Who is Worthy?

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Austrians live and die within a few miles of where they are born. Nearly everyone owns their home but we were always renters. As missionaries, we didn’t have much money, but we strove to keep our rented home clean and attractive and we greeted everyone with a friendly smile. We always patronized local businesses and sought opportunities to be helpful.

In every neighborhood, we followed the scriptural injunction in Matthew 10 to “inquire who is worthy” (admirable, upright, praiseworthy) and sought the friendship of such people. It wasn’t long before those people began to speak negatively about some other person or persons in the community. We always came to their defense in any way we honestly could. “I haven’t gotten that impression.” “I wonder what they might have experienced in the past that would cause them to be like that?” “I once knew someone who was like that, but after I got to know them better,…” It wasn’t long before everyone was our friend. They knew that if anyone spoke unkindly or negatively about them, that we would come to their defense.

In 1990, we were looking for a house to rent in our target area for starting a church. We saw a newspaper ad for a home located exactly where we wanted to be and responded immediately. It had a garage, yard and was inexpensive, so we said that we wanted to rent it. Our euphoria soon abated however. The owner informed us that more than 50 others had responded to the ad. He would decide who gets the house in two weeks. Because he was Roman Catholic and knew that we were missionaries, we didn’t see much chance of being selected, but we had prayed before looking and we continued to both pray and look.

After only one week, we received a telephone call from the house owner. He was giving us first choice! This had to be the Lord’s working! We signed the legal papers immediately and were surprised that no caution fee or other conditions were made—with one exception. It was made very clear that we could only rent the house for two years, after which we had to move. The young owner had begun a relationship with a young lady and planned to marry in two years.

After we were settled in our new home, we became quite friendly with the landlord, who lived with his parents. On one occasion, I asked why he had selected us from the long list of people who wanted to rent his house. He said, “When you entered the house, you took off your shoes.” After a brief pause, he added, “My father said he liked you and insisted that I rent the house to you.” I had admired the lovely hand carved wooden ceilings in his father’s farm house and asked if a local cabinet maker had done the work. Our landlord’s father proudly stated that he had carved and installed the ceilings himself.

Soon after moving, we invited the landlord’s parents over for coffee and cake. I mentioned how happy we were that they had encouraged their son to rent the house to us. They replied that there was another reason why we got the house. The landlord had called all of our former neighbors to ask what kind of people we were. All said how sorry they were to learn that we were moving; one of them was even sobbing!

Incidentally, our landlord broke off the relationship with his girlfriend and we lived in his house for ten years! And the landlord’s father came and installed a lovely hand-carved wood ceiling in “our” living room soon after we moved in. He carved the following words (in old German script of course) into one of the boards, “Jesus is LORD, even in our times!”
(Excerpt from "Images of the Creator Should be Creative")

Many missionaries find it difficult to gain entrance to those who have a good reputation in the community, so they work with the "down and outers." It is easier to reach the needy, especially if you are willing to let it cost you something. The needy usually have their hands outstretched. The problem with this method of church planting is the kind of church that often emerges. If you can reach those who have a good reputation in the community, it is possible to reach the needy later on, and those who are "worthy" can be a great help in that task. The opposite situation, however, is usually problematic.

Jesus taught an important principle of evangelism and church planting in Luke 14:16-24. (Read my article on Zacchaeus for more on this subject.)

Copyright © 2017 - Ralph V. Harvey