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Sunday, April 24, 2016 pm                                        Evangelism Index

 

EVANGELISM 2016
Friendships and Relationships (2)
Using Reason and Persuasion to reach the lost

 

In dealing with evangelism, last month, we addressed the subject of friends and acquaintances being our first pool of prospects.   We noted a number of suggestions that might help you create opportunities to teach them – including the importance of example, prayer, being a good neighbor, seek ways to introduce your faith in conversations and then sharing the gospel with them.   We also noted that considering the importance of the task, are we willing to risk our friendships for the cause of Christ?

We then began to address “relationship evangelism” and noted some of the concerns and dangers associated with this model of evangelism.  We began by noting that one’s friendship could be overemphasized and we addressed how such could engage in deceptive tactics.    Now we want to briefly notice some other dangers with this method.  Then we want to notice how in scripture, many were converted without established relationships.  There is a need for persuasion and reasoning to reach others.  You CANNOT win a soul to Christ without it!

 

I.                     Relationship Evangelism

a.       What is relationship evangelism?  It is a suggested model to try and reach the lost.  The premise is that you select a small number of those you know and are acquainted with and set in motion efforts to teach them.   You seek to get better acquainted and eventually become friends with your faith being in the background (i.e. your faith is not your primary focus).  Gradually, your revelation of your faith increases through first mentioning your faith in informal ways, then introducing them to other Christians, followed by attempts to study the Bible with them, and then you finally present them with the gospel.  The hope is that eventually they will desire to obey the gospel.
While this sounds good, and doing each of these things is certainly not wrong – if fact there is merit in all of them, but there are also concerns and dangers to consider with this method. 

                                                   i.      It can be deceptive.  If your only reason for befriending someone is to try and teach them are you truly being their friend? By not being upfront about your faith, is that totally honest?
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.
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.”

                                                 ii.      It can overemphasize friendship as the means to reaching the lost.  If one is not careful, friendship becomes more powerful than the gospel to save someone.
That is NOT what the Bible teaches - Romans 1:16, 10:14-17, etc.  
We shall see in a few moments 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.

b.       Other concerns and dangers we need to be aware of in making this our model:

                                                   i.      What happens when your friendship has developed?

1.       Will a developed friendship take precedence over teaching them?  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?

2.       What happens if 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 does that do with possible future opportunities for others to reach that person?

                                                 ii.      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.

                                                iii.      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.

                                                iv.      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 you (cf. 1 Cor. 1:12-13, 3:4).

                                                  v.      These are some concerns as we seek to work with our friends and seek to make friends for the sole purpose of teaching them. 

 

II.                   Reasoning with Others

a.       By others I mean anyone we have an opportunity to share the gospel with.  This would INCLUDE your friends and acquaintances, but there might also be other opportunities beyond this. 
There be situations where you only get a limited timeframe to teach someone – (maybe even one or two meetings).  When it comes to the souls of men, this ought to be on our mind and we should see this as the more likely scenario.   IF you don’t get someone’s attention (i.e. interest) with your first meeting, your opportunity may end.
Some have observed that those we don’t have a relationship with are often easier to teach – because it is simply about the word and not you.   Think about this as we notice some examples of persuasion in a moment!

b.       What is reason?   What is persuasion?
Reason means to engage in a discussion (or arguing one’s point) with the hope to persuade one to understand or accept something by appealing to understanding, logic and fact.
Persuade means to convince or convict someone of one’s belief.  Persuasion is the act of trying to convince someone.  Typically, through reasoning.
Consider Acts 18:4 with Paul in Corinth, “reasoned in the synagogue every Sabbath, and persuaded both Jews and Greeks.
And Acts 17:2-4 where Paul in Thessalonica reasoned, in the synagogue, from the scriptures, explaining and demonstrating who Christ was.  The result is many were persuaded.

c.        We again remind ourselves that it is the gospel message that saves (Romans 1:16-17).  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, and this applies to our friends and relatives as well!
NOTE: Our Friday night, “mark your Bible” studies are examples of reasoning from the scriptures.

d.       The Bible is filled with passages that address persuasion and reason.  Let us notice a few of them:

                                                   i.      Romans 8:38, Paul is persuaded that neither life nor death, etc. can keep him from the love of God in Christ.  NOTE: We need to be persuaded!

                                                 ii.      2 Timothy 1:12, Paul was persuaded that God would keep what was committed to Him until that day.  NOTE: We need to be persuaded!

                                                iii.      2 Corinthians 5:11, knowing the terror of the Lord, we persuade men!

                                                iv.      Jude 22-23, we have compassion on some, but others we save with fear, pulling them out of the fire.  The idea here is to persuade others of their need to repent.

e.       There are also many examples in the book of Acts that show how Paul and others reasoned with and persuaded men to believe

                                                   i.      Acts 2:40 after Peter finished his sermon and told them what they needed to do (i.e. obey the gospel), with many other words he testified and exhorted them…

                                                 ii.      Acts 13:43, Paul and Barnabas taught many Jews, speaking to them and persuading them to continue in the grace of God.

                                                iii.      Acts 18:4, 13 – in Corinth, as we noted, Paul reasoned and persuaded many.  According to vs. 13 he was successful, as his enemies accused him of persuading men to worship God.

                                                iv.      Acts 19:26, in Ephesus he is accused of the same thing. 

                                                  v.      Acts 24:24-25, before Felix Paul reasoned of righteousness, self-control, and judgment to come…

                                                vi.      Acts 26:28, even before Agrippa, Paul reasons and provokes a response. 

f.         Some thoughts on persuasion and reason

                                                   i.      Without persuasion, one will not truly obey the gospel.  They go through the motions, but genuine conversion is the result of being fully convinced (persuaded) that one needs to obey God.  That is why we need to be cautious with those who are doing something simply because of friendship, relationship, etc.

                                                 ii.      Persuasion is NOT coercion – you cannot FORCE or seduce someone to obey the gospel!  You may force them to carry out the acts, but without the heart there is no conversion and no real Christian!

                                                iii.      Before you can convince someone else, you must FIRST be persuaded!

                                                iv.      To be fully persuaded of something, you need to learn it!   2 Tim. 3:16-17, 2:15.

                                                  v.      Persuasion does not always work.  The gospel of John shows many attempts by Jesus to persuade the Jews, but to no avail.  Not all will be won, no matter what you say.

                                                vi.      BUT, the more prepared we are, the better our chances of persuading others.

                                              vii.      Almost persuaded is NOT persuaded – as the song says, almost, but lost!  How sad, but how true!

 

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”.