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!

 

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?—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!

 

 

 

How do we build intentional relationships with people?—By caring more about the needs of others than how they treat you!

This blog series aims to help you build intentional relationships with people because of the foundational principle that the gospel spreads through relationships. John already shared with you the first answer to the question:

 

How do we build intentional relationships with people?…

Ask questions!

 

Today’s answer that I would like to bring to light is:

 

Follow Jesus’ example of building intentional relationships by caring more about the needs of others than how they treat you!

 

It is so easy to care for someone who appreciates you, but it is a whole different story to care for someone who doesn’t deserve your love or when they don’t treat you well. I am guilty of this!

 

We will always be flawed as human beings, looking at the speck in our brother’s eye, but not noticing the log that is in our own eyes! We easily forget how God has been patient with us all these times! Isn’t it true that God’s patience toward us is greater than our tolerance toward our friends, co-workers or acquaintances or strangers?

 

So, how do I quickly come back to my senses when I get discouraged with people? Easy! When I am tempted to lose patience with someone, I think how incredibly patient God has been with me! As I reflect on his patience toward me, it also makes me remember that he is still patiently waiting for others. “The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). When we freely receive God’s patience, it compels our hearts to share it with everyone around us. When you show unworldly love—a love that is sacrificial and without boundaries, preferences, or condition—God’s character shines forth.

 

Throughout his life, Jesus demonstrated his care and compassion for people. Jesus thought of others before he thought of himself. He genuinely cared about people, even when society considered them sinners, unlovable or unthinkable. Jesus washed his disciples’ feet, fed thousands of people, healed the sick and breathed life into the dead. He spent a lot of time caring and providing for the needs of others.

 

Jesus spent most of his time thinking and placing the needs of others before his own. Even in his agony at the cross during his last few hours before his death at the cross, Jesus’ concern was for the forgiveness of the Roman soldiers who mocked him, beat him, spat on him, whipped him, put a crown of thorns on his head and nailed him to the cross! “Father, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34). Jesus lived a life of complete humility and led by serving.

 

If you want to follow Jesus’ example of building intentional relationships, you have to start by getting down on your knees and asking God to change your heart and teach you to love others with kindness and compassion regardless of how they treat you! In Ephesians 2:10 it says, “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”

As Christ’s followers, we have been sent by Jesus into every encounter with every person, in every circumstance and in every day of our lives. To whom God has sent you to lend a helping hand? To whom God has sent you to pray for or maybe to encourage someone who much needed it? Does someone in your workplace need a ride? Does someone need a simple act of kindness—perhaps a struggling mum at the store or an elderly that might need some help? Be observant to the needs of others. As Christ’s follower, we have inexhaustible opportunities to follow Jesus’ lead to love, care and serve those people around us. If at times we get disheartened, show the world the ONE who is patient with us. Are you ready to answer Jesus’ call?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How do we build intentional relationships with people?—By asking the right questions!

Some people are opposed to the idea of building intentional relationships with people who need Jesus. They think those relationships are fake. While it is very possible to be non-genuine in a relationship by only using it to tell someone the gospel, it is also very possible to have deeply meaningful relationships that are also intentional. For example, parents love their children dearly and want a deep, meaningful relationship with them. At the same time, parents are intentional in those relationships as they work to develop their kids into the right kind of adults.

In the same way, we are building meaningful friendships with people in our lives who need Jesus, and at the same time we are being intentional about introducing them to Christ. But how do we make sure our relationships are intentional? The biggest way we see Jesus bringing intentionality into his relationships is through questions.

The questions you ask the people in your life shape your conversations and move your relationship in a direction. If the only questions you ask are things to do with pop culture or politics, then your relationships will sit at that level. But as soon as you ask questions about a person’s desires for the future, or their concerns for their family, or the person they hope to become, your conversations move to a whole different level. Talking with people about their personal lives helps both you and them to identify their deep felt-needs in life.

When your relationship is comfortable talking at this personal level it is much more meaningful. At that point, asking questions that lead to spiritual conversations will lead to open discussions that are very real and genuine. That’s when the gospel can naturally fit and will find open hearts.

If you have relationships that you want to become intentional with and move towards God-conversations, learn to ask the right questions that will move that relationship towards 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 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.