The Art of Noticing People

BlurryCrowdonBusyStreetA moment with strangers

Have you ever been with a group of people and felt like you just needed to talk to that person over there?

A sense that God was pointing out that particular person?

Phillip (in the story of Phillip and the Ethiopian Eunuch) was prompted to “Go Stand next to THAT chariot.”

Of all the chariots on the road that day, he was prompted to go next to one.

A moment with Friends

Maybe been with a friend, visiting in the coffee shop, and you have this unmistakable sense that they want to talk with you about their faith or yours?

Or maybe a friend has surprised you and started opening up about their faith struggle and search for God?

What are these moments?

These moments have the potential to become kairos moments, moments where we as Christians are aware of the gentle prompting of the Holy Spirit to pay attention and likely talk about faith.

The are moments that are full of possibilities for a persons spiritual journey towards Christ, where the person who are talking with may make more steps closer in their relationship with Jesus.

Some might call these divine appointments.

I call them kairos moments.

Here are some examples:

Each conversation moment has been prepared and thanks to the working of the Holy Spirit another person makes another step forward towards discovering their relationship with Christ.

Some people search for God

Luke 19:1-10, the familiar story of Zacchaeus shows that noticing people and these divine appointments turns out to be more art than science.

Verse one says; “Jesus entered and walked through Jericho.”

Luke transitions from story to story with phrases letting you know that Christ was on the move.

On this particular day he came across a shunned tax collector named Zacchaeus whom we would place in the category of lost.

Nevertheless, verse 3 says that Zacchaeus “wanted desperately to see Jesus” (The Message).

The Greek rendering of the word “desperately” is zateo.

Zateo carries with it a meaning of a frantic pursuit. This is a very dramatic and passionate verb that Luke uses.

If you lost your child in a crowded public space, “zateo” describes the desperate search.

If your passport is missing the night before your international flight, zateo is the word to express the intensity of searching.

Do we believe that some people zateo Jesus?

They have been prepared and are so full of spiritual thirst they will do anything to find the water of life?

Jesus looks for them, rewarding their search.

Here’s what’s remarkable about Jesus. As he’s traveling along, he comes upon an ordinary tree and then does something extraordinary; he stops and notices! Jesus is busy, the religious crowd wants his attention and yet he stops and stares up at a tree. Go figure!

With all the travel language in the book of Luke, when Jesus stops it’s a big deal. What really happened at that tree could not be seen, the beauty is in the unseen.

When Jesus stopped at the tree of Zacchaeus, he ascribed worth to him and said that Zacchaeus mattered.

This was Jesus’ paradigm for letting people know that he cared about them—he stopped and noticed them. It wasn’t what Jesus said that was so compelling but what he did. In the economy of Jesus, Zaccheus had high value.

Others may grumble because you don’t do it right.

Verse 7 says, “Everyone who saw the incident was indignant and grumped, ‘What business does he have getting cozy with this crook?’ ”

Jesus was not playing the part correctly.

He was supposed to let Zacchaeus know how much he didn’t approve of his sin and share “the gospel” with him, which starts with an explanation of his failures.

Instead, Jesus stopped, noticed, called him by name and had a conversation with him on his turf.

The story ends with Jesus making this statement, “For the Son of Man came to find and restore the lost.”

The Greek verb that is translated ‘find and restore’ is none other than zateo.

The art of Noticing People

Apparently, Jesus is passionately pursuing the people formerly known as lost. Pursuing Jesus was his business, his passion, his reason for existence.

Jesus profoundly impacted Zacchaeus not by sharing good news with him, but by being good news to him on that day. He stopped and noticed.

If we want to be on mission with Jesus, we’ll need to relearn the lost art of noticing.

Some of those conversations will go deep.

Some of those conversations that happen will go deep.  Others will remain shallow.

I have experienced lots of moments where after noticing people as in the Zaccheus text, the opportunity to offer a piece of the gospel happens.

Sometimes I get to harvest what others have sown, other times I get to water what was already there.  Sometimes I get to plant a seed for the first time.

It all starts with noticing those promptings of the Holy Spirit.

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