Are We Making It Hard(er) for People to Meet Jesus?

After our series on the Foyer, Living Room and Kitchen atmosphere, this blog post on the Exponential Blog struck a chord with me. – Scott

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By Arron Chambers

Some things in life are more complicated than they need to be.

Like turning on the television. Remember when you could turn on the TV by just urning a single knob? Now, you need a degree from MIT to navigate the remote control. Or like ordering coffee–an infinite number of coffee options, but most of those options change with each coffee shop. I love white chocolate-flavored coffee in a medium-sized cup or mug, which at my favorite coffee shop, is a 16-ounce (not medium) white chocolate mocha. But when I go to Dunkin’ Donuts, the closest thing I can find to that same drink is called a medium (not 16-ounce) Dunkaccino, which is always difficult for me to order because I have to pay for it with my man card.

Or becoming a Christian. Remember when becoming a Christian was as simple as hearing and responding to the gospel? Now, too many Christians and churches have made it so complicated to find Jesus. Put yourself in the Toms, Skechers, Vans, Doc Martens, or Birkenstocks of a lost person with me for a moment and realize what they have to be willing to walk through to actually hear the gospel.

They have to walk through the stereotypes that Hollywood and the media project of Christians as not being very nice or normal. I spoke for an event in Tennessee where I heard a heartbreaking story. A local church youth group ate at a local steakhouse, made a huge mess and left a note instead of a tip. The note to their server: “Repent or you’re going to hell.” The server burst out crying and left work. That story so enraged me that my wife and I made plans to eat at that steakhouse the next night with my in-laws. We asked for that server and left her a huge tip. My in-laws resolved to do everything within their power to build a friendship with that young woman with the hopes that she’ll meet Jesus along the way.

They have to walk through the well-documented hypocrisy of some of our biggest celebrity preachers who have sinned publicly and scattered their golden house fixtures, jewels and fur coats as they fell back to the earth.

They have to walk through our denominational division and find the “right” church with the “right” version of the gospel.

They have to walk through our undocumented and unspoken yet highly unbending dress codes, which clearly prohibit tattered jeans, skinny jeans or saggy jeans and T-shirts advertising beer, pot, the Oakland Raiders, Obama, or ‘80s big-haired rock bands.

And then, if lost people can clamber over, around and through those obstacles, they have to walk through our doors … where the fun really begins.

None of this is a surprise to Jesus. Remember what He said, “For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few” (Matt. 7:14).

Yes, the way is hard, so why would we make it even harder? I’m convinced and convicted that it’s time we simplify evangelism, focusing on three key areas:

1. Relationships

Let me put it simply: Relationships are the key to reaching lost people.

I define evangelism as “an intentional relationship through which someone is introduced to Jesus Christ.” Healthy relationships are essential if we want to have the kind of life God intended for all of us. And they are also essential if we want to reach lost people like Jesus did. A few years ago, the Institute for American Church Growth (today known as Church Growth, Inc.) asked more than 10,000 people, “What was most responsible for your coming to Christ and this church?” Seventy-nine percent responded, “A friend or relative invited me.”

Which is why a man who was at one time the leading abortionist in the country came to Christ. I’ll call him Richard.

One day a preacher (I’ll call him David) met Richard and started a conversation with him. The two men quickly struck up a friendship, both unaware of the other’s profession until after a relationship had already come to life.

Richard, a recently retired abortion doctor—at one time performing more abortions than any other abortion doctor in the United States. David, a presently employed preacher—at no time thinking he’d become friends with an abortionist.

Over countless breakfasts and cups of coffee, they forged a strong friendship. On paper it shouldn’t have worked, but in real life it did. David told me that Richard used to hate Christians, especially the ones who yelled at and picketed him and his office. He said that their anger only made him more resolved to keep doing abortions.


Well, David didn’t yell at Richard. Instead, he ate with him, loved him and rejoiced with him when Richard gave his life to Christ, repented of his sins and was baptized. You see, it’s really not that complicated.

Let’s just love people, intentionally.

2. Resources

I don’t know how Peter did it.

How did he convince about 3,000 people to give their lives to Christ without handing out even one fake $1 million bill with the steps to receiving the “free” gift of eternal life detailed on the back?

Where did we get the idea that gimmicks, pamphlets and direct mail campaigns were the best way to lead people to Christ?

What if we set aside the gimmicky resources and simply just told people the true story of what Jesus has done to transform our lives?

What if we removed the gospel from all of the impenetrable packaging so that lost people didn’t have to work so hard to receive and enjoy truth, grace, forgiveness and life? What if we embraced every opportunity to develop intentional relationships with lost people through which we can introduce them to Jesus telling them true stories of transformation?

Seeing this through the paradigm of The Golden Rule, I’d much rather you give me a true story than a fake $1 million bill.

3. Responding

At Journey Christian Church where I pastor, we’re big on taking away people’s excuses for not coming to church. So we’re intentional about creating an environment where truth can be proclaimed in a relevant way, where it’s okay to not be okay, and where grace always wins.

We want to take away their excuses for not being the church in the community, so we’re intentional about creating regular opportunities to serve our community in significant ways.

