A Better “Friendship Evangelism”

I have a many great friends that I love dearly. I spend as much time as possible with the ones I can, and I miss all of them that live too far away to see regularly. I even get depressed sometimes when I can’t get some of them on the phone. (You know who you are…) I so much enjoy my friends that given the opportunity, I will take whoever I can to meet them because I am convinced that others will love my friends as much as I do.

Now, I say all of that by way of introduction, but let’s set it aside for a couple of minutes. What I really want to talk about today is why too many of us do not share the gospel.

There was a widely popular phrase in evangelism coined a while back, that was very popular among churches before the word “missional” came to prominence. It was the phrase “friendship evangelism.” The idea was that in order the share the gospel effectively with anyone, they first must know that you actually care about them, and not just about your Christian agenda.

The rise of “friendship evangelism” was a reaction to a major move in recent Christian history where evangelism was very impersonal, and usually meant going door to door in your neighborhood, distributing Christian literature, and inviting people to a church service where they would hear a ‘crusade-style’ sermon every week, targeted at salvation only, with little discipleship in the mix.

What “friendship evangelism” said instead is that you need to take the time to cultivate a relationship with the person you are wanting to see saved, let them see your testimony lived out, and some time down the road once a solid relationship is established, you make your move and tell them about Jesus. Hopefully they become believers, and then you continue your relationship into the discipleship process. The downside that came with the “friendship evangelism” strategy, though, is that to build a relationship where most people are comfortable enough to hear about Jesus from you may take decades. And in the worst cases, many Christians were only pursuing the friendship in the first place in order to ‘push their agenda’ at some point in the future.

It is my opinion that although deep relationships are sometimes necessary to win some to Christ, the major problem in Christian evangelism today is not the methods we use, but rather the motivation in doing so at all.

So I want to propose a new kind of “friendship evangelism.” This version, though, is not based on the idea of making friends in order share Christ with them. This version is about making friends with Christ, then sharing Him with anyone who will give an ear.

Think about it. In all of the evangelistic strategies I’ve mentioned — door-knocking, church-invites, crusade meetings, friend-to-friend sharing (and I’ve done them all at some point or another in my 8 years in ministry) — any of them can be done simply by throwing a theology about Christ towards people without any of our personal relationship with Him coming through.

We always hear (and say) things like, they are lost and on their way to hell, so they have to hear about Christ. And that is 100% true. But that is seldom the motivation for evangelism in the Bible. Instead, what we see over and over again in scripture is that someone meets Jesus, is so impressed or moved by Him, that they can’t help but tell others about Him. So in stories like Phillip telling Nathaniel to come meet Jesus in John 1, or the Samaritan woman at the well going back to town and telling everyone to come see the man who told her all about herself in John 4, it is never someone telling them, “Hey, come meet Jesus and get forgiveness and out of hell.” Instead, the message is “Hey, I met this man. He’s incredible. You have got to meet Him.”

It is the same idea in sharing Jesus as when I started this post by saying that I have great friends that I love dearly and feel like everyone needs to meet. Jesus, is the friend at the top of the list that I am convinced everyone needs to meet.

Why is that? Well, because He is the Saviour of the world. And He does give us freedom from sin and the wrath of God. And because He does make me more like Him the more I am around Him. And because He does love me unconditionally. And because… I can keep going on, but here’s the point. I spend a lot of time with Jesus, whether it’s in the Bible, singing worship songs loudly in the car, or spontaneously meeting with Him in prayer. So when most people want to tell me the story their buddy Joe was telling them while watching the game last night, I want to tell them what my friend Jesus said to me yesterday.

Now, I know that when I say things like, “Jesus is the best friend I have,” or that “He speaks to me,” even many Christians think, “That’s absurd.” For them, Jesus is only a get-out-of-hell free card; not a friend. And especially not the best friend they have. And certainly not the first friend that comes to mind when talking to other people.

But you know what’s even more absurd? Someone who doesn’t actually have a personal relationship with Jesus, trying to tell someone else how they can have a personal relationship with Jesus…

I am thankful for people that have a heart for evangelism. My question is, do you have a heart for Jesus? Do you think people need to know Him because that is just your mission in life, or do you think people need to know Him because you know He’s worth knowing?

If you don’t yet know Jesus as your Saviour, I’d love to introduce you. And if you don’t know Jesus as your friend, I’d love to introduce you even more.