3 April, 2014 Neil Powell
Most Christians recognise the importance of sharing our faith with our family and friends, and yet little thought goes into how we go about it. Let me suggest this simple model (adapted from some material by Oivind Augland on church planting movements).
Two steps we need to take are:
· to recognise three crucial ingredients to our personal evangelism
· then consider the three sets of relationships between the ingredients that can help us be most effective.
The three crucial ingredients
1. Be spiritually available to God. The heart of personal evangelism is a heart that is ready to serve God. We won’t make ourselves available to others unless we are already ‘available’ to God. So make a desire to speak of Christ a measure of your Christian walk. Ask that He would use us and speak through us, as well as asking that we would be bold and clear, making the most of every opportunity in evangelism (cf. Colossians 4:2-6).
2. Build your number of friendships. Some of us have natural opportunities to build our base of contacts or acquaintances; maybe our work constantly introduces us to new people or we meet other parents through our kids. That said, building a friendship base requires us to go beyond occasional casual conversations to the kind of relationship that marks out friendship. That could mean choosing to initiate conversation by:
a) sharing more personal information
b) asking thoughtful questions
c) remembering information such as what someone said they were planning to do at the weekend; the names of their family members; interests and hobbies, etc.
d) managing your timetable so that you are more likely to cross paths, e.g. arriving at the school gate at the same time each day; looking for the same assistant at the checkout
e) offering support, help, advice (as appropriate).
Whatever it might look like for you, it certainly means investing time and effort.
3. Spend time with friends. There’s not much point having friends if we don’t invest in those friendships. Like much of life, it’s a choice between the best thing to do and a good thing to do. For Christians stuck into church that might mean we’ve made a default choice to spend most of our time with Christian friends (and church meetings!) and have neglected our friends and neighbours around us. Unless we make them a priority, chances are we’ll continue to give our energies to church life. If Christ has commanded us to go and make disciples, then maybe the balance needs addressing.
The three sets of relationships
Put these things in place and we’re on our way. But there is something to be said for exploring the relationship between the circles (see the diagram below).
1. Prayer is where being spiritually available to God and building friendship circles overlap. Our commitment to build friendships and to be used by God is seen in our daily decision to pray for those with whom we would like to build friendships. Pray for opportunity and wisdom.
2. Discernment might well describe the relationship between being available and growing relationships. We can’t possibly be spending the kind of time we might like with all of our non-Christian friends and relatives. So as we pray we ask God to help us discern to whom to give our time and energies, and which relationships to pursue.
3. Action is where building the friendship base and nurturing those relationships kick in. That means being intentional and being proactive in these relationships. We need to clear our diaries, change our priorities, and be proactive in extending invitations as we seek opportunities to share Christ.
Put all of that together and we have ‘MI’, or maximum impact.