Reaching out to a world for Jesus isn’t really about doing what God requires, but about sharing the “Good News” out of our overflowing heart. There is an Adventist paradigm for this sort of evangelism, one that emerges from our heritage. A paradigm is a model, framework, or example through which we see and act.
Ellen White wrote this statement: “Christ’s method alone will give true success in reaching the people.”1 Notice the implication that some successful evangelism does not constitute true success in God’s eyes. As we continue with the quote from Ellen White, notice the verbs. “The Saviour mingled with men as one who desired their good. He showed His sympathy for them, ministered to their needs, and won their confidence. Then He bade them, ‘Follow Me.’ ”2
These five verbs progress deeper and deeper into a relationship; mingling, showing sympathy, ministering to needs, winning trust, and inviting people to follow Jesus.
Notice how the first three actions flow out from the Christian. When you win the trust and confidence of a person, it comes back. You can’t force people to trust you. They may say they trust you if they are pressed, but it is not for real. Trust has to be given freely by others in response to our genuine love, a love that is visible. The paradigm has a two-way action: it flows out and then comes back.
The quote from Ellen White next says, “Then he bade them.” “Bade” is an old English word. In modern English we get bids for things in business. A bid is a document that says, “Please buy from us.” “Bade” is the past tense of “bid.” Jesus bade people; He appealed or proposed to them, “Follow Me.” Be My disciple. But He did so only after mingling, ministering, demonstrating compassion, and winning their trust. Notice it says “then.” The offer to follow Christ is extended only at a given point in the process, not constantly, without regard to what is going on in the relationship.
This five-step paradigm must be demonstrated on a personal level. We can share Christ on an organized church level, but we cannot forget how important it is to share Him on an individual level. Relational witnessing, which we sometimes call “friendship evangelism,” happens while interacting with people in the context of everyday life, not only through special programming or knocking on doors or talking to strangers on airplanes. It happens with people that you rub shoulders with every day—people with whom you live and work—family, relatives, friends, neighbors, work associates, acquaintances in the community, or people you know through various activities.3