Several weeks ago, we were hanging out at Scott and Charissa’s place for our Villages group. We had just finished working through an eight week devotional, The Tangible Kingdom Primer (highly recommend it if you’re looking for a challenge), and Scott wanted to introduce his discipleship training program that he had worked on several months ago.
Initially, we are being trained in learning the model he’s laid out for us. Eventually, though, we’ll be trained to train others; as disciples and disciplers (not a word, I know – just roll with it). For now, though, we’re learning a simple way to approach and engage the people around us in an intentional and meaningful way.
Like in college, it’s all about the C’s. Scott’s model is broken down to four C’s: Contact, Connect, Close to Christ, and Christ-like (that fourth one may be something else; can’t remember exactly – sorry Scott). Where he started with the “Contact” is where my mind and heart have been for the past few weeks.
In John 4 we come across a rather controversial story. Jesus talks with a woman at the well of Jacob, which, as Scott pointed out to us, was a commonplace for gossip and the talk of the town. Notice that the woman came to the well when she thought no one would be there. Why might this be? It’s quite possible she was avoiding public ridicule.
As we come to find out in verse 18, she had had five husbands and the man she was staying with wasn’t one of them. In ancient times, she would have been a social outcast, regarded much like prostitutes. Something as simple as drawing water from the well could be utterly humiliating. “Sir, give me this water,” she tells Jesus, “so that I will not be thirsty or have to come here to draw water,” (4:15).
Scott highlighted this story as a prime example of making contact with someone else. Jesus asked for a drink of water and talked with her for a little bit. And look how dramatically her life was changed by a simple, single conversation. Yet what happened after that encounter is what moved me.
I am oftentimes moved more by the human reactions of others rather than the divine actions of Jesus. Don’t get me wrong, what Jesus does and says throughout Scripture is profound and I wish to exemplify them in every way. But I relate much more closely to the people who react around Him because, like them, I am far from perfect.
After talking with Jesus, the woman goes into her hometown and tells everyone about Him. She says, “Come, see a man who told me all that I ever did. Can this be the Christ?” (4:29). She went to the people who gossiped about her and slandered her name and told them they were right. She used the fodder for their gossip, her testimony, to tell them about Jesus. When it comes to making contact with other people – especially when we’re telling them about Jesus – there is a cost.
Granted, much of this is speculation. The text itself does not say that her town gossiped about her, but these speculations aren’t arbitrary. People gossip, especially in small towns. What kills gossip? Truth. And yet instead of attempting to deny what they said, she used it to talk about Jesus. She spent much because, in a short conversation with the Man, she received much.
“Many Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, ‘He told me all that I ever did,’” (4:39).
In one chat with a woman at the well, the entire town comes to know Jesus. Jesus showed us that contact can be as easy as asking for some water. The Samaritan woman, however, showed us that contact can be extremely costly. And yet I think Jesus looks at this woman proudly; I think He sees what she did – that she humbled herself before her neighbors in order to tell them about Him. If she hadn’t, would the town ever have known that Jesus had come by?
I don’t intend to imply that we should share are deepest, darkest secrets when making contact with people. What I am saying, though, is that we ought to consider how far we are willing to go – are we really willing, if the opportunity presents itself, to share something about ourselves that not everyone knows just so someone new can experience Jesus? It’s a nerve-wracking question, but what does it mean to bear one’s cross?
Count the cost, Jesus says (Luke 14:33). Are the lives of others worth more than your pride? If I’m really trying to follow Jesus, then I’m going to answer “Yes,” even if I don’t want to.