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!

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?—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!

 

 

 

Why the gospel is relevant in today’s age?—Because people are searching for community more than ever!

One of the things that are common to humans across cultures is the need to belong to a community. This is one of the reasons why people look for a community to belong to every time they move to a new place or venture into a new field. God has called me to homeschool our children and we have needed a community of homeschooling families. We have found a group who have been very helpful as we embark on this journey. Now, although I’m still a novice in this field, surprisingly I already find myself encouraging and helping three other mums who have been contemplating whether they would give homeschooling a shot.  

 

A sense of belonging is a human need to survive, just like the need for food and shelter. Abraham Maslow in 1943 proposed that our human need to belong is one of the five necessities required to attain self-actualisation. In fact, after physiological (food, water, warmth, and rest) and safety needs, he placed the need for belonging as the next level in his “Hierarchy of Needs”.

 

God has created us as relational beings, who need community with others. Some meet their need for belonging in their family, friends, or church, and others on social media. However they do it, people are searching for meaningful community. For those who don’t find it, although they may be surrounded by people, their loneliness has taken a toll on their self-esteem. God reaches into these people’s lives and brings them into the Christian community where they find healing and wholeness.

 

Why is the Gospel relevant in today’s age? Because people are searching for community more than ever!

 

That means that we need to build meaningful relationships in two directions. On one hand, we need to be building strong spiritual relationships with people who love the Lord and, on the other hand, with people who haven’t encountered God in their lives so we can walk with them towards Christ.

 

Isn’t that one of the huge marks of Jesus’ way of life? As we read the Bible, we see how he regularly spent relational time with those who didn’t follow God and who didn’t bother to attend organised religious activities. Because of that, but he was branded a “friend of sinners”. Jesus’ actions in spending time with sinners were in perfect accordance with his mission to seek and to save the lost (Luke 19:10). He went to where the need was because, “those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance” (Luke 5:31-32). He knew that what motivates a person to move towards God is almost always a meaningful relationship with someone who already knows him. 

 

If we are followers of Christ, we must imitate this massive feature of his life. People are searching for community more than ever. God wants us to reach the people we know to let them hear that it’s ONLY through the price Jesus’ paid on the cross for our sins that we can have peace with God and become a part of his wonderful family on earth.

Why the gospel is relevant in today’s age?—Because spiritualism is still very popular

Many Christians think that no one is interested in religion. But the truth is, while the people who identify as non-religious are a growing minority, the majority of people still believe in religion of some sort. This week I would like to give you some statistics from here in Australia to encourage you as you think about sharing Jesus with those around you. These stats are taken from a 2017 survey conducted by McCrindle research. I want to show you that you don’t need to feel self-conscious about having spiritual discussions with people.

The percentage of people identifying as ‘non-religious’ is growing each year; however, 68% of people in Australia still identify with one religion or another. In addition, 55% of Australians actually talk about spirituality or religion some of the time. So you can see that, for a lot of people, it won’t come as a surprise if you ask them about spiritual things. Many talk about spirituality already, so it would be natural for them to have that conversation with you. Starting or having a spiritual conversation with someone will not necessarily mean that you are seen as weird or ‘old fashioned’.

In addition to this, 92% of Australians know at least one Christian and by far the majority have a positive perception of Christians with the biggest describers of Christians being words such as, “caring, loving, kind, honest and faithful”. Again, as you look to share your faith with the people around you, know that despite what the media or others may make you feel, most people have a positive impression of Christians. On a side note, despite 92% of people knowing a least one Christian, 28% know nothing about Jesus and 56% of people know almost nothing about their local church. As we think about sharing with the people around us, be aware that while people may know Christians, they may know nothing about what it means to be a Christian.

During this survey McCrindle Research asked non-Christians what they thought of Jesus and the Church. When asked about the church, only 9% of people had a negative impression of the church with people saying things like, “When all else fails, the church will be there.” When asked about Jesus, people said things like, “There is nothing negative about him, he was a very moral person. So many good traits there, if he does exist.”

What does all this mean? Well for me it shows me that while we live in an increasingly secular society (only 45% of people identify as Christians and only 7% of people would consider themselves active practisers) that does not mean that people are not interested in spiritual things. There is just a smorgasbord of options for people to choose from. That, in addition to the reality that today people decide on truth by experience, means that people are trying out all the different options to see which one works for them. Wouldn’t it be a shame if, by our silence, the ‘option’ of having a relationship with Jesus was never given to them!

It also means that I can have confidence that telling people around me that I am a Christian does not mean that I will be mocked or ridiculed. I may very well be so, but as I talk to people about Jesus, most people already think positively about him.

