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).