Our culture currently demeans church, seeing it as offering little value. They see the gospel as unscientific and something that once held value in the evolution of civilization. However, friendship with Christ-followers meets little resistance. Pursue a friendship long enough and authentic evidence of God begins to show up if you live the fruit of the Spirit. Love conquers all. We can still invite people to follow us into Christ. Perhaps without the boldness of a Paul or of Jesus, but still proactive.
Churches I’ve pastored have always majored in what I call “friendship evangelism.” The largest congregation I ever led might hit an attendance of 2,500 on a super big day. Yet, we normally saw about 20 people per week coming to Christ. And, we were able to keep shipping people out the door to plant new churches. We were never a mission field for people to invite their friends for the pastor to evangelize them. My goal was to equip members to invade their neighborhoods and workplaces with the good news. And it worked.
I know it sounds corny, but it’s accurate.
What I call “friendship evangelism” has always worked. Annual polling of our congregation consistently revealed 85+ percent came to Jesus through conversations with a friend.
The Art of Neighboring
I recently found new evidence of this after reading The Art of Neighboring. It is a guidebook for friendship evangelism within a few yards of your house. The book brought me new conviction regarding my immediate neighbors. The result: I intentionally hang out in my yard several evenings each week when I know they will be arriving from work.
The old me was a friendly neighbor—as long as a neighbor would approach me in my driveway or yard. After reading the book, I began walking downhill toward one neighbor’s house or uphill to the other. We’re getting to know each other and conversations are productive.
Masks & Post-COVID Barbeque
Early into COVID, my wife made masks from Hawaiian print cloth. We packaged six to a household and gave them to eight neighbors (four on each side). Some of the people were total strangers, but everyone accepted the masks along with a promise of a block party post-pandemic.
Praying with My Neighbor & Other Stuff
I’ve been able to pray with one neighbor on two occasions. And, we casually talk about God from time to time. I’m teaching him what little I know about investing which leads to talk of tithing—hardly the “Romans Road,” but still pointing to Jesus. As friends follow friends into friendship, they naturally follow them into interests, hobbies, etc. Not so hard to follow into faith…
I’m finding that it’s pretty easy to be conversant about God without being preachy or inviting someone to an event. The next step is to pray together. After that, who knows?
Salt and Light in a Post-Christian World
Salt and light are both quiet commodities. Their presence makes little noise but great differences. Perhaps the same is true of effective personal evangelists. The salt must be salty and the light visible. Lives marked by visible fruit of the Spirit will make inroads where programs and preaching fail.
In post-Christian America, relation-based evangelism is becoming crucial to the survival and legacy of the church.
Lives marked by visible fruit of the Spirit will make inroads where programs and preaching fail.