The first two steps of the personal evangelism process can and probably will be the most awkward. Even though this should not be the case, the idea of being PERSONALLY evangelistic has become uncomfortable, uneasy, and unsettling for the growing majority of Christians. Introducing oneself and building a rapport with your neighbor are two essential steps in bringing them to Christ. However, the journey does not end there. Perhaps the most crucial question is, “What do I do after that?” After building a substantial, fundamental, and essential rapport… it is vital to the process to ENGAGE them more and more. Engaging them in as many ways as you possibly can is the next step in the process.
There are multiple forms of this word, and to accomplish step three, we must: ENGAGE as a verb, be ENGAGING as an adjective, and arrange ENGAGEMENTS as a noun. When we focus on the verb form, we are actively establishing a meaningful connection by participating and becoming involved in our neighbor’s life. When we focus on the adjective form, we are drawing favorable attention or interest to ourselves from our neighbor. When we focus on the noun form, we are arranging to do something or go somewhere with our neighbor. The more we commit to these three definitions, the closer we get to bringing our neighbors to the Lord. To see these three forms played out in the life of Jesus, the Master Evangelist, all we have to do is look at the story of Zacchaeus in Luke 19:1-10. Jesus’ actions display all three forms of the word in the account of Zacchaeus.
First, we know Jesus is engaging as an adjective because the man wants to know more about Him. Zacchaeus does everything he can to even see Jesus because His reputation preceded Him. None of us are Jesus, nor do we have crowds following us everywhere we go. However, we can be engaging (as an adjective) by showing our neighbors there is something DIFFERENT about us than the rest of the world. This does not mean WE are better than anyone else, but that GOD has made our lives better from our relationship with Him 1 Peter 2:9-10. Showing our neighbors there is more to us than the average person will lead them to want to know why that is the case. This makes them want to see and hear more because we have provoked a level of intrigue that most do not elicit.
Secondly, we know Jesus engages Zacchaeus as a verb because He intentionally approaches him above the rest of the crowd. The Scripture shows Jesus walking towards the tree, looking up, and speaking directly to Zacchaeus. Jesus has before Him an enormous crowd, probably hundreds of people that He could engage. Instead, He chooses the little, tiny, and short tax collector in the sycamore tree. We can engage (as a verb) our neighbors by intentionally making a deeper connection with them and becoming a part of their lives. To accomplish the verb form of the word, it forces us TO DO SOMETHING. This may seem insulting, so forgive me for any offense, but the word ‘verb’ means, “A word used to describe an ACTION.” Jesus took action to walk over to Zacchaeus, look at Zacchaeus, and talk to Zacchaeus. We must take the very same actions with our neighbors. Walk over to your neighbor, look at them face to face, and speak to them about their lives, about their families, about their work, and about yours as well.
Lastly, we know Jesus arranges an engagement and fulfills the noun form with Zacchaeus by setting up a time where they could be together. Even though this makes the crowd complain and grumble, Jesus chooses to be the guest of a chief tax collector. Tax collectors were hated among the Jewish population because not only were they in charge of taking their money and giving it to Rome, often they would take more than they had to take to keep the extra for themselves. On top of that, they were looked upon as sellouts because they were Jewish as well. However, knowing all of that, Jesus chooses Zacchaeus to arrange an engagement. We can arrange engagements with our neighbors by spending some time with them outside of the context we usually would. We can invite them to a meal, a movie, a ballgame, or any other activity THEY enjoy. We know what THEY enjoy because of the rapport we have already built with them. If they commit to this, then we know we can continually ENGAGE and be ENGAGING during the ENGAGEMENT.
You may be thinking, “Come on, Ben, it’s just not that easy.” If that is you, look at how Zacchaeus responds to Jesus’ approach. “Then Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, ‘Look, Lord, I give half of my goods to the poor; and if I have taken anything from anyone by false accusation, I restore four-fold,'” Luke19:8. Jesus’ decision to engage, be engaging, and arrange an engagement SAVED ZACCHAEUS’ SOUL! Jesus is the Master Evangelist, and if we think we have a greater method than our Lord, we are gravely mistaken. In the immediate context of this passage, Jesus gives His purpose for coming to Earth, “For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost,” Luke 19:10. Jesus shows us the fulfillment of this purpose by engaging His neighbor, Zacchaeus. We too must fulfill this same purpose, and a large part of how we do that is by engaging our neighbors.
Steps one and two are when you cross the threshold of being just someone they see all the time, to being their friend. Step three is when you cross the threshold from friendship to spending actual quality time with one another. This step of the process is about as common sense as it gets. However, it has become nearly as uncommon as any of the other steps. Engaging your neighbor who is next-door, at work, at school, a friend, or a family member could be one of the most critical stages of the journey towards saving their soul. Step two opens the door because of rapport. Step three KEEPS THE DOOR OPEN. It is my prayer that each of us continues to take the intentional steps that our Lord took to seek and to save those who are lost and in need of our intervention.
-Ben Hogan, Minister of Evangelism