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Don't Lose the Mission Behind Missional (Part II)

  
  
  

Part II of a series by guest blogger and Doctor of Ministry student, Nathan Sanders. Read part I here.

Friendship Evangelism (FE) is a form of Christian mission where a believer purposes to win people to Christ by relating to them in the everyday world of work, neighborliness, hobbies, and other activities that happen with regularity and become a platform for genuine friendship. The Christian is sincere in the expression of friendship, but carries within an additional desire to use the relationship as a bridge to eternal things. As the friendship grows, trust is formed, compassion and concern run deeper, and the opportunity for lasting influence upon one another becomes a reality. When this kind of friendship happens, all manner of God-themed conversations and encounters are possible! Few things in my life and ministry have been as satisfying as witnessing evidences of the Holy Spirit using a friendship of mine for his purposes, opening up their hearts, even moving upon them in dreams in the night or in a sudden moment of conviction and revelation.

When I became a pastor I was thrilled about the idea of equipping people to participate in FE, but soon realized that this method did not quickly translate into new attenders. Our amped-up Sunday programs were attracting new attenders regularly, but nearly all of them were already “churched” people, if even only slightly. Many of the people being reached through FE were not interested in attending church, or even worse, dead-set against it. After a while this missional thrust that I call FE began to take a back seat in my ministry. What a loss that was, and still is, in churches today. The pressure to make church “successful” is sky-high in our culture, and it can seem easier to just rely on church programs and services to attract people. But stark reality is that at least 50 percent of the U.S. population will not set foot in a church, no matter how attractive it is. [1]  The other 50 percent of the population, an ocean of humanity of inestimable worth, can and should be reached by friends. Consider the following suggestions for equipping believers to become one of these invaluable agents of eternal grace:

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1. Prayerfully select the top three non-believing individuals you are most closely connected to at work, in your neighborhood, or through any shared activity or group. Keep these names in your Bible and pray for them regularly, that they would come to Christ and be saved, and eventually be transformed into the fullness of life available in Christ.

2. Become a real friend. Take time out to connect in conversation. Show genuine interest and concern for their life situations. Find out what might be an appropriate leisure activity or shared interest that you can connect in. I recently befriended someone over a shared interest in extreme weather!

3. Bring your Christian spirituality into the friendship. With care and sensitivity, be watchful for prime (and sometimes fleeting) moments when you can offer to pray for your friend, or when they might be open to receiving a Scriptural encouragement. Prepare yourself to be ready to act. Watch for their openness to hearing more about your “life story” or some other way of sharing your testimony. Commit to being bold enough to bring up your faith when the time is right.

4. Have fun! Invite them to relaxed gatherings and parties you or another believing friend is hosting, and let them experience the joy and beauty of Christian community.

 

[1] Dave & Jon Ferguson, Exponential: How You and Your Friends Can Start a Missional Church Movement (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2010), 104. The Ferguson brothers started a highly successful church planting movement based upon networks, but still aimed at establishing corporate-style churches centered in worship facilities and located in more affluent neighborhoods. In their study they acknowledge that half of westerners will not come to any church, and need to be reached by active believers outside of the Church.

 

Comments

Great observations! I couldn't agree more. The thing we need to remember as church leaders is that God gave the five fold ministry to equip the saints to do the work of the ministry. He didn't gives us those ministries to build mega churches. However, if by equipping the saints your church eventually grows drastically then that is awesome but the growth or lack of growth should not determine wether we choose to equip believers to reach the lost. 
 
I would also say that by becoming a true friend to unbelievers we not only model what Jesus did. The scriptures constantly mention how the pharisees were mad at Jesus because he would eat and hangout with sinners. Jesus even said in Matthew 11:19 talking about himself that he was, "a friend of tax collectors and sinners." But we also open the door to share Christ to people who would normally not be interested in it!
Posted @ Thursday, July 05, 2012 1:15 PM by Jonathan Burgio
Thanks Jonathan, Jesus' way of being with sinners is something that seems so lacking in western Church culture. I remember the sad feeling that came when I realized that my busyness in keeping church programs together had disconnected me from nonbelievers, almost completely. I hope it never happens to me again, but I know the pressures related to "keeping things going" will make it an ever-present danger.
Posted @ Thursday, July 05, 2012 1:36 PM by Nathan Sanders
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