How do we build intentional relationships with people?—Talk about God’s work in your life

Talking about God’s work in your life can have a profound impact on your redemptive relationship because they do not share your same experiences of a relationship with God, yet their heart was designed for it!

 

To many, myself included, sharing aspects of my spiritual journey is deeply personal.  I don’t like to share them with anyone, let alone a non-Christ-follower.  But I have found that sharing something personal, from a posture of vulnerability, gives permission for the person I am building a redemptive relationship with to be very vulnerable with me in return.  As a result, our relationship can dive deep incredibly quickly.

 

As a person moves through a journey towards Jesus, we want them to experience authentic relationships with Christians, but also to experience the love and power of Christ at work in their own life as well.

 

This past month while doing evangelistic Bible study over Zoom with Jeff, my redemptive relationship, I shared with him a sin in my life that I was feeling convicted of.  He then shared a sin that he was feeling convicted and then we prayed together that God would help us.

 

The next week Jeff asked me about about the power of prayer and why it seemed his prayers weren’t being answered.  How would you answer a question like that coming from someone who had not yet surrendered their life to Jesus?  All I could do was tell him about how I had experienced God answer my prayers before and I trusted that He would again.

 

Then the next week Jeff told me that his sister, whom we had been praying for 10 weeks that she would experience God’s love and find healing from her alcoholism, was now 8 weeks sober.  Jeff later surrendered his life to Jesus.

 

Look at how building an intentional relationship with a man on an airplane named Jeff, just months earlier, can change multiple lives — pray that God would impact Jeff’s whole family through him.

 

As you build redemptive relationships with people in your life, you can move those relationships forward by talking with them about how God is at work in your own life!

How do we build intentional relationships with people?—By seeking spiritual conversations with them

If there is someone in your life who doesn’t know the Lord and you really want to help them turn to him for salvation, you need to recognise that if they are going to move from where they are to faith in Christ, there is going to be a spiritual journey for them. Here’s the second thing to recognise: if you want to be a part of their journey to faith in Christ, then you need to go on a relational journey toward them!

 

What does that journey look like? First, you move your relationship from the ‘acquaintance’ level to the ‘friend’ level. Then you start going deeper than the surface in your conversations. You start talking about life issues, both the joys and the pain, both the hopes and the disappointments. That is, you get into each other’s lives. Many friendships never make it to this level, but all it really takes is asking the right questions that take your relationship deeper: “Are you happy?” “What are the most important things in life to you?” “What is your relationship with your kids like?” “Do you feel close to your spouse?”

 

The next step in your relational journey as you help someone journey toward Christ is to move on from personal conversations to spiritual conversations. This is a real turning point for that person as they start to think and talk about God and about Jesus, especially as you share your own personal experience of a relationship with God, rather than simply religious activity.

 

Many Christians are very nervous about how to start a spiritual conversation. They are afraid it will feel forced or awkward. But if you are already talking on the personal level about life issues and hopes and disappointments it is actually very natural to bring up what God means to you in those areas of your life. In addition, questions are a natural way to start spiritual conversations. When you ask someone a question about spiritual things it lets them open up at whatever level they are comfortable with, rather than feeling forced: “What do you think of Jesus?” “What do you think happens to a person’s spirit when their body dies?” “Have you ever felt like God was reaching out to you?” “What do you think it means to be a Christian?” “What do you think of the Bible?” “What do you think is different about the major religions?” “Tell me about your journey with God?”

 

Once you have had a good spiritual conversation with someone, which you have both engaged in positively, you should be looking for and creating an opportunity to share the gospel with them, or even better, invite them to start a gospel Bible study with you.

 

As you think about the people in your life who don’t know the Lord, take a deep breath and make the commitment to start the relational journey toward them that will help them make the journey to faith in Jesus!

 

How do we build intentional relationships with people?—By overcoming our fear of being rejected!

One of the most significant barriers in building meaningful and intentional relationships with people who need Jesus is the fear of being rejected. Fear paralyses us when we want to say our first hello, extend ourselves to form a friendship, communicate on a deeper level and build trust to bring the relationship closer.

 

Rejection stings, and as humans, it is natural for us to shy away from things that will bring emotional or physical pain. Due to this, many people develop a fear of rejection. I can relate to this as I grew up lacking self-confidence and was severely shy. I can say that I have missed out most of my school years because of the dread of being rejected!

