So, it’s been a while since I posted to the blog. It’s about time to add another post. I just read through my last post and saw that I promised to “talk about refining our process of reaching others with the gospel.” I guess I’ll be faithful to my word and do that.
I think one of the biggest barriers to evangelism is the old way of thinking that reduces the work of evangelism to a gospel presentation followed by a sinner’s prayer. Don’t stop reading. I’m not crazy. I do believe that a gospel presentation is absolutely necessary for someone to become a Christian. Otherwise, what are they responding to? What are they putting their faith in? My point is that there are often many steps necessary to win someone to Christ before they hear and believe the good news that through the life, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus we can be called children of God and are heirs of his eternal kingdom.
Imagine approaching someone in a coffee shop, interrupting their peaceful ingestion of caffeine, and telling them that Jesus died for their sins. Would you expect a positive reaction? Of course not. And this is why many people don’t feel equipped to do the work of evangelism. People generally don’t respond to personal appeals like this outside of a relationship. They probably are thinking, “Who are you to tell me about this Jesus? You don’t know me.” But what if we considered any trust-building or bridge-building between you, a believer, and any unbeliever to be doing the work of evangelism? What if we considered the formation of relationships with non-believers to be the beginning of evangelism? What if we started to see building healthy relationships with non-believers as an integral part of moving them toward a relationship with Christ?
I think we need to assume that those who don’t believe have at least some hostility toward Christianity. At the very least they’re indifferent. They have no interest and wonder why anyone would be interested in Jesus. How do we take Jesus into a hostile and indifferent world? We do so by building relationships. We do so by living really intentionally. Even strategically.
I’ve changed my habits so that I can build relationships with those around me. I’ve started to be strategic about where I shop so I run into the same employees. When I eat at a restaurant, I ask my server if there’s anything going on in his or her life that I can pray about. I’m going to pray anyway! Why not include them in my prayer? And the area I need the most help in is reaching out in my neighborhood. We need to break the idea of seeing our home as our refuge. Jesus is our refuge. We need to spend our time and home welcoming others into it. We need to spend more time in our front yard rather than our backyard. Last fall I bought a fire pit to drag into my driveway on Fridays to connect with people in the neighborhood. We’ll see what fruit this will bear.
Here’s the reality. When we encounter people we always encounter them as people with whom God has started a conversation. Let’s continue that conversation. Let’s do it relationally. Let’s do it lovingly. Let’s do it as people whose lives have been changed by God. Let’s share the good news, one relationship at a time.