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Reaching People Where they Are

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Praise God that Jesus came to seek and save the lost.

Praise God that he did not wait for us to seek after him.

Praise God that he did not wait for us to find the strength to save ourselves.

Praise God that Jesus came seeking.

Praise God that Jesus came saving.

Praise God that the lost can be found.

Praise God that he sent Christ on a rescue mission.

Karl Barth, famed theologian, was once asked, “What’s the greatest thought you ever had?”  His answer:  “Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so.”

I deserved to be damned to hell, but God interfered.

-Salvation Army Officer John Allen

Remember the purpose statement of the book of John?  I write these things that you might BELIEVE and that by believing you might have LIFE in his name.

John’s purpose is that men and women would turn to the seeking and saving Christ and find life as a result. 

With that in mind, let us look at our text this morning.

The food of Christ:  to do the will of Him who sent me.  What a great communion meditation!  Jesus drew his energy from doing God’s will.  We draw our energy from Jesus doing God’s will in giving his body and blood.  Jesus’ passion was reaching the lost.  His disciples looked at the town and saw an unwelcome pitstop to Galilee.  Jesus saw a harvest-field.  His heart beat to save souls.  His heart’s cry and the focus of this text is the need for MORE WORKERS.  More people to share Christ’s concern and follow his calling.  More people to see as Christ sees.  Not hordes, masses or people in the way.  Rather, children that God loves who have lost their way. 

You may say, “I would love to be used of God to reach people and show them Christ, but I do not know what to do!  I feel like I just do not know enough!”  This morning I want to look with you at how Christ reaches this woman where she is and how he overcomes various obstacles in bringing this woman to faith in him.


Mexico report – ‘true dialogue with a man of another faith, requires a concern both for the Gospel and for the other man.  Without the first, dialogue becomes a pleasant conversation.  Without the second, it becomes irrelevant, unconvincing or arrogant.”

Reaching People Where they Are

Obstacle #1 Personal Barrier

While Jesus was resting at the well, a Samaritan woman came to draw water. The arrival of the woman set up a crisis for traditional Jewish custom of the day. Not only did the Jews avoid contact with the Samaritans but Jewish men avoided speaking with women in public—even their own wives! Jewish rabbis wanted women to stay “in their place.” Men certainly did not want to discuss theological issues with them. They also did not think that the ˒am hā˒āreṣ (“the people of the land” who worked with their hands such as fishermen and carpenters) had any ability to speak about the fine points of religion, particularly about details of God’s saving work (cf. the view of the Sanhedrin in Acts 4:13). This perspective would be even more emphatic when dealing with a woman, particularly the wife of a common laborer who was viewed as very low on the Jewish social scale. We can imagine what the rabbinic view would be of a “questionable,” half-breed Samaritan woman!

Obstacles:  lifestyle barriers, social barriers, personality barriers

Wrong Answer:  Invite them to come to you…

Jesus’ solution:  Reach people where they are.  Jesus draws on a common ground that both of them share.  They are both thristy.  There is ALWAYS a common ground.  If the Son of God can come down from heaven and share our humanity and speak to us in a way we can understand him and know him, CERTAINLY there is a common ground between you and someone you strive to share with.  Paul declared, “I have become all things to all men that I might save some.”  Paul reached people where they were.  He did not wait for them to come to him.  He went to them because he cared. 

Lord Ramsey of Canterbury, “go out and put ourselves with loving sympathy inside the doubts of the doubting, the questions of the questioners, and the loneliness of those who have lost the way.”

John Stott, “It s once more the challenge of the Incarnation, to renounce evangelism by inflexible slogans, and instead to involve ourselves sensitively in the real dilemmas of men.”

Discerning God’s will with a job. 

If it falls your lot to be a street sweeper, sweep streets like Michelangelo painted pictures, sweep streets like Beethoven composed music, sweep streets like Shakespeare wrote poetry. Sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will have to pause and say: Here lived a great street sweeper who swept his job well.

Martin Luther King, Jr.

"There are two great moments in a person's life: the moment you were born and the moment you realize why you were born."

—Pastor Kirbyjon Caldwell at a Willow Creek Leadership Conference

I attended a community prayer breakfast and sat at a table with a group of men I didn't know. In the course of our conversation, the subject of retirement came up. The man sitting next to me, who appeared to be in his early fifties, was quite excited by the prospect. He said how much he was looking forward to the end of his career and related a conversation he had with his wife that morning.

"My wife asked, 'What are you going to do when you retire?' I told her, 'I'm going to sit on the couch and watch TV all day every day.'"

The table was silent, but I couldn't keep quiet for long. "If you do that," I said, "you'll be dead in a year."

He looked at me, wide-eyed, and asked why.

I told him, "If the lack of purpose in your life doesn't kill you first, your wife will."

