In the backdrop of our preparation for the Alpha course in our church is the great theme of evangelism. We know that personal evangelism is our primary objective as Christians because of the Great Commission, but many of us (including myself) have struggled with this aspect of our Christian walk. We may wrestle to avoid the extremes of being overly confrontational on the one hand, and overly complacent and indifferent on the other—the eternal destiny of our friends is at stake!
Personally, I’m unsure how fruitful I have been in my own attempts at personal evangelism over the years. But in recent times God has led me to reconnect with old pre-believing friends I have previously shared the gospel with, and I believe the Lord is leading me back to the heart of friendship and personal evangelism.
I would like to share with you some things we should keep in mind in our relationships with pre-believers:
- Recognise God’s purpose in your friendships. Often people who do not know the Lord are drawn to you, and you to them. They like you, even though they may not care for your faith in God at this stage. We must not take these friendship for granted. Rather, we need to see that God has placed this friend in your path for a deeper reason and purpose. We need to have patience and be intentional in building our relationships, waiting for open doors to draw our friend closer to God.
- Develop the heart of God for your friend. The Bible tells us that God would leave the ninety nine sheep to reach the one that was lost, and rejoices greatly once he or she is found (Luke 15:1-7). Likewise we need nurture a “relentless love” that allows us to continue to pursue our friendships until we have helped them receive the greatest gift we could possibly give to them.
- Recognise the urgency of evangelism. While it takes time to build relationships, let’s not miss the opportunities (Eph 5:16) to prayerfully invite a friend to an outreach event or share with them regarding your Christian walk. Life circumstances may change and you may not always have the opportunities that you have now.
- God alone is mighty to save. There is a great saying from Martin Luther that we are to “pray like it all depends on God, then when you are done, work like it all depends on you”. This is a nice reminder of the balance of God’s sovereignty and our human responsibility in evangelism. In the midst of our desire to find opportunities to share the gospel, we must also recognise that ultimately it is only God who can change and transform a person’s heart and cause him or her to respond to Jesus. Hence we need to keep praying and relying on the Holy Spirit when we spend time with our pre-believing friends.
Leading on from the Alpha course, I hope and pray that we continue to intentionally build our relationships with our pre-believing friends, so that when the opportunity arises we are in a position to share the gospel with them, invite them to church and outreach events, and bring them a step closer to receiving Jesus into their hearts!