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!

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!

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.

Why the gospel is relevant in today’s age?—Because it contains truth that can be experienced!

Why is the gospel ignored by so many today? Of course, for many, even in ‘Christian nations’, they have never heard the gospel. But for many, the gospel seems totally irrelevant because they regard Christianity as something that has nothing to do with real life. Christianity has been so identified with political parties and in practice seems like nothing more than a religious club with rituals and activities. Many people who know people who go to church and see them during the week treating others badly, or using dishonest business practices rightly discount their faith as fake and decide that Christianity is not worth their time.

What people are looking for is not an outward show of religiosity, or to hear Christian arguments. People are searching for what is real, and they decide what is real based on their experience. This marks a change that has happened with this generation. For hundreds of years people decided what was real based on logical reasoning. They still reason today, but their reasoning starts with their experience. Experience determines truth.

This is where the gospel shines. The entry into a relationship with God is not abstract. It’s not simply the adopting of a new set of beliefs or changing some of your activities. Nothing could be more experiential than encountering God. That encounter with God does not start at the moment of faith. No, it starts long before that as God begins to reveal himself through Christians that person knows. They see God in them and in their relationships, in their ability to face tragedy with peace and trust in God, in their responses to difficult people, in the way they do business, and in their open conversation about their experience of God.

In these dark days, the world needs real believers to express their faith, to talk openly about God, to show the world the reality of a God who doesn’t just exist in theology books, but in our lives each day! There has never been a better time to speak openly with people about God than today, as the world seems to be crumbling around us. Don’t hesitate. Speak out for him today.

 

 

Why the gospel is relevant in today’s age?—Because we are gripped with guilt!

It never ceases to amaze me how God could ever forgive me.

 

I haven’t always been a Christian. I was a young adult when I got serious about my walk with Jesus and surrendered my life to his authority.

 

Before surrendering to Jesus, I was living life my own way. I was knowingly making selfish decisions; I lived a life that displeased God and sinfully turned my back on him time and time again. However, there came a point in my life that I understood Gods deep love for me and was gripped by a deep sense of guilt and shame that was almost paralysing.

 

I’m so grateful God never gives up on us. I’m so grateful God’s love for us is greater than our love could ever be for him. I’m grateful it’s not what we do that makes us right with God. I’m grateful that it’s what Jesus did for us in laying down his life on the cross that gives us peace with God.

 

A huge percentage of people’s lives are driven by guilt, which leads to so many other problems of depression, hopelessness and despair. This is why one of the best ways into a gospel conversation with someone is a discussion of guilt.

 

The idea of freedom from guilt is like a dream to many people. Jesus not only took the penalty of our sin on the cross, he took the very guilt of our sin and then also paid its penalty. The Bible says, “God the Father made Jesus, who knew no sin, to be sin (guilty) for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in him.”

 

The gospel is not only beautiful truth—it is also relevant truth to so many who are dominated by the guilt that drives them. So talk with people about the freedom from guilt that Jesus brings!

 

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!

 

 

 

Why the gospel is relevant in today’s age?—Because the rat race takes you nowhere!

Sometimes when I am having a spiritual conversation with someone and they are questioning why I believe what I believe, I like to turn the conversation back on them and ask them, “What about you? Don’t you feel that something is missing in your life, that things are not right, not the way they are supposed to be? Aren’t you searching for something that your current life is not giving you?” It’s easy for them to dismiss Christianity when talking in third person, but when confronted with the outcome of their own life and worldview, they pause. Those who are honest often answer in a subdued voice. “Well…yes.”

We know that, as the church father Augustine said to God, “Thou hast made us for thyself, and restless is our heart until it comes to rest in thee.” We call the headlong pursuit of the secular goals of money and success ‘the rat race’. But the rat race is not the right race, because the prizes it gives will never give a person what they hope it will give them. At the end of the rat race, even if you win, is just more emptiness, loneliness and disappointment.

The rat race is a big lie. It’s important to ask people those questions that reveal the lie. On the surface people may be ‘successful’ and seem to have it all together, but under the surface they know that the rat race is taking them nowhere. Talking openly about that suddenly makes the gospel more relevant. The reason we are never satisfied with the things of the world is that we were made for God and only he can make our lives whole. As Jesus said, “What does it profit a man to gain the whole world and lose his own soul?”

Do you want your gospel conversations to be relevant to someone who is in the rat race? Ask them the questions that will help them recognise that the rat race will take them nowhere and point them to Jesus.

Why the gospel is relevant in today’s age?—Christian life stands out as so different!

I have never seen a time like this, where people all over the world are getting sick, anxious, confused, filled with uncertainties, and the economic growth is declining as the effect of the pandemic. As COVID-19 escalates around the globe, fear lingers even quicker than the virus itself! Empty shelves and crowded checkouts in grocery stores provide visual representations of the panic surrounding the spread of COVID 19..Social media photos of empty streets, shuttered shops and restaurants, reduced public transit service, closed borders and issuance of “stay-at-home” order to control the outbreak are the government officials’ response to address this public health emergency.

 

Why the Gospel is relevant today?

 

The Gospel is relevant because Christian life stands out as so different!

 

While my newsfeed and group chats are full of real-time panic-inducing news articles and updates about Corona Virus, you can easily spot on Christians, who view things differently. I know someone who is currently busy acquiring some supplies from other compassionate people and delivering them personally to disadvantaged people. You will see her optimism and how she responds in love about every given situation. You would always see her pointing people to the unshakeable hope we have in Christ. My colleague mentioned a senior band who call themselves, Ambassadors for Christ. They usually perform in daycare and age care, but since the outbreak, they started to spread the message of hope by singing in their garage.

 

As God’s people, our hope is not in anything that belongs to this world or even in our physical health, because we are looking from our lens of faith knowing who God is and who we are in him. Our confidence lies not on our own situation, but in the nearness of Christ. His perfect peace dwells in our hearts as we TRULY trust in him. We are called to be like a “lighthouse in the darkness” and, “a city set on a hill” that “cannot be hidden.” How does that practically look like? As it says in “Galatians 5:6b, “The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love”. REAL FAITH LOOKS LIKE LOVE—BEING GRATEFUL AND GENEROUS amid everything that is happening. We are grateful that even the fear of death cannot separate us from his great love (Romans 8:35-39), and we are generous, because we genuinely care for others. We recognise that even difficult circumstances such as this are opportunities to be a witness for Jesus!

 

As Wayne Alcorn, National President of Australian Christian Churches said, “God’s plan for the planet is the church. His caring force in the earth are people like you and me…Maybe this is the time, in the midst of all these darkness and fear and terror, for you and I, to do what scriptures tells us to do, rise and shine. There’s a wonderful verse, it says, “Rise and shine for your light has come.” (Isaiah 60:1a) Perhaps, this is the greatest moment for the church, despite the terrible times we are in. Just because people are socially isolated, it doesn’t mean that they have to be lonely. Maybe you and I can pick up a phone, maybe we could facetime somebody, maybe there’s a neighbor that needs their lawn mowed, maybe there’s somebody that needs you and I to go and get some groceries or help them with some of the basic needs of life, you probably know a friend whose lost their job, maybe there’s some practical, simple way that you can show tangible expression of the love of God. This really is, a very difficult time for humanity, but in the midst of it, God’s got people like you, He’s got people like me, let’s rise and shine and let’s show the world, that in all of these, God is still real, God is still love, and he will show them his love through people like us.”

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!