Who are our neighbors, and how do we reach them with the good news of Jesus? When Christians look at the people around them, there is a desire to share the faith that is so important to them. But how to do it? One way is through what is called “friendship evangelism.”
Perhaps you have thought about sharing your faith, but then said to yourself, “I know what my spiritual gift is, and it’s not evangelism.” In fast-growing congregations, fewer than 10 percent of the members have the gift of evangelism. We are not all evangelists, but we are called to be witnesses. A witness responds when they are asked to answer a question. An evangelist is much more assertive about what they have to say and about finding opportunities.
Friendship evangelism is not about the world out there. It’s about people you already know in your circle of influence. This is not about strangers. It is about your relatives, neighbors, and work associates. It’s not asking you to knock on doors and find people. It’s asking you to respond to the people around you who already bring up their needs, beliefs, and values in conversations with you.
Others may say, “I’m too shy to talk about religion.” An article in U.S. News & World Report says that 48 percent of Americans say they are shy. These people usually don’t initiate a conversation. When they have to talk in a meeting—even a simple one—they feel their blood pressure go up. Being shy is typical for many Christians. Remember, friendship evangelism isn’t about aggressive behavior. It’s about simply being a good friend. This is not about bringing up religious topics. This is about responding when people around you bring up the topic. This is not about strangers. It’s about people you already know, are comfortable with, and spend time with anyway. If you don’t talk about faith, you are going to talk about fishing or tires or hairstyles or your children.
Some people may think, I don’t really know what to do.
Friendship evangelism is not about memorizing a little speech or testimony. It is not about giving a Bible study or a certain kind of logic that will convince people. It’s simply a framework that enables you to see your everyday relationships in terms of the grace of Jesus Christ. The underlying theological idea is that if you are a believer, then the grace of Jesus Christ is present in your life. How will this grace in your life touch the lives of the people around you?
Friendship evangelism is relating to people on the basis of compassion, sympathy, kindness, and caring. It is about listening to hear the needs of people. It is about watching for their readiness to discuss the basic issues of faith. And it is about sharing your own faith.
Obviously, if you don’t have faith, you don’t have anything to share. In Step With Jesus assumes that God is working in your life and that you have something to share—not that you’re perfect or would want to hold yourself up as an example. As a matter of fact, among unchurched people, there is a widespread feeling that they aren’t good enough to be a Christian. An average Christian—a person who is honest about his or her own struggles— may be a more compelling example than a perfect Christian who appears polished and without flaws.*