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Sunday, March 27, 2016 pm                            Evangelism Index

 

EVANGELISM 2016
Friendships and Relationships (1)

 

WE have addressed many things concerning reaching the lost.  Our goal in these lessons is to help us overcome our obstacles to trying to lead other souls to Him.  We have addressed numerous aspects of this, including reasons to reach the lost, perspectives to understand in reaching the lost, the characteristics of a personal worker, overcoming our own excuses and obstacles, as well as numerous examples of evangelism.    The bottom line is we have to live a godly life and do something.

But who do we try to reach?   The simple answer is anyone we can.  As noted this morning, your neighbor is anyone you have opportunity to help (Luke 10:29-37).   But again, that sounds easy, but to accomplish it is a challenge.   Tonight we want to address an aspect of who we should try to reach.  What about our friends and family?  Are they the best source for prospects?  What about others?

 I.                     Reaching your friends

a.       Perhaps our best pool of prospective hearers is those we know and those who know us.  Those who we have a relationship with have something in common with us.  They are the place to begin.  They include family that are not Christians, those who have fallen away, our friends and neighbors that we associate with regularly, possibly some of our coworkers that we have also become friends with, etc.
Be reminded that Andrew brought Peter to Jesus (John 1:40-41), Nathan was brought to Jesus by Philip (John 1:43-45), Matthew 9:10-13 – Matthew invited his friends and some coworkers to a dinner with Jesus, etc.

b.       AND as Christians, we ought to be friendly!  If we have the disposition we have addressed in times past, we will be pleasant to be around and naturally attract others to us.  Those others present opportunities to reach with the gospel.

c.        Some things to consider in trying to reach our friends and neighbors

                                                   i.      The best way to begin teaching is by your example.  Live the Bible in your life. 
Be an epistle known and read by men – 2 Corinthians 3:2-3.
Don’t put that light under a basket, but on a lampstand (Matthew 5:15)

                                                 ii.      Pray for opportunities.  Pray for specific “prospects” – that God will open doors (Colossians 4:3).  Pray for courage to say what needs to be said (cf. Ephesians 6:18-19).

                                                iii.      Be a good neighbor – when you are a Christian, you will be a good neighbor and servant to others.  Thereby you will be gaining credibility and possibly developing friendship with others.
Be friendly!  Manifest the qualities of someone who is pleasant to be around!

                                                iv.      Seek ways to bring Christ and your faith into conversations and manner of life
Like Jesus at the well – He took the subject of thirst and turned it.  Leave your Bible visible.  Leave indications that you are a Christian in your home.
Speak up as to why you will NOT participate in particular activities that are ungodly.
NOTE: We must learn to be tactful in this – don’t force your faith on others (cf. Salt).

                                                  v.      Create or take advantage of opportunities to introduce the gospel -  invite your friends and neighbors to Gospel meetings or when we assemble, neighborhood studies, ask if they want to study the Bible together, etc.

                                                vi.      Be willing to risk your friendship if needed.  This is a tough one!  Do we care for the souls of the lost as we ought to?  Do we value our friendship greater than that of their souls? 

1.       When you study the gospel you learn that it is offensive to many.   It caused Stephen to be stoned (Acts 7:54-60).   It caused Paul and Silas to be beaten and put in prison (Acts 16:20-24).  It caused Jesus to be crucified!
1 Corinthians 1:22-24 – the gospel is a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Greeks.

2.       Obeying the gospel means you might have to give up friends or you might lose them – Jesus warned that family might turn against you – Matt. 10:34-36. 
Peter spoke of former friends in 1 Peter 4:3-4 where they now speak evil of you.

3.       If you had to choose, would you be willing to walk away from friends and family in this life?   Consider Luke 18:29-30.

4.       AT SOME POINT, they need to be confronted with the gospel!  It is the ONLY way they will be saved.  And at THAT POINT there is going to be a risk.  The question is WHEN will you take that risk?

5.       NOTE: IF you have more worldly friends than godly friends, where will the greatest source of your influences come from?  James 4:4 – does this “friendship” actually include our friends?

 d.       What about “Relationship evangelism” or “friendship evangelism”? –


Some advocate that this is the best way (or the only way) to find prospects.  The premise is that before some can be reached with the gospel, a relationship must be developed, which in time, and through a series of steps, gradually leads to opportunities to lead them to Christ. 

