Don’t Forget the Gift

I remember my first ever Christmas we celebrated when I was a 10 year old boy. I am one of eight children and we lived in a two-story home.

 

As Christmas morning dawned I remember walking downstairs into our lounge room and the room was filled with presents. All I remember seeing was red wrapping paper from floor to ceiling and off to one side was a scrawny Christmas tree with twinkling lights.

 

As kids we didn’t know where to start or what to do. It must have cost my parents a fortune. With all the excitement, lights and paper I can’t even tell you what I got as a gift.

 

Isn’t this the picture of Christmas for many people? We get so wrapped up in the excitement and festivities of Christmas that we forget The Gift—the most precious gift we will ever receive.

 

This Christmas let’s place God’s gift to us, Jesus Christ, as the centerpiece. If there has ever been a time when all humanity across the globe is searching for meaning and desperate for hope it has got to be this Christmas.

 

How can you share the good news of Jesus Christ with the people in your life this Christmas?

Are you a writer? Why not send a letter to friends sharing the true Christmas story?

 

Do you like entertaining? Why not have a meal and start the conversation with “What does Christmas mean for you?” while playing Christian carols in the background?

 

Are you a gift giver? Why not pop a copy of the gospel of Luke in with your gifts and invite the recipients to meet with you regularly to read through it with you?

 

How could you promote the good news of Jesus through social media?

 

What gospel greeting and farewell could you use this Christmas season?

 

Your family, friends, neighbours, work colleagues and community are desperately in need of Jesus Christ. Who do you think God has sent them into a relationship with who knows him and can share the good news with them this Christmas? That’s right. It’s you!

 

Jesus Christ is God’s gift of eternal life to all who call on the name of the Lord.

 

“But how can they call on him to save them unless they believe in him? And how can they believe in him if they have never heard about him? And how can they hear about him unless someone tells them?” Romans 10:14 NLT

How do we build intentional relationships with people?—Invite them into your home

Most of us have moved into a new house or a new neighbourhood at some point. Or even had someone new move in next to us. I have quite a bit of experience of this, having moved around as a kid many times and then recently having moved across the country with my family.

 

You will know the experience of meeting your new neighbours. They may come to the door to say hi, or you may go to their door. More likely though is that first meeting will occur over the fence or in the street. You both out in your yard or going for a walk, and that first introduction where you say hi, talk about the weather and your respective families and then say something like, “Good to meet you, see you next time.”

 

You may have a few interactions with them after that off and on. But for some neighbours there comes a time that you invite them over for a meal (or vice versa). And from then on, your relationship changes. No longer are you just “over the fence chat” acquaintances, but you start on the road to becoming friends.

 

I say all of this to illustrate this point. One of the most powerful things you can do for someone you know who doesn’t know the Lord is to invite them into your home. And by this I don’t mean for a one off so you can preach the gospel to them. By this I mean, invite them into your home with the intention of getting to know them, becoming friends, indeed opening your heart and your family to them.

 

In the post-modern society we live in people arrive at truth by experiencing it, not simply by having it preached to them. And we know that having positive encounters with real Christians greatly increases the “speed” of someone coming to Christ. The more they are around you and your family, the more opportunities there are for them to see true Christianity in action and the more they experience and see the difference Jesus has made in your life.

 

I am sure you already know this, but remember to be genuine. There is no bigger turn-off than someone pretending. Show a genuine interest in them and what concerns them. Not so that you can then preach to them, but rather so that you can know them! Remember, spending time with people is the best way to grow closer to them. And the closer you are, the more able you are to meet them where they need to be met!

 

When we genuinely care for those around us who don’t know the Lord, it is both a natural and a powerful step to open our hearts to them, invite them into our homes and journey with them towards faith in Jesus Christ.

How do we build intentional relationships with people?—Is being a good person in front of them enough for them to be saved?

Were you ever befriended by someone only to find out later that person had a secret agenda in the friendship?  And it’s so crushing, right? …when you find out, they didn’t really want a relationship.  They just wanted the cool toy you had, or worse, to sell you something they thought you needed.

 

As disciple-makers we want to build new relationships with people, not necessarily because we’re lonely and need more friends, but because people need the Saviour.  And therein lies the challenge:

 

How do we steer clear of fabricating artificial friendships and embrace cultivating authentic, mutual relationships that frame the gospel message?

 

Building trust through a posture of vulnerability cultivates authenticity in relationships, right?  Is that not why we put great effort into being the best version of me I can be when making a new friend ie: be punctual, return what was borrowed, show acts of kindness etc?  But what will I say when the person I am cultivating a redemptive relationship with asks me, “Will you still be my friend if I don’t accept the message of Jesus?”

 

Maybe an even harder question for us is, “Will they still be my friend if I share the good news about Jesus with them?”  And the more authentic that relationship is, the greater joy or pain we experience in the answer.  But isn’t it comforting to know that Jesus also experienced this tension and understands how we feel in our hearts?

