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to the table

“Then Jesus went out to the lakeshore again and taught the crowds that were coming to him.  As he walked along, he saw Levi son of Alphaeus sitting at his tax collector’s booth. ‘Follow me and be my disciple,’ Jesus said to him. So Levi got up and followed him.  Later, Levi invited Jesus and his disciples to his home as dinner guests, along with many tax collectors and other disreputable sinners. (There were many people of this kind among Jesus’ followers.)  But when the teachers of religious law who were Pharisees saw him eating with tax collectors and other sinners, they asked his disciples, ‘Why does he eat with such scum?'” (Mark 2:13-16).

Who are you bringing to the table to meet Jesus?

Shortly after Jesus invited Levi (Matthew) to be his follower, Levi decides to throw a party and invites all his friends to the table.  The guest list was a “Who’s Who” of those who were outcasts, overlooked, unwanted, disreputable, and despised.  In the words of the eloquent Pharisees, “Why does he eat with such scum?”

Charming folks, those Pharisees.

But let’s not miss a greater point: Levi brought his friends to the table with Jesus.  Even without formal evangelism training, he knew his best strategy was simply to introduce his existing friends to his newest friend — Jesus.  Levi would provide the party, Jesus would provide the rest.

One of my favorite ways of networking is to have someone cross-email me with another person I’d like to meet.  Why?  Because the person I’d like to meet already has a relationship with the person sending the email.  There already exists a level of trust.  I could drop a cold email out of nowhere fairly easily — “Hi, my name is Ken and I was wondering …”  But it’s much less effective than having a mutual friend introduce us.

Could it be we often over-complicate evangelism?  Perhaps we should focus on creating environments where Jesus is present and invite people to the table.

Do we spend enough time in the Gospels in our preaching and teaching?  Do we have exploratory, entry-level classes that focus on the life of Christ?  Are we buying in bulk all the great books about Jesus and giving them away for free?

When people meet Jesus, even disreputable, notorious sinners, they will find him attractive.  Many will even fall in love with him.