Followers of Jesus are eager for others to know the good news of his message, and rightfully so, but sometimes we alienate strangers and acquaintances when we just lurch into their lives by asking private questions about their spirituality or religious beliefs.
Some of us share with our friends and closer acquaintances by bringing up religion frequently until they hate to see us coming, but if we continually badger our friends with Jesus we can expect fewer friends.
Share Jesus through Relationship
Both of these approaches are similar to salesmen who are always in selling mode and they lead people to think we are not interested in them personally but only in converting them. A better way to reach unbelievers is by developing relationships.
If I have a relationship based on common interests, spiritual topics come up naturally. People will have a sense of my background and will ask me what I believe about this or that. I can then share with them to the extent that they ask, but this is not an opportunity to go into an evangelistic presentation unless they keep asking questions. When they are finished with the topic, I should not keep pushing it; they will ask me again when they have more questions.
The key is to be ready for the questions. 1 Peter chapter three says,
Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.
People usually do not come to Jesus in an instant; they do so gradually, though they might identify a particular moment in which they decide to follow him. Part of the influence on their journey toward Jesus is our answering their questions when they have them, and another is letting Jesus’ shine through us. They can observe the effect of Jesus on us much better if we have an ongoing relationship.
Relationship and Follow-up
Relationship also provides an excellent environment for follow-up and growth when someone decides to follow Jesus. But we must understand what follow-up is. Follow-up is encouragement, answering questions, and giving suggestions; not pressuring, judging, and telling people what to do or how fast to grow. When a person decides to follow Jesus, we do not become their spiritual boss; they are subject only to Jesus.
Witnessing without relationship can lead to problems in follow-up, especially if we are witnessing on the run and will not be around for additional guidance. I can imagine people greeting me in the afterlife saying, “Why did you introduce me to Jesus and then abandon me? Why did you leave me alone? I had questions; I had issues; I had problems and didn’t know what to do. You told me about Jesus and I never heard from you again.”
When we lead someone to Jesus outside a relation, that in itself becomes the beginning of a relationship, and if we ‘point them’ to someone else for follow-up we lose the advantage of our new relationship and run the risk that a second relationship will never develop.
Relationship as an Evangelistic Strategy
Relationship is important. We can best share Jesus through relationship, but relationship is not an evangelistic strategy. Relationship is about having a connection; sometimes that connection leads to spiritual questions, but our relationships must be based on other common interests: being neighbors, co-workers, sports fans, members of a club, or sharing a hobby.
Some believers don’t develop many relationships with non-Christians; they prefer to avoid involvement with people of ‘the world’. But if all our relationships are with people just like us then we will have very few opportunities to share Jesus with people effectively.
Let’s all consider taking interest in other people and forming relationships. Opportunities to share the good news of Jesus will often result.