As you live your life in the mission field that God has put you in (which is wherever you are), speak out with confidence. Spirituality isn’t dead. It’s still part of the world we live in and discussing spiritual things is still very popular.

People are still searching, in some ways harder than ever. Help them in their search for Jesus!

 

 

 

The Coronavirus has just made the gospel far more relevant to many people!

There have been many times when I have tried to start a good spiritual conversation with people, but their reaction shows that they are not interested at all in having that kind of conversation. As believers, we know that the gospel is the most important message a person could ever know and come to grips with. But there is a big difference between important and relevant!

 

Getting right with God and knowing what happens when you die just became much more relevant to our society than it was a few weeks ago. I am part of a Facebook group of pastors in our area. One pastor said that because of the restrictions on gatherings, they moved to sending a live video feed of their Sunday service to their congregation online. So none of the congregation showed up for church. But in spite of the restrictions, two non-Christians showed up looking for answers, looking for hope, looking for God.

 

The coronavirus changes everything for us as witnesses. Don’t miss this change, because it demands a change in your thinking too! Here is what needs to change:

 

You need to stop assuming that nobody really wants to talk about spiritual things or about God and start assuming that everybody wants to have spiritual conversations and is looking for answers and the hope that only God can bring!

Now is not the time to simply pray and hope that God might do something to open a person’s heart to him. Now is the time to act on your prayers and start talking with everyone you know, everyone you encounter, about life and death and God and forgiveness and hope and peace. Be bold. Ask people, “How are you dealing with all that’s going on with the coronavirus? If you were to catch the virus and die, do you have confidence that you are right with God? Can I share with you how you can have that confidence?”

 

Then share the gospel with them. When you have shared the beautiful truth of what Jesus has done to make a way for us to be right with God, ALWAYS ask if they feel like they are ready to take that step right now. If not, ask what is holding them back, and then have another great conversation about that.

 

Maybe you don’t see many people right now, because you are staying at home as we try to help contain the virus. But you can call people to check on them and have these same conversations. Don’t assume that because people have not been open in the past, it means that won’t be open now. Be bold, take action, trust God, and start spiritual conversations, then move those conversations toward the gospel!

 

Jesus is risen!

That statement will be echoed around the world today by millions of people. It’s the culmination of God’s ultimate plan for the human race. What an incredible blessing to be called a son of God as a result of today! Christ died and paid for our sins, and then he rose from the grave and conquered death. He has “the keys of Death and Hades”. (Rev 1:18)

 

For me the sense of joy that occurs on this day makes it one of my favourite of the whole year. As 1 Corinthians 15:22 says, “For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.” Christ’s resurrection means that we are alive with him. I would encourage you to read the whole of 1 Corinthians 15 today.

 

There is a song by Hillsong at the moment that I am loving. It says,

And the morning that You rose
All of Heaven held its breath
‘Til that stone was moved for good
For the Lamb had conquered death
And the dead rose from their tombs
And the angels stood in awe
For the souls of all who’d come
To the Father are restored”

 

I think sometimes we tend to forget the magnitude of what happened that morning. Jesus rose from the dead! Take a moment now and think about that. As the song says, the angels stood in awe. What is our response? Do we stand in awe, or do we sometimes take it for granted?

 

What about those people around us who so desperately need something to cling onto, some sort of hope? In this time that we are living in, now more than ever the world needs hope. What greater hope to share with them than the truth of Jesus’ resurrection and what that means for them?! Share with them that there doesn’t need to be fear or anxiety, but rather hope! And that hope is because on this day almost 2000 years ago Jesus rose from the grave in triumph.

 

We read about the disciples locking themselves in the upper room during this time. Indeed, not unlike what we are going through right now – having to isolate ourselves. While their reasons for being in that room are different to ours, Jesus’ response to us is the same.  We read the story in John 20: 19-21 “On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being locked where the disciples were for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, ‘Peace be with you.’ When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, ‘Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.”

 

Jesus is telling you two things today. Peace be with you. During all the turmoil and worry, peace. But what is the second thing? He is sending you. In amongst all the turmoil and worry, he is sending you. This time of self isolation and fighting this disease hasn’t put his call on your life on hold. Indeed there is no better time to be speaking to those around you about him – the hope of the world.

 

So go with his peace into whatever situation you find yourself. Whether it be just in your home with your family, or speaking to the fuel station attendant, or in the hospital or wherever you are and know that he has sent you into that situation, just as he did the disciples. Speak out with boldness, just as they did, and watch the Holy Spirit work in people’s lives around you!