 

For me in the past, what often happened was that in my relationships I would neglect the one unchanging gospel message we have as believers for so long that one of two things would normally happen:

 

Either it became extremely difficult to bridge the gap from personal conversation to spiritual conversation, because for so long we had never talked about it and my friend didn’t even know I was a Christian.  As a result I depended on my good behaviour to speak for me in hope that my friend would one day initiate a spiritual conversation.

 

Or, on the other hand, I lost my sense of ‘sentness’ in the friendship after investing so much, only to discover late in our relational journey that his heart was ice cold toward Jesus and deeply committed to his pluralistic religious views.

In EvangelismSHIFT we prioritise the relational development journey in our disciplemaking approach to evangelism.  We intentionally lead our relationships from acquaintance to friendly conversation, then personal conversation, and on to spiritual conversation, with the ultimate goal of clearly communicating the gospel.

 

You understand what happens when we skip a step in that natural progression, right?  The relationship gets frustrated and awkward. In a similar way, what happens when our friend doesn’t even know we are a follower of Jesus until we start sharing the Gospel at the last step?  Often that relationship gets frustrated and awkward.

 

So I urge you, don’t make the same mistake as I did.  Don’t listen to the enemy today when he temps you to only be a good person and neglect, in your friendships, the believer’s one unchanging gospel message—that Christ died to forgive your sins and he is alive today to have a relationship with you (1 Cor. 2:2).

How do we build intentional relationships with people?—Invite them into relational environments and into other spheres of relationships you have

Recently, an acquaintance showed some interest in doing a short course with me to explore the Christian message for himself. We have a mutual friend that encouraged him to do the course and another couple we both know who wanted to host the group at their house.

 

We decided to meet on a Monday night. We began with five of us and by the end of the first night they asked if others could join the group and I asked if my son could come along too. Within just a few weeks of getting together the group decided that we should have a family day out four-wheel driving and invite others they knew and my whole family so we could all get to know each other.

 

The family day out was so much fun, four-wheel driving, laughing over the two-way radios, lunch together and conversation. The invitation to join them was significant and really touched my heart.

 

What does it tell you when people want to spend time with you outside of your normal social setting? What are you communicating when you invite people who may have different beliefs to you into your other spheres of relationships?

 

It communicates the value we place on that relationship and the desire to go deeper.

 

A way you can build relationships with people is to intentionally invite them into your other relational environments and your other spheres of relationships.

In which environments do you naturally connect with people?

What are the natural spheres of relationships you have?

How can you overlap these two circles?

It is in the overlap that your relationships will go to a whole new level.

What fun day could you organise and invite your spheres of relationship to?

When could you host a small group of people at your house?

Who can you invite to explore the Christian message?

Don’t wait – take the initiative today!

 

Are you looking for a simple tool to journey with people towards Christ? Check out LifeWorks.  The perfect experience to share with friends who don’t yet know Christ.

How do we build intentional relationships with people?—start praying by name for the people you want to build that relationship with. Pray for them and your relationship with them.

I really believe that many Christians have forgotten how to pray. And by this I don’t mean that we don’t pray. Indeed, I am sure that most of us   do pray regularly. But do we genuinely spend time in prayer just listening for God to talk to us? Or are our conversations all one sided, where we talk to God rather than also letting him talk to us. I would like to challenge you at the beginning of this blog to spend some time not only talking to God but letting him talk to you as well.

 

It’s no secret that God moves when we pray, and I believe one of the most fundamental things that we can do for the people in our lives who don’t know Jesus is to pray for them. And by this I don’t mean, “Lord please help the people in my life who don’t know you. Amen.” Rather, I mean praying specifically for those people. For example, “Lord, please help ‘Joe’ as I seek to build a relationship with him. Please give me an opportunity to speak to him. Please give me the boldness to open my mouth and the words to say, and please open his heart to what you have to say to him.”

 

This is not to say that praying in generalisations doesn’t mean that God isn’t listening and won’t answer your prayers. But I believe that praying specifically is SO much more powerful. I believe this for two reasons. The first reason is that God wants us to pray specifically. He wants to hear our heart for the people in our lives. He wants us to verbalise our desire for those around us that he has put in our lives to encounter him through us.

 

And second I really believe that when we do pray specifically, our hearts and mind are in tune with what God is going to do. This makes our relationships with those people intentional! If you have prayed specifically for ‘Joe’, then you are waiting eagerly to see what God is going to do in ‘Joe’s’ life, and how he is going to use you to do it. You are excited to see how you will be involved in ‘Joe’s’ redemption journey. Praying generally for those around you won’t have the same impact on your heart or mind.

 

So, if you are at a loss or have hit a hurdle or even an impassable wall, the best place to start is on your knees praying by name for those people. If you are struggling to find the motivation or courage to talk to those in your life who don’t know the Lord, get on your knees before your Father and ask him to specifically give you the courage to open your mouth to speak to those around you. Ask him to then give you the words to say and give the person you are speaking to the heart to hear what he is saying through you. Get ready because it won’t be long until God opens doors that you never thought possible!