A guide to relational evangelism…
First, it’s worth prefacing this with a reminder that the role of Gospel presence (or relational evangelism) among neighbours is a blessed privilege and responsibility for all Jesus-followers, not just a few “ministry professionals” or “paid missionaries.”
- Matthew 5:16 (“let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”)
- Matthew 28:18-20 (“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations…”)
- 1 Peter 2:9-10 (“…that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.”)
- Ephesians 2:10 (“For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”)
Second, once we understand this calling to steward the Good News, we might still need help thinking through, “who is my neighbour?” Below I’ve put into writing some ways I’ve found it helpful to think through 3 different kinds of neighbours in part 1. and 3 different levels of evangelistic relationships with these neighbours in part 2.
Part 1. Where are your neighbours at geographically?
- Next door neighbours – Where you live
- Natural neighbours – Where you naturally spend your time
- (Intentionally adopt a “usual spot” vs random time everywhere).
- General neighbours – Intentional community involvement beyond your “usual spots.”
Figure 2. Shows what these circles of influence look like in a geographical area. Figure 3. Shows how a community on mission can reach a large area of neighbours just by living life on mission together. Below, I’ve given some space to think through and name at least 3 neighbours in each relational/geographic context.
- Next door neighbours: Home
- Natural neighbours: _____________ (local restaurant/gym/park/coworkers)
- Intentional community: _____________ (city councilman/community volunteer/friend across town)
Part 2. Where are your neighbours at relationally?
We want to make disciples, but our neighbour down the road is a complete stranger; how could we possibly disciple someone we don’t even know? Here are several layers of relational growth between being “strangers” in our community and making disciples, and the steps to move deeper at any level.
- Strangers – (a face in the crowd)
- Step 1: become a familiar face somewhere
- Step 2: get on first-name basis with someone
- Acquaintances – (first-name basis)
- Step 1: Invite familiar neighbours into your life
- Step 2: Start inviting others to meet and know your neighbours. This builds more relational context/influence.
- Friends – (knowing your neighbours beyond the surface level or public context)
- Step 1: share your life, story, and life rhythms where Jesus is central.
- Disciples – (an ongoing relationship with spiritual direction)
- Step 1: continue investing time with Gospel intention
Below, taking the names you listed above, think through, “who of these do I know as acquaintances (“I only know their first name”), friends (“I’ve met them and/or their family in another context.”), and disciples (“I’ve been able to share my faith and continue demonstrating and declaring my gospel hope with them.”)?
- Strangers (“familiar faces”)
- Acquaintances (first-name familiarity)
- Friends (deeper relationship)
- Disciples (spiritual investment)
A challenge to us:
If we follow Jesus then we are called and enabled by the Holy Spirit to make disciples of Him. However, many of us have a hard time finding those opportunities. Instead we fall short when…
- We remain strangers. We go in and out of the community but don’t invest time meaningfully. Instead we spend time randomly in a wide range of areas.
- We don’t establish friendship. We may have many friendly acquaintances who recognize us or know our name at our usual spots but they have never been invited to our home, a missional-community event, or a deeper personal friendship.
- We don’t disciple. We may succeed at being social and getting people into our homes but stop at friendship. Instead of investing spiritual hope into the friendship we “guard” many friendships with superficial comfort.
What if we could take just one step this month (or each month) to go from being a stranger to getting to know someone’s name? …To go from first-name only basis to getting to know more about their life or family? …To go from being a friend to being someone who takes genuine interest in sharing your greatest hope in life and death; the good news of salvation through Christ for all? I believe and have seen that “drilling deep and reaching wide” (to borrow a phrase) is key to effective, relational, evangelism.
Finally, cover these names in prayer (lift them up to God, intercede for them, ask God to turn his attention to them, etc.), and ask God to direct every moment, minute, and hour, of your time and by God’s grace He will bring divine appointments and genuine friendships you never could have otherwise created or thought to ask for.