Many Christians are terrified of the word “evangelism.” It brings to mind the nerve-wracking experience of door-to-door canvassing or handing out tracts on a Florida beach. None of us like rejection; none of us like to be mocked. There’s a chance of both when you evangelize the lost.
But evangelism isn’t always about handing out pamphlets. While that method can be effective, friendship evangelism—witnessing through relationships—follows up on the gospel with discipleship. But in recent years, friendship evangelism has been interpreted in new ways, not all of which are effective for the gospel.
There is a difference between being friendly with unbelievers and actually sharing the good news of Christ with them. Evangelism by nature requires that the gospel message be shared. In order for friendship evangelism to produce strong people of faith, we need to embrace the following truths.
Evangelism should always include the gospel message.
Friendship “evangelism” is not evangelism if it doesn’t include a verbal explanation of the gospel message. It’s not enough to simply be a nice person or even a good friend—we need to explain why we do what we do! There are many wonderful, kind people in the world who do not put faith in Christ. They can offer that kindness to each person they meet, but they cannot offer eternal hope and restoration. Christians can offer both.
God is the one who saves the lost. This removes the pressure to “get” a salvation decision out of someone we are evangelizing. Our responsibility is to love our unbelieving friends, share the gospel clearly and then live it out in front of them. God will do the rest.
The Christian lifestyle should be evident in our lives.
Just as friendship is incomplete without the gospel, the gospel is incomplete without example. We can talk about Jesus all day, but if our lives don’t reveal the transformation of His Spirit, we have nothing to offer this perishing world. The Christian lifestyle—which runs contrary to our culture in many ways—should be evident in our words and actions.
There’s a chance your non-Christian friends will mock or make fun of you. They might think you’re silly not to drink to excess, to refrain from swearing or to avoid certain media. But these are the things that stand out in their minds when, down the road, they turn to you in a difficult time. They won’t be looking for someone who lived just as they did; they’ll be seeking something distinct. Be the difference in their lives.
The gospel will offend some people.
If you love Christ, not everyone will love you. The gospel is offensive because it is, in a sense, exclusive: Jesus is the only way to God’s heart. But the gospel is also incredibly inclusive, as anyone can approach Christ and receive the hope He offers!
We should never be offensive, unloving or condemning toward people God has created. Our personalities and natures should not do the offending, but the gospel still might. In situations like these, we should continue to love and speak truth with that attitude, trusting God to make the most of the opportunities He brings us to share about Him.
Friendship evangelism can be an effective method of sharing the gospel, but only when it is a true balance of relationship and truth. The gospel must be presented in word and in deed. Love must be shown at every opportunity. The seeds that we plant may go deeper than we ever anticipated. Other Christians may come along and water those truths, and the Holy Spirit will be working growth in a heart we touched.