Over the previous posts in this series we’ve been exploring the importance of developing an intentional, prayerful and caring relationship with up to 3 people in your relational network. We’ve identified the importance of listening at depth to them – especially seeking to discern their particular spiritual quests (‘Your Story’). Last time we focused on ‘My Story’, how your experience of Jesus can be presented in a way that is not only good news for your friends but relevant to where they are in their life journeys. In today’s article we explore how to connect those two Stories with God’s Story, the Good News of God’s love for all people centred in the Lord Jesus Christ.
Having shared your experience of Jesus (‘My Story’) ask your friend, “How do you feel about that? Does it make any kind of sense to you?”
If they are not really interested, accept that. Say, “OK, thanks for listening. Any time you want to check back or ask further questions just let me know.” Research shows that responsiveness ebbs and flows; a time may come later to share further with them. Meanwhile continue to pray for them and keep building your relationship with them
However, if they are still open say, “You know, our stories remind me of something Jesus did (or said).” Then share a relevant Gospel story about Jesus. (If you can’t find a relevant one about Jesus, go to Acts, the New Testament Letters or the Old Testament. However, preferably a Jesus story because you want to encourage your friend to connect with him.)
Next ask, “What would you like to do with what I’ve been sharing with you? What do you think would be a good next step for you to take in your spiritual journey?”
Facilitating a Personal Commitment
Probably your friend may want to continue exploring various options such as joining a Christian small group, socialising with you and some of your Christian friends, watching a video about Jesus and Christianity, attending church with you (just be sure your worship services are hospitable to not yet Christians) or reading one of the Gospels such as Mark or Luke before being ready to make a commitment. It’s not wise to push a person before they’re ready. In fact Jesus told some parables about the importance of counting the cost of following him (Luke 14: 28-33). In a broad based survey of people, 69% described their coming to faith as gradual, with the average being four years (Sharing Your Faith with Friends and Family, M. Green, Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2005, p.10, quoted in Sent, Dean Eaton 2018).
However, when your friend is ready to follow Jesus, I like the way the late Church of England priest, David Watson, suggested. The A,B,C,D approach: Your friend has something to:
A – ADMIT – They’ve been living life on their own terms, outside of a personal relationship with God and as a result have become spiritually lost.
B – BELIEVE – God loves them (and all people) and has sent Jesus into this world so everyone could come spiritually home. And through his life, death and resurrection Jesus has made the way for all who trust in him to be put in a right relationship with God.
C – CONSIDER – However, there’s a cost in following Jesus (you may have discussed this already). Not primarily a financial cost but getting out from the driver’s seat of your life and letting Jesus get his hands on the controls. (But remember the one who asks this of you loves you absolutely and knows what’s around the corner, so who better to be in charge?). Also a relationship with Jesus is just not one way – it includes becoming a member of Christ’s family, the Christian community.
D – DO – Invite Jesus to come into your life and be your Lord and Friend. This can be done with a simple prayer such as: “Lord Jesus, I’m coming to you now as best I know how. I admit I’ve been living my life on my terms, not yours. I believe you love me and gave your life for me. Through your life, death and rising to a new life again you’ve made it possible for me to become a member of your community. Forgive me for all my selfishness and failures. Come into my life and live your life through me. Amen.” (I suggest you pray this prayer, or something similar, aloud one phrase at a time, and invite your friend to say it aloud after you. This will help him/her own the faith step that’s been taken.)
Jesus doesn’t call us to make converts (only the Holy Spirit can do that!) but disciples. Coming to faith in Jesus is just the first step. It will be important to help your (now) Christian friend, live out her/his faith in their everyday life, develop devotional practices (eg. reading the Bible, prayer, worship attendance), discover their spiritual gifts and callings, steward their time and resources, share their faith with others and grow in faith and love. Your local church can support you with this. Especially important is helping them join a Christian small group and you being a spiritual mentor to them.
For yourself as a relational evangelist, I strongly urge you to invite 2-3 Christian friends who also are interested in witnessing to Jesus to form a small group with yourself. The purpose of such a group is to share, support and pray for each other as you continue to witness to Jesus. Whenever one of the friends with whom you and the other members of your small group have been sharing decides they want to follow Jesus, invite them into the group. That will serve as both an encouragement to them in their Christian journey as well as an encouragement to the group as a whole. Research shows new Christians are often the most fruitful evangelists. They tend to have more non-Christian friends than established believers and their friends, often impressed by the difference faith has made in the new Christian’s life, want to know why. Continue that process as your group grows and once it reaches about 7-8 in number break into two groups and keep continuing.
One Last Word
I trust you have felt encouraged and inspired by this series on relational evangelism. May you experience much fruit for God’s Kingdom as you join with the Holy Spirit in building faith sharing relationships with not yet believers. God bless you in your journey. And feel free to let me know how you’re travelling: firstname.lastname@example.org.