Relationship evangelism…

25 Jan

In my last post I gave a quick explanation and diagnosis of “Contact evangelism” and today I’ll address Relationship (or friendship) evangelism. The basic idea is simple: through the lens of your relationship your friend will see your commitment to God and this will give you opportunities to share your faith in a way that feels asked-for and not forced. Also, because you’ve been such a terrific friend they are more likely to see the truth of the Gospel because you’ve been living it out!

On paper, this is an awesome way to do life! In practice, it rarely happens. Too often our churches and ministries leave Christians unequipped and unmotivated to initiate and navigate serious spiritual conversations with folks who have doubts. I’m not talking about the Dawkins’ and Harris’ of the world, but the average classmate, colleague, or family member who doesn’t believe and isn’t sure why they should.

My bestie totally agreed to come to church with me! OMG!

My bestie totally agreed to come to church with me! OMG!

Instead we see scores of Christians (mis)quoting St. Francis by claiming to “share the Gospel at all times and when necessary use words.” The historicity of the quote aside, (feel free to research it on your own!) it’s just bad logic. If Christ is THE WORD, and Paul says the message must be preached for people to receive it, then how can we expect an unexplained deed (however Christ-centered) to make sense to someone?

If we are to truly leverage our friendships for the Kingdom (which I believe we must) then it requires bold invitation, thoughtful prayer, honest dialogue, and persistence. We should respect our friends who make it clear they are not interested while at the same time continuing to care for their souls and looking for opportunities to play the role of the sower.

A general checklist for doing relational evangelism should look like this:

1)      Do I pray regularly for ____

2)      Does he know I’m a Christian?

3)      Have I asked about his spiritual background?

4)      Have I spent time with him on “neutral ground” (bowling, shopping, etc.)?

5)      Have I invited him to something (bible study, church, etc.)?

6)      If yes to (5) did I follow up? If no, have I initiated a conversation about his disinterest?

7)      If you keep doing (1), (4), and (5) then the answer of how to do (6) will become apparent and you will make progress. Yay.

The Verdict

As is often the case, there is no “winner.” Any method of sharing the faith is a good one if it is done at the prompting of God in sincerity and good character. Contact evangelists often miss out on the “contact” portion: they make initial contact and start evangelizing but rarely connect with the people who are listening to them. Relational evangelists often forget about the evangelism part after their first defeat (no, I’m not interested in coming to church) and decide to spiritually break up by thinking “let’s just be friends.”

We have a higher calling and a higher purpose. We need not force Jesus on anyone or try to argue them into submission for he stands at the door and knocks. Our job is to tactfully speak up on His behalf when we have the opportunity and to love despite circumstance. When in doubt, double your efforts in prayer!

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