                                                   i.      With this method you are encouraged to make a list of everyone you know or are acquainted with and then decide to focus on particular ones with the goal of winning them to Christ.  You take steps – 1) Beginning with making contact with them
2) Seeking to get better acquainted finding out what you can about them and letting them get to know you.
3) You serve and befriend them (while being a proper example)
4) THEN you begin to mention your faith while being sensitive to their reactions (but don’t be confrontational)
5) THEN you begin to introduce them to other Christians
6) THEN you seek to study the Bible with them
7) THEN you finally try to teach the gospel and “invite” them to obey the gospel.

                                                 ii.      This sounds good and actually can be an effective way to reach some.   In fact, as we try to win our friends. AND WE SHOULD, all of these steps can lead toward opportunities.  What I mentioned above in winning our friends applies many of these actions – as we are being the example we ought to be.

                                                iii.      BUT there are some concerns and dangers we need to be aware of in making this our model:

1.       It can overemphasize friendship as the means to reaching the lost.  It is the power of the gospel that saves (Romans 1:16, 10:14-17, 1 Corinthians 1:18, 2:1-5, etc.).  
We shall see in our next lesson on this study that the Bible has many examples of those who responded after the first conversation or a few conversations (persuasion).  Cf. Acts 2:37-41, 18:4, 2 Cor. 5:11.

2.       It can be deceptive.  If your only reason for befriending someone is to try and teach them are you truly being their friend?
What happens when they reject the gospel outright (as many will)?  Do you “dump” them as friends and move on?  If so, was the friendship genuine and honest?
What happens to the friendship if they do obey the gospel?
We must be honest and upfront in our dealings with others!  2 Corinthians 1:12 Paul noted how they had conducted themselves in the world in simplicity and godly sincerity.  That word “sincerity” means to be honest and straightforward.
1 Thess. 2:4-5, Paul noted that they did not use flattering words or covetousness as a “cloak” (pretext) for teaching the gospel.
2 Corinthians 2:17 – Paul stated they were not “peddling the word of God; but as of sincerity, but as from God, we speak in the sight of God in Christ.”

The following will be addressed in our April lesson as well as the need for persuasion/reasoning.  TT

3.       Will a developed friendship take precedence over teaching them?  Consider this point above discussed.  Will fear of consequences keep you from trying to persuade them of the gospel.  Will it keep you from “confronting” them?
Thought: Do you have to have to earn the right to share the gospel with others?  The gospel needs to be preached!  Don’t reason that if someone becomes your friend they will be more likely to respond.  Maybe they will, but not always.  And again we ask, will you risk your friendship to win them?

4.       Will you view developing a friendship as fulfilling your evangelistic requirements?  Is that all you can do?  Will you EVER take that friendship to the next level spiritually?  Some will never move beyond the step of making friends and might reasons that is all they need to do.

5.       What about the length of time involved in trying to win them?   I am one who believes that we need to be patient in seeking to win others.  Groundwork needs to be laid in the teaching process, and even in winning the confidence and trust of someone you need to teach. 
BUT, the truth is that one who has not taken care of their sins is in a lost state.  Something needs to be done or they could be lost for all of eternity.  2 Cor. 5:11 reminds us of this.  Heb. 9:27 reminds us of this.
James 4:14 reminds us of this.  Psalm 90:10-12 requests that the LORD teach us to number our days.

6.       Will friendship be the reason one obeys and remains faithful?  Will friendship take precedence over serving God as to one’s faithfulness?   Will their conversion be about the fun times and your goodness?  In other words, make sure they are converted to the gospel and not your faith (cf. 1 Cor. 1:12-13, 3:4).

7.       Let us not disregard the need for persuasion and reasoning to reach the lost.   As we conclude this lesson we again remind ourselves that it is the gospel message that saves.  The message of the cross needs to be the motivation.  And souls need to be persuaded of that fact!   Until then they will not obey the gospel for the right reason.  (More on this in our next lesson).

 

Most of us need friends and we have friends.  My point in this lesson is that we let friendships develop naturally and If they present opportunities to teach the gospel that is great.  In fact, you should seek opportunities to win them to Christ.  And if for some reason you do, there is no greater joy.  But don’t let friendship stand in the way of your faith!

The bottom line is that the ONLY way you are going to win someone is by persuading them of their need for the gospel.  That does not require friendship or relationship at first.   In fact, the true friendship comes AFTER obedience (at least that is what SHOULD happen) and ought to be based upon our “like precious faith”.

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