 

How can you step past this fear and into meaningful relationships? Avoid awkward silences by being chatty to start a conversation. Don’t know what to chat about? Before the conversation starts, think of a few questions you could ask. This will almost always lead to a good conversation.

 

Try to find people with common interests—join a local sports team, book club, or volunteer with other parents in your children’s school, creative group, 4WD group or even camping groups. If the idea of joining a group is not applicable in your current situation, strike up a conversation with someone in a public place: a coffee shop, restaurant, library, park, in a plane or a taxi. Again, use questions to start these conversations. Your next God appointment might just be sitting beside you at the train station! I say this because we have known three families in our life group whom my husband and I have met as total strangers inside the train and on the train station itself on separate occasions!

 

We have to accept the fact that not everyone will be interested or ready to form a friendship with us or to receive the gospel. It might be tempting to think that we should have kept quiet rather than shared the truth. Rejection should not retract our devotion to Jesus and our commitment to the Great Commission. No relationship is more precious, none more important than our relationship with the Lord! In the same way, there is no life as fulfilling as when you have lived for his purpose!

 

Remember the rejection Jesus experienced during his lifetime, on the cross and his sacrifice up to this day. He was rejected by the Jews, by the Pharisees, his hometown, and by HIS FRIENDS who pledged they loved him and would never leave him! Ultimately, Christ suffered tremendous rejection when his own Father, turned his face away from him on the cross. We serve a Saviour who suffered in the flesh for our sake. Though he did not sin, he bore our sins so that we might be saved. Remember that because of what Jesus has done for us, we will never face the rejection of God again (1 Samuel 12:22).

 

Capturing this in my mind makes me cringe to think that I am even concerned or bitter when I receive rejection in my quest of building redemptive relationships. I encourage you, the next time you are rejected, to take time to consider the most unfathomable painful rejection our Lord received!

 

“The one who hears you hears me, and the one who rejects you rejects me, and the one who rejects me rejects him who sent me.” Luke 10:16 With this in mind, do not take rejection personally, because it is never about you!

Valentine’s Day Blog

I went to a conservative Bible College in the prairies of Alberta, Canada, where the only day we were permitted to romantically pursue a woman was on Valentines Day.  And even then, only if the lucky girl had a paper heart on her lapel, which meant to others that she had not been ‘taken’.

 

So on Valentines morning I walked into the cafeteria and who do you think is there at the door but the woman of my dreams.

 

Of course, in good Valentine fashion I begin my best romantic wooing.  I was expecting a study date resulting from my laborious endeavour, that’s how it played out it my mind as I was crafting my pursuit the night before.  But she says, “you’re not supposed to pursue me, I’m not wearing a heart.”  I responded quickly, “Darlin you’ve always had my heart.”

Isn’t it so beautiful, almost romantically so, that God always has and will continue to pursue us personally even when we don’t respond to His love & desire for relationship.  Or maybe you’re not yet aware that He is pursuing you?  And do you know why He is so fervently pursuing you?  Because you have His heart! Read his words to you slowly and take them in:

I can never forget you!  I have written your name on the palms of my hands. Is. 49:16

I have demonstrated my love for you. Rom. 5:8

And we, as followers of Jesus who bear the image of Christ, should we not pursue relationships with seekers with the same fervency and patience that God pursued us?   

How do we build intentional relationships with people?—See yourself as partnering with God

When I think back over my journey towards Jesus, I can see a multitude of people God sent into my life to help me encounter him personally.

 

God sent me into a family with a father who brought us up with the knowledge of God.

 

As a young boy, God also sent Scripture Teachers into my primary school to share Bible stories and the good news of Jesus.

 

As a teen, God sent me youth group leaders who followed Jesus and wanted to help me as a teen understand my need for a Saviour.

 

Then when I started working, God sent me Christian bosses who showed me what Christian life and work looks like.

 

As a young adult, God sent me a girl friend who knew Jesus and was willing to invite me into her world to experience Christian community.

 

And behind the scenes I know there was an army of Christians praying for me throughout my years, that God would continue to draw me to himself.

 

When it comes to building intentional relationships with people, you need to understand that you are not alone. You are partnering with God in what he is already doing in peoples lives. He is already preparing the way for you and will use you to help them move one step closer to encountering him personally.

 

Your role isn’t to do God’s job, it’s to allow God to work through you in the lives of the people around you.

