Hangin With Sinners

One of the biggest events every summer at most churches is Vacation Bible School – or Kids Camp. I remember going to VBS as a child and learning all the motions & the song that went along with the account of Jesus interaction with a man named Zacchaeus (Luke 19)

It’s interesting how many churches were so faithful to teach children that song, but have moved away from what it really represents.

Luke 19:5 says: When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.”  

Jesus was intentional about hangin out with people others considered to be sinners  (yes – Zac was a sinner).  Jesus was very comfortable hanging out in the home of a person who was despised by the religious crowd of his day.  The religious crowd made judgments about Jesus because He hung out with Zac.  Luke 19:7 says:  All the people saw this and began to mutter, “He has gone to be the guest of a ‘sinner.'”   To mutter means they were complaining, murmuring, being critical etc.  They missed the point!   As Paul said in 1 Timothy 1:15  Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners — of whom I am the worst.

A little further into the Zacchaeus story, Jesus said:  For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost. (Luke 19:10)

In our church culture today things haven’t changed much.  The people and/or churches who are trying to find ways to impact the culture with the Gospel of Jesus Christ are often judged & criticized by others who claim to follow Christ.   No church & no method is perfect, but I’m thankful there are many churches who are striving to find innovative ways to build relationships with those who are not followers of Christ in order to share the truth of the Gospel with them.  I’m thankful that there’s a whole new generation of young Christians who desire to live out the Great Commission and Great Commandment.  I’m thankful that in some churches, those who are older and more mature have embraced these young followers of Christ and are rooting them on while giving them wise counsel.  However, I’m also very concerned with the plight of most churches in America.

I’m in the middle of reading a very disturbing book (Who Can Save The Incredible Shrinking Church) by a recent President of the Southern Baptist Convention – Dr. Frank Page.  He writes that 85% of churches in America have either plateaued or are declining.  

Instead of being intentionally focused on those outside the church, Dr. Page states: “These churches have lost their passion and become inwardly focused.  They look toward the past instead of the future.”  As opposed to building relationships with those outside the church,  Dr. Page says in these declining churches:   “….godly, well-meaning people sit paralyzed by drawing the inner circle of members and leaders even tighter.”  He also says their typical response to change is something like this – I know we need to change,  just don’t change what I like.    Maybe some of these folks need a new plaque in their homes & churches that says:  Remember, if you keep doing the same things the same way over and over – don’t expect different results.  Or as one of the posters hanging in our office hallway states:When your memories exceed your dreams, the end is near.”

I believe there are many ways to do evangelism and there’s a need for many different churches who will reach different folks.  I was trained as a leader in WIN Schools in Texas (Witness Involvement N0w) & People Sharing Jesus – was the leader of one of the largest CWT Programs (Continuing Witness Training) in the country – and was a Level 2 Equipper in Evangelism Explosion.   I’ve seen God do amazing things in the lives of people and have learned there are many different ways to share my faith in Jesus Christ with others.  The bottom line for me is to see churches become intentional about fulfilling the Great Commission & Great Commandment, and for that to happen we’re going to have to change and embrace the lifestyle and purpose of Christ.

About bjrutledge

BJ & Janet were married in July 1977 They have three grown children who are all married: Jeremy & Whitney Rutledge, Chris & Julie Hurst, and Josh and Hannah Rutledge. They also have four grandsons, and a granddaughter. BJ says perhaps our greatest legacy is even though our kids are PK's, they love Jesus and are all involved in ministry in the local church. BJ has served at churches in Dallas - Bossier City, LA - Houston - and was at Fellowship of the Woodlands (Woodlands Church) in The Woodlands before coming to Grace Fellowship. BJ is the Lead Pastor at Grace Fellowship Church in Paradise, TX.
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