t remember much from the trip. However, there is one specific memory that still sticks out from our walk on Fremont Street.
I remember my family and I walking down Fremont Street and
I was surrounded by vibrant lights and sounds. People speaking different languages were passing me by. Vendors selling everything from phone cases to watches were calling out to me and my family as we walked down the street. It was so exciting. This had to be past 9 p.m., which was super late for me as a 10 year old. I was living it up in the big city.
I soon noticed a man that was a little different from the rest. He was accosting every passerby, but wasn’t getting much of a response from anyone. He wasn’t coarse or rude, just loud and impersonal.
A sign was draped over his shoulders and his megaphone was piercing clearly through the roar of Fremont Street.
This guy’s sign focused more on Hell and eternity, rather than calling out sins, but you get the idea. We’ve all seen these people before. Despite all of his effort, this man didn’t draw anything more than a few disgusted looks and rolled eyes.
Our megaphoned crusader was attempting to tell people about the Gospel. This 10 year old theological titan (ha.) didn’t hear any gross missteps or errors. None of his views seemed to be way out there…
But the Gospel wasn’t penetrating to a single heart. He was seen and heard by hundreds but didn’t reach anyone. What was the problem?
He was viewed as another vendor on the street.
This guy with a sign and a megaphone didn’t seem to be making any friends, much less winning lives for Christ.
I felt terrible for this guy. I felt like he had missed something. The way to reach lives for Christ is through relationships, not shouting at them as they pass by. Jesus himself ate, drank, and partied with people so he could talk with them, not at them.
This street vendor presentation of the Gospel was cold and impersonal, which was exactly opposite of the strategy Jesus employed. Jesus met in people’s homes, went to their feasts, and met their children as he was reaching them.
Why though? Jesus already knew their hearts because he was sovereign God. He didn’t have to visit with them, or take the time to build a relationship. But he did. So what does that tell us?
Personal relationships are vital to sharing the Gospel.
If we are aiming to be disciples of Jesus that means interfacing with people the way that he did. Jesus did speak to thousands at a time, but he also took time with individuals.
Jesus built these relationships everywhere he went. Just think back to a few people he met in his ministry.
Jesus met his first 4 disciples, Simon Peter, Andrew, James, and John at their workplace (Matt. 4:18-22).
He also went to people’s homes, like he did with Zacchaeus (Luke 19:1-10).
Jesus met with people alone, like the Samaritan woman at the well (John 4:7-42).
He also met people in crowded places, like the lame man near the Pool of Bethesda (John 5:1-15).
People have to know we truly care for them, or our pleas for salvation will only seem like another sales pitch. We have to learn a heart before winning it to Christ. So the obvious needs to be pointed out.
Strategies aimed at reaching everybody are sometimes great ways to reach nobody.
Huge campaigns and movements are definitely powerful tools, but arguably the best way for real, lasting growth of the Church is through personal relationships. The first century Church exploded because of their intentionality in relationships.
How does that look for us in 2015, though?
Take someone to lunch. Invite them to your home. Go with them to the doctor. Join them in their hobbies. Grab coffee before work. Take them to a movie. Go to their child’s ballgame. Spending quality time with someone nurtures a relationship that can easily turn into a witness of its own.
We are called to love people, and to love them well. Our message of love and acceptance has so much more authority when people experience it first hand in the way we treat them.
So I want to encourage you, Church. Intentionally build relationships with your eyes looking towards eternity. Love people in the way Christ did—personally. Beware of the Street Vendor Gospel. It can easily come across as casting stones, rather than sowing seeds.