“As I was walking through town and carefully observing …” Acts 17:23a CEB
How many times have you really looked around as you drive through town? The reality is we are very much creatures of habit. We don’t pay as close attention to our surroundings as we would like to think. I had a conversation with someone recently and we were discussing a local business they had just discovered. They asked the question, “How long has that been there?” I was taken back by the question as I answered, “They’ve been there for almost three years.” The person had lived here a long time and just hadn’t noticed this “new” business for almost three years. We tend to be that way. Once we get into a routine we stop noticing things around us. This is also true of churches. When we have been attending a church for a long time we start to overlook things that used to bother us. We overlook marks on the wall, stains on the carpet, and more. We get into a routine and we stop noticing things. We don’t pay attention the way we used to.
In The Book of Acts we see the Apostle Paul engaging people in a new community he is visiting. As he arrives in the community he walks through town looking carefully at the people, places, and activities. Paul engages people in conversation with the intent of getting to know them and their culture. I am certain he asked questions, observed their activities, and possibly even participated when invited. Paul is then in the middle of town where the folks gathered to discuss and debate life’s issues. As he listens he continues to learn. Then he feels led to speak to them saying, “As I was walking through town and carefully observing …” Paul wants them to know he has been watching and learning before he engages them in discussion. The most basic principle is that Paul wants to connect with them where they are. He doesn’t begin by expecting people to see things his way. Instead, Paul has been working hard to see things from their perspective—where they are. This is so important when it comes to sharing the Good News of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We must begin to meet people where they are.
Jesus meets people where they are and doesn’t expect anyone to have things all together before He saves them. In fact, it is because people don’t have it all together that Jesus saves them. As one of my favorite lyricist wrote, “This only serves to confirm my suspicions, that I’m still a man in need of a Savior.” It is humanity's need of a Savior that brought Jesus to earth in human form. In fact, Jesus experienced all that humanity experiences. Jesus walked through town and carefully observed what people were experiencing and how they were struggling. Jesus coming in human form was meeting people where they were. Paul was following the example of Jesus to go into a new town and carefully observe the people and the culture before he offered them anything.
We need to do the same. Even if we have lived in the area for a long time. Where are we walking through town and carefully observing. Are we observing the new places people are going? Are we carefully observing the trends of what people are doing for work, fun, service, etc.? Where are we getting out of our routine and looking for new people, in new places? We must be carefully observant in order to reach people where they are. Will you be careful to observe this week? It’s the only way we can reach people where they are!
This Sunday we continue the message series entitled “Being Missional.” We will explore the way Jesus calls for his believers to reach new people where they are. We will explore what it means to break our routines and experience new people in new places. I hope you will join me this Sunday at 8:15|NINE45|11:15 a.m. for worship. You can also go to SAUMC.NET and join us via livestream. The best is yet to come. I love you all and can’t wait to see you in church!