 

Take a moment to think about and write down all the people God sent into your life to help you encounter him personally. Stop and thank him for each one of them.

 

Now take a moment and ask God to show you who he has sent you into a relationship with to help them encounter him personally. Ask God how you can partner with him in what he is already doing in their life.

 

Now go, partnering with God as his sent one!

 

How do we build intentional relationships with people?—Prioritise personal time with them in your schedule

 

There is a big difference between what is important and what is important to me. I may know that it is important to get up in time to read God’s word and pray about my day, but that doesn’t mean that getting up for God is important to me. In fact, the gap (between what you know is important and what is important to you) is the basis for much of the guilt that you carry around. This is true for your life as witness for Jesus.

 

When you look at Jesus’ life, you see that he was crazy busy with the demands of ministry to people. Yet it was important to him to spend time with “sinners”. He was committed to it, even when the religious people around him criticised him for it. He knew that “It is not the well that need a doctor but the sick; I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.”

 

You know that following Jesus means building relationships with secular people who see the world so differently from you. But the thought of that makes you a little uncomfortable. So, while you know it is important to spend time with those people, you realise that it is not important to you. Or put another way, it so easily gets squeezed out by the many other things that clamour for your time.

 

Here’s an important principle for putting the truly important things into your life: if they don’t end up on your calendar they will probably not happen. Truly important things are usually not urgent things, and the urgent things get all your attention. So when you recognise that one of God’s biggest purposes for you here on earth is to be his witness in the lives of people who don’t know him, block out time on your calendar to spend with those people. It’s the only way that what is important will become important to you.

 

Set aside an evening next week to invite someone over for dinner who doesn’t yet know the Lord. Put it into your calendar. If someone asks you to do something with them then, let them know you already have something in your calendar (even if you have not yet spoken with your non-Christian friend about dinner).

 

If you want this habit of spending personal time with people who need Christ to become a part of your life, then you have to start by scheduling it as a priority. As you watch God start to use you to journey with that person to faith in him, you will find that what is important is becoming important to you!

New Year’s blog

One of the great things about the world God has placed us in is the natural cycles of life that allow for new beginnings and the resetting of our focus onto the important things!

 

I love the cycle of day and night, and how no matter how stressful today might be, I know that tonight I will sleep and tomorrow wake up to a new day, ready to face it in a new way.

 

The cycle of the seasons of the year also bring new perspectives and focus. The business world has changed the terminology to Q1, Q2, Q3 and Q4, and these provide markers for setting goals and measuring how we are doing each quarter of the year.

 

And the turning from one year to the next at New Year’s provides one of the most significant opportunities for us as individuals to look at our lives and mark what we want to focus on in the coming year. Each New Year my wife Lois leads our family in choosing a word-for-the-year, a word that represents one area we want to focus on and grow in during the coming year. It’s always a meaningful time when we sit around the dinner table and share our words.

 

So this New Year I invite you to choose a word-for-the-year that represents how you most want to grow as a witness for Jesus this year. Here are a few suggestions for you to choose from, with a brief thought after each word:

 

Sentness – Learn to approach every encounter with every person in every day of your life with a sense that God is sending you into that encounter, that conversation, to represent him.

 

Relationship – Recognise that if you are going to help people find Jesus, you will need to actively build meaningful friendships with people that don’t know Jesus, rather than only spending time with your Christian friends.

 

Prayer – Specifically, prayer for people who don’t yet know the Lord. Learn to pray regularly, by name, for people in your life who need Jesus.

 

Questions – Learn the habit of asking questions to start spiritual conversations, rather than making statements. People react to statements, but interact with questions.

 

Gospel – Learn a super simple way of sharing the gospel with people so that you are ready to share it when the opportunity comes up. It’s too late to work on it when the time has come.

 

Ministry mindset – Change your whole way approaching your interactions with people so that you don’t evaluate the time you spent with someone by how it made you feel, but by how you ministered to them.

 

When you have chosen your witnessing word-for-the-year, write it down somewhere, along with the little description I have give here. Then spend some time in prayer, with your pen in hand, and ask God to help you come up with some specific things you can do to grow in that area. Talk to the people close to you and get their thoughts on this too. Write down what you come up with and then put that piece of paper somewhere that you will see it often throughout the coming year.

 

Doing this will help you grow in one of the most important areas of your life!

 

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).