We want to take away their excuses for not responding to the gospel, so we’re intentional with how we present the gospel and how they can respond to the gospel each week. I’m surprised by how many churches are no longer publicly calling people to make decisions for Christ, and instead are leaving the presentation of the gospel for a more appropriate time, such as the quarterly New Members’ Class. We’ve intentionally designed our weekly services to include a lengthy time of commitment during which someone can take communion, pray in one of our prayer rooms, be prayed over by a church leader, give his or her life to Christ, and be baptized.

And when it comes to baptism, we’ve gone to even greater lengths to take away their excuses. We baptize people in their street clothes (I do the same, so I need three sets of clothing ready to go). We have large black T-shirts they can put on over their clothes, plenty of towels and plastic trash bags to protect their car seats on the ride home. And our worship center seats are plastic and thus waterproof. In the past 12 months, we’ve baptized 205 people. We see people submit to baptism almost every single week.

It’s amazing how such a simple act can have such a significant impact on a congregation and how a congregation who witnesses transformation on a weekly basis can have such a significant impact on a community.

Yes, the gate is narrow, and the way is hard that leads to life. Let’s resolve to not make it any harder than it already is.

Questions to consider:

What is one thing you can do this week to help your children or grandchildren to either find life in Christ or grow in their relationship with Christ?

What is one thing you can do this week to help someone who is “far off” find the narrow way?

This article was excerpted and adapted from the new eBook Narrow-Minded Evangelism: ReThinking Evangelism … & The Golden Rule by pastor and author Arron Chambers. 

About Arron Chambers

Arron Chambers, author of six books, including Eats With Sinners and Devoted: Isn’t it time to fall more in love with Christ? (NavPress October 2014), is also the pastor of Journey Christian Church in Greeley, Colo., an inspirational speaker, a marriage coach, husband of a lovely wife, and the father of four beautiful kids. For more information, visit his website.



connectingI like to look for connecting points. Did you like those “connect-the-dots” puzzles when you were a kid? I did. I loved looking at the jumbled mess of numbers and black dots and then seeing them take shape as I connected one dot to another.

I think the Christian life is like a connect-the-dots puzzle in some ways. We are all just dots in a community with the potential of being part of a pretty cool drawing. But we’re different from the black dots on the pages of the Highlights magazines in doctors offices. They’ve got no choice but yield to the will of the pencil. We have a choice.

Our God holds the pencil and his Spirit is connecting the dots. But before he uses us as part of the picture, he asks our permission, “may I use your life in part of my drawing?”

Instead of immediately yielding most of us hesitate and ask questions:

  • Will I like the picture?
  • Are the other dots going to be just like me?
  • Will I want to be with these other dots?
  • Those dots over there bug me, are you going to try to connect me with them?

Our God answers us and tells us if we love Him we will love being part of His picture. (John 14:23-24) He tells us if we love Him we’ll lay down our own designs for the picture and want His.(Mt 16:25)

God loves to draw. He loves to create. He never changes but His creation is forever changing, growing, shifting and moving. We change with it.

For example, I just pulled out my warm coat, mittens and hat for this afternoon’s community children’s trick-or-treating event. It’s a new season. I could stubbornly dig in and refuse to change my behavior from August but I would look pretty silly standing out there shivering in my shorts, t-shirt and flip-flops. Adapting to change is life.

I’ve spent my whole life hearing Christians talk about reaching the lost, loving their neighbors and serving. I’ve heard sermon after sermon and been to so many “outreach” meetings that have asked the same question, “How can we reach people?”

Then, we host Jesus movies and concerts in our buildings and wait for people to come. Then, they don’t come. Christians come but not the people we are called to reach. How can we ever connect with people? Why don’t they come to us?

Jesus told us to go to them. He never told his disciples, “Stay here and host a supper, have a speaker and try to get people to join you.”

Instead we see pictures of Him going and of them going and being with the people. They were in their communities rubbing shoulders with people, having meals together and living life.

Did you know that today the longer someone is a Christian the fewer non-christian friends he has? Dan Kimball in “They Like Jesus but Not the Church” demonstrated a bunch of unsettling realities of the breakdowns churches are having in reaching their communities for Jesus.

But it’s hard to meet people today, right? I disagree. Friday night football brings hundreds in your community together. School events, basketball, community fundraisers, parades, old home days… people are still gathering.

In fact, many of us will be bombarded with neighbors ringing our doorbells on Thursday night. While some are wound up with being mad about Halloween, we miss the opportunity to meet our neighbors, complement their children’s costumes and give a warm welcome when they are coming to us. We miss even the possibility of developing a connection.

It’s not difficult to meet people. What is difficult is taking a risk by starting a conversation or introducing yourself and asking for a name. People are still all around us but we, just like the disciples, need to initiate relationships. We need to remember the mission and go.

Tonight I will get to connect with hundreds of dots. I will get to laugh, smile, talk and share by being part of what my community is doing. No, I’m not going to boycott it because it is Halloween. In fact, I suspect that Jesus Himself would have been walking these streets tonight if He were here. Light is most effective in dark places.

Next Thursday night I will make a crock full of chili and gather with several of my neighbors to welcome a hundred or so trick-or-treaters. We’ll talk about life, laugh at costumes, tell our dogs to stop barking and we’ll strengthen our relationships.

Two years ago my dot was not connected to any of these people but today we have a solid line that is growing thicker with each shared experience. We are becoming friends. I don’t know what picture God is drawing yet but He can use the dot of my life however He desires even if it requires me stepping outside my comfort zone.

Is your dot available?