Relational Evangelism made easy in 5 Lessons

Over the last couple of weeks I have seen a couple of great examples of how you do relational evangelism.  Simple, easy and straight up.  Here are 5 lessons I have learned from 2 guys who made it look easy.

Example 1: Touch Footy

Every Friday afternoon I play touch footy.  The main reason for me is to simply get fit, but it also allows me to spend time with people who are not Christian in a social setting.   This is a social game with a lot of Christians and some non-Christians who come.

One Friday I watched a guy who played on the side opposite me.  He was playing with some teenagers who, it was clear were not Christian.  He spent the game celebrating their wins, laughing together at their mistakes, encouraging them when they got it right.  He was not a great player (he was old and slow like me) but through this he was able to build a relationship with these kids over a matter of 40 mins of play.  What he did at the end was what made the whole thing (I was listening in on the conversation).

“Great game. Hey, do you guys want to come to church on Sunday?”

These guys obviously have never been asked before, “Ummm…what time is it?”

“6:30, just over there, it will be great”

“Oh, OK, I will have to ask my mum.”

“OK, I might see you there then.”

“Ummm…yep”

Did they come?  I am not sure yet, but this was obviously the first time that anyone had invited them to church.  It made me and the other ‘professionals’ who play look bad!!

Example 2: Cooking Classes

OK, I didn’t actually see this, it was my wife.  But this is what I understand happened.  My wife went to a cooking lesson with a friend.  Next to them were two guys who had come alone and were paired up.  Over the course of the lesson here are some snippets of the conversation she heard.

“So what do you do, B?”

“I am in full time Christian ministry, actually.”

“Wow, I never met anyone who does that.  What’s it like?”

“I love it, I get to teach people the Bible and talk about Jesus…”

Later in the lesson

B: “Do you want a lift home?”

“Sure, thanks, I live over at X though”

“Actually that is completely out of my way, I am going to Y, but I would love to do it anyway”

“Wow, thanks”

What happened in the car?  Again I don’t know  – these are real examples, but my guess is that there was some conversation about church, Jesus or Christianity.

What did they do?

Since both these conversations were overheard, I don’t have all the details nor what happened.  But here are some of the things I think they got right

  1. They were enjoying the activity they were doing.  When B walked in, he had a joy and friendliness about him that made my wife and her friend say “I bet he is a Christian” before he had even said anything.  Turns out they were right.  The footy player was enjoying the game and would have anyway.
  2. They were friendly.  We talk about ‘building a relational bridge” but really its just about being friendly, asking questions and being nice.
  3. They looked to serve.  They were seeking to help the others who were around them and in one case even go out of their way to drive someone home.  The other was looking to help the guys be better players.
  4. They were not embarrassed to be Christian.  One of them said “Church is great” the other said how much he loved Christian ministry.  Sure we should expect persecution, but that does not mean we should take the “good” out of good news.
  5. They were looking for the opportunity and in some cases made the opportunity to talk about church, Christianity or Jesus.  Because of all the things above, when they did it wasn’t an awkward introduction.

I have to admit that I am writing this post because I had an opportunity to talk last night.  It was flung on me out of nowhere and I failed at point 4.  When asked what I did, I could have been clearer and more, well, happier that I do what I do as a pastor.

It’s really not rocket surgery.  These guys made it look easy, because it is.  We just make it harder than we need to.

Do you have other stories of where you have seen it done right?

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Confessions of a “Professional”

Over the next few blog posts I want to write about my thoughts about evangelism.  But before I do I feel l need to come clean about a few things.

I think I am naturally (or spiritually gifted) as a Bible teacher.  I love teaching the Bible.  I love the nerdy stuff of working out verbal aspect of Greek verbs, how does ancient rhetorical devices work in the letters of the New Testament, etc.  I realise not many other people share these passions and so I don’t share them around (and I am sure Soma is thankful for that).  I love thinking about the Bible, how to apply and teach it.  I never get sick of it.

I am not sure I am a natural (or spiritually gifted) evangelist, at least on a personal level.  Part of this conclusion has been looking at circumstances.  When I go to a church or Christian meeting, I pray God would put me next to someone I can minister to.  I try and sit next to someone who is not a Christian.  9/10 I will end up sitting next to a Christian who is thinking about professional ministry (and there aren’t that many of them).   I remember one meeting I sat down next to someone I knew to be a non-Christian, they got up a few seconds later and were replaced by a Christian who was dealing with an issue of Christian ministry!  It’s not a bad thing, it’s just the way things are or rather it is way God is answering my prayer.

When I go on Christian missions and there is time for door knocking, I seem be the one who doesn’t come back with a great story of being able to share the Gospel in some way.  I don’t think I am rude, or perhaps not forthright enough.  It’s just all the doors I knock on there is no-one home.  But it is hard not to feel a small sense of failure since I am the one supposed to be training people in how to do this.

But that does not mean God has not used me in evangelism.  Like I said, I love to teach the Bible and I think the best way of doing evangelism is opening the Bible and introducing people to Jesus.  People have invited me to do that in preaching opportunities.  I have done that in places all over Australia, and some people have become Christians through that.  For others it was a first step to finding out about Jesus and months later made commitments.  Praise God. I love doing that because it reminds me of the Gospel and who I am too.

But I love personal evangelism…and hate it at the same time.

I love being able to talk about Jesus.  I love being able to hear people’s stories and ideas and asking them about how Jesus fits in.  I actually love having my beliefs challenged to work out what is truth and what has simply been adopted without thinking about it.  I love hearing the Gospel, even if it is from my lips.

But it is a complicated relationship.  One of the things that I really hate about doing walk up evangelism is when people say “No thanks, I don’t want to talk to you”.  Our relationship has lasted less than 10 secs, and they are far from being rude and yet I can’t help but to take it really personally.  It doesn’t make sense, and I am hypocritical about it in that when someone wants to talk to me about “our new credit card deal” or “supporting kids overseas” I have no problem rejecting them, but I feel personally rejected when someone says “no” to me.  I have a profound respect for people who go and ask people to talk with them hour after hour and are not reduced to a bawling mess.

I think one of the things I struggle with with cold contact evangelism is that I am painfully shy.  Some people might find this surprising.  I have worked on TV and stood on stage in front of 10,000 people once and yet I would rather do that than meet someone new.  One of the hardest parts of my week is, after preaching (which is far more draining than it appears) having to go up and meet the new people who have come to church.

Some might argue at this point that I should stick to what I am gifted at and let others do what they are gifted at.  But here is the thing:

As much as I love the gifts that Jesus has given me, I love Him more.

There are people who don’t know Jesus.  I am convinced that being better at personal evangelism will actually make me a better disciple of Jesus and if nothing else a better Bible teacher.