The term “evangelism” gives many Christians the willies. We immediately think of canned presentations that seem stiff and unnatural. We are paralyzed by the thought of knocking on a stranger’s door and talking about Jesus.
In response to these images of evangelism, we promote the idea of “building relationships” before sharing the gospel. We call it friendship or relational evangelism.
I think this development is (overall) a healthy one. We don’t share the gospel apart from who we are as witnesses. The most effective evangelism takes place within the context of relationships where the life of the Christian is on display.
But sometimes, I wonder if our emphasis on relationships might cause us to turn all our focus to relationship-building and indefinitely postpone gospel proclamation. So someone asks you, “Are you sharing the gospel regularly?” and you think, Of course! I’m building a relationship with an employee at a coffee shop; I’ve got a friend who watches football with me; I’m getting to know the parents in my child’s preschool class.
Weeks and months (maybe even years) go by, and we’ve made friends, but no disciples. We still haven’t spoken about our Christian faith and what it means to trust in Jesus.
It’s true that effective evangelism usually takes place after trustworthy relationships have been built. But something is amiss when we can “get to know” people well over a period of months and never talk about Jesus.
Does Your Life Make Sense Apart From Jesus?
A few months ago, I struck up a conversation with the father of one of the kids on my son’s T-ball team. We talked a little about his work, about his kids, about our community. I asked him why he had chosen our town. His answer? The church drew him here. They had wanted to raise a family in a small town with a good church. Several family members had recommended a particular church, and so they upped and moved here.
This guy had no idea I was an associate pastor at another local church. He didn’t even know I was a Christian. Yet within a few minutes of the conversation, it was clear that he was a believer and that his faith in Christ was central to his life. As I thought about that conversation later, I realized that it would have been impossible for us to form a lasting friendship without talking about Christ. His Christianity was so central to his identity that it could not go unnoticed or unmentioned.