I thought this was an excellent article. Imagine if more Christians would seek to include a non-Christian in some of our social, fun activities? Sometimes there are lonely or searching non-Christians who would like a Christian friend....sometimes God leads them our way and other times we might have to take notice of someone that seems like they need a friend. Most will respond favorably and knowing we are Christians does make an impression on them, especially when we are sincere towards them. Most will later accept an invitation to our churches. Let's reach out.
Written by Rev. Victor Lee
God had a plan when He sent Jesus to earth to redeem the world. Now Christ lives in everyone who has received Him as Savior, and He has a plan to continue impacting the world through you.
His plan is for His followers to take the good news of salvation through Jesus Christ to others. This doesn’t happen accidentally, but with intention, purpose, preparation. You could call it “living on purpose, with purpose.”
The example of Christ and instruction from the Word reveal that there are four things we must do to facilitate others coming to Christ. These things are necessary whether our evangelistic effort is individual or corporate. They all start with “E” so that they are “E”asy to remember.
Engage the Lost
Jesus Christ spent His life going places He wasn’t supposed to go, with people He wasn’t supposed to be with, and saying things He wasn’t supposed to say. He was irreligious. Just ask the Pharisees. While they were being religious, He was engaging lost people where they lived! He was traveling through Samaria. He was eating with sinners. He was leaving the 99 to find the one!
A newlywed couple moved to a rundown apartment complex in the heart of Washington, D.C., even though they could afford better, because they thought they could make a difference. Broken families were all around them. The woman — a schoolteacher — immediately noticed that latchkey children as young as first graders abounded. She opened her apartment to them, baked goodies with the kids, and generally became a surrogate parent. Quickly, this couple’s apartment became the place to hang out. Children loved them. Parents appreciated them. The couple loved their neighbors.
Through the relationships, this couple led many children and parents to Christ over a period of several years. It wasn’t simple or easy, but it never would have happened without the couple deciding to live for that purpose. That doesn’t mean everyone has to move to a different neighborhood to find people who are spiritually lost. It does mean we must intentionally cultivate relationships with people who do not know Christ.
“The paradigm shift the church needs to make is to be where the lost are,” says Alvin Reid, author or co-author of eight books on evangelism or related themes, and professor of evangelism at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. “In this post-modern era, people don’t ask if you can prove it; they ask if you can live it. And they can’t see you live it if they don’t see you!”
Here’s a key question: How far should you go to engage the spiritually lost? Some Christians want to live in their sanitized world and not touch non-Christians. They think they’ll be “tainted.” So, where and how far can you go? Where’s the line?
The answer: The line is past your comfort zone, but before sin. That’s it. You and I should go as far into the lost person’s world as we can — beyond what’s comfortable — as long as we don’t sin. That line is gray, so walking it requires listening to the Holy Spirit.
Endear the Lost
We must serve the lost and endear (to make beloved or well-liked) them to us by sincere acts of love. By showing people the love of Christ with our actions, we can earn the right to share the gospel with them. The love of Christ can be the bridge from hardness to openness in a lost person’s heart.
“Most people today still have respect for the name of Jesus,” Reid says. “Many don’t have respect for the church or the institution of Christianity. So we have to endear ourselves through simple acts of kindness, through love. Our culture is religious, but it’s not righteous. We must be righteous. It’s not that hard to endear.”
Jesus did it. People were drawn to Him because of His love, because of the way He met needs. “The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and give his life as a ransom for many,” He said (Matthew 20:28). When Jesus had drawn them in, He shared the truth. When He had the world’s attention, He lived the truth by dying for those He loved!
A man moved into an apartment complex in a new city. He didn’t know anyone there, and on move-in day he was offered no help. This Christian vowed he wouldn’t let that happen to others. A few weeks later, he saw a man moving in, seemingly alone. He offered to help and befriended the new neighbor. They were very different from each other, but the man earned his neighbor’s trust and also led him to Christ after a few months.
You, too, can sincerely love people to whom you may not initially be attracted, and in so doing Christ can change their eternity through you!
Educate the Lost
After we’ve engaged and endeared the lost, we must tell them the truth about Jesus and how He can make a difference in their lives. “No matter what people say about a post-modern culture — that they espouse that there is no truth — they don’t live that way,” says Reid, whose most recent book is Radically Unchurched: Who They Are, How to Reach Them. “After 9-11, everyone believes there is some evil. The culture tells us it’s true. More than ever, we must unapologetically present the truth.”
We are told in 1 Peter 3:15 to “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.”
Extending love to others will create interest in our lives, and we must be prepared to speak the truth in love. One family — a mom, dad, and two young children — shared the truth with their neighbors through a birthday party for Jesus. Lots of churches have birthday parties for Jesus, but many of them only invite the church. What a waste!
This family had the party at their home. Mom and the children delivered invitations to the homes of neighborhood children. Mom was careful to tell the parents as she gave them the invitation, “My husband or I will take a few minutes during the party to explain why Christmas is such an important holiday to us.” (This way, they were not “sneaking up on” someone with the gospel, and they minimized the chance of offending someone.)
When the party day came, parents and kids filled their home. There was food, fun, and lots of laughter. The father stopped the proceedings for a few minutes to welcome everyone and to explain that they had the party to celebrate the life of Jesus Christ. He explained in a sentence or two why Jesus lived and died, and invited anyone who wanted to know more to ask him or his wife later.
This example actually fulfills three of the four principles for reaching the lost: engaging, endearing, and educating.
Exhort the Lost to Make a Decision About Jesus
“There is a move by some to give truth and let it lie where it is,” Reid says. “But Paul said, ‘Since, then, we know what it is to fear the Lord, we try to persuade men’ (2 Corinthians 5:11). Jesus consistently said, ‘Follow Me.’ That sounds like exhorting people.”
There comes a time after engaging, endearing, and educating when it is necessary to say, in effect, “Wouldn’t you like to have the abundant life — on this earth and eternally — that Jesus Christ came to give you?”
We must lead people to the throne of grace. We can’t make decisions for them, but we can lovingly challenge them to decide what they are going to do about Jesus Christ. Don’t leave out this part! If you love people, challenge them.
Our church culture is accustomed to some form of witnessing. The church will regularly (though not necessarily frequently) engage and exhort the lost. Too often, however, it’s hit-and-run evangelism. That will have some limited success by the Holy Spirit’s work causing some people to be ready to receive. However, it is most often ineffective because the care and detail of endearing and educating are left out.
Attention to all four aspects of the process ensures an intentional, relational evangelism style. It enhances success by creating a bridge across which the gospel travels. It is the harder road, but a kingdom full of Christians living it would yield results that would amaze us and glorify God!
Victor Lee is minister of evangelism at First Baptist Concord, Knoxville, Tennessee.