John Beukema

Obstacle #2 Belief Barrier

Obstacle:  Skepticism - How can Jesus of 2,000 years ago help me today?  How is Jesus going to help me?  Where will it come from? 

Jesus’ solution:  He does not focus on his power, but Jesus touches the brokenness.

Dealing with the truth!

Woman, your problem is you never find a well that satisfies.  You are perpetually thirsty.  You bounce from man to man to fill a need and a to bandage a brokenness, but it only gets worse and worse.  He looked into her heart and saw a loneliness and thirst that is never quenched.  A thirst for love, acceptance, meaning, fulfillment. 

When you encounter the belief barrier:  We must strop trying to overcome all the skepticism.  Most skepticism is a guard and agent of protection.  Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “Skepticism is slow suicide.”  Jesus does not waste time trying to defend the credibility of his claims, but instead strives to touch the pain inside the human heart.

Asking God to help you touch someone’s brokenness.  Golfing with guy at Olive Garden.  Drinking from a well that never satisfies. 

Obstacle #3 Religious Barrier

Where should we worship?  There are so many churches, so many religions…who is to say which is right?

The purpose of the woman’s referring to a prophet seems to have been to direct attention away from herself to the long-standing argument between the Jews and the Samaritans concerning the temple.  Both temples were built on mountains: the Samaritan one on Gerizim and the Jewish one on Moriah (the part of Jerusalem, north of the Ophel).  The Samaritans argued that their temple was authorized by Moses (cf. Deut 27:4 in the Samaritan Pentateuch, which reads “Gerizim” instead of “Ebal”). They contended that Gerizim was the place that fulfilled the prediction of God’s “dwelling” (cf. Deut 12:5), which was called the mountain of God’s blessing (Deut 11:29 as here in 4:21–24 over against Ebal).


Wrong Answer:  Try to solve the problem.

4:21–24The issue was clear. If Jesus had entered the age-old argument of which was the “right” temple (like our arguments about the “right” church), the woman would not have had to face herself and her sin. Christians who seek to be ambassadors for Christ must always be wary of falling into the trap of arguing about the “right” place of worship or the “right” denomination. Just as Jesus did not argue with the presuppositions of Nicodemus (John 3:2) and the paralytic (5:7), Jesus did not argue with the woman here. The point is not winning arguments but introducing people to the dimension of God in their lives. The model of Jesus is thus very instructive. He turned the conversation away from place of worship to nature of worship. In so doing, he modeled a correct evangelistic perspective.


Jesus’ solution:  Jesus changes religion to relationship.  Do not ignore their concern!  But point to the REAL answer. 

Obstacle #4 Procrastination Barrier

You might hear:  Maybe one day, I am sure it will make sense one day.  Perhaps one day I can get my life right.  Maybe one day I will get the answers I need. 

Procrastination:  I never wear a watch, because I always know it's now—and now is when you should do it.

San Fransisco 49ers head coach Steve Mariucci

"Delay is the deadliest form of denial" is one of the laws for which Prof. C. Northcote Parkinson is famous. He was asked to explain it once at a tea. "I will," replied Parkinson, "in a few minutes."

Jesus’ response, “I am, the one speaking to you.”

Jesus’ solution:  Jesus reveals himself to be the present hope.

“The Signature of Jesus is offered to Christians who want to live by faith and not by mere ‘religion,’ for those who recognize that many of the burning theological issues in the church today are neither burning nor theological, [for those] who see Christianity neither as a moral code or a belief system but a love affair, who have not forgotten that they are followers of a crucified Christ, who know that following Him means living dangerously, who want to live the gospel without compromise, who have no greater desire than to have His signature written on the pages of their lives.”

-          Brennan Manning

Rafael Antonio Lozano is a man with a mission, albeit a strange one. The 33-year-old computer programmer from Plano, Texas, is on a quest to visit every company-owned Starbucks on the planet.

Lozano, who calls himself Winter, began his mission in 1997, when there were 1,304 such stores worldwide. Today, there are over 6,000 in 37 countries. As of October 31st, 2005, Winter had visited 4,918 Starbucks in North America, in addition to 213 others around the globe.

Despite his impressive pace, Winter is realistic about the nature of his quest, saying, "As long as they keep building Starbucks, I'll never be finished." He is also realistic about the importance of his mission. "Every time I reach a Starbucks, I feel like I've accomplished something," he said, "when actually I've accomplished nothing."

Jayne Clark


[1]Borchert, G. L. (2001, c1996). Vol. 25A: John 1-11 (electronic ed.). Logos Library System; The New American Commentary (206). Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers.

[2]Borchert, G. L. (2001, c1996). Vol. 25A: John 1-11 (electronic ed.). Logos Library System; The New American Commentary (206). Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers.

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