We all know that authentic relationships with non-believers are critical to the mission that Christ left us. We are the bearers of the good news of the Gospel. Every follower of Jesus is a missionary to those in their circles of influence. There are no non missionaries in God's family. For some of us the question is, how do I do this most effectively?

First, remember that people are people, not projects for evangelism. Every man, woman and child has intrinsic worth as people made in the image of God. We develop relationships with others because God cares about them and therefore we care about them. Incarnational relationships are about stepping into relationship with others because they are loved by God and therefore by us. Just as God gave us unconditional love in spite of all of our issues, so we extend the same to others with the love God has given us. Just as Jesus looked for men and women in need of His love we do the same.

Second, we have more in common with unbelievers than we often think. All of us face common family, personal, work, children and other issues of life. One of the keys to developing authentic relationships is simply being transparent about our lives. Christians who put on a front that all is well all the time are not only lying to themselves but they are missing a unique opportunity to relate and connect with others. By being transparent, we invite transparency. That transparency draws us closer to those we are with and it opens opportunities to talk about how we deal with the challenges of life - which has a lot to do about faith.

Third, think about how you can love on those you have befriended. My wife, Mary Ann, puts it this way. "If I were in their position, what do I wish someone else would do for me?" So, when our neighbor has the flu, Mary Ann cooks a dinner and delivers it. Simply putting ourselves in the shoes of others helps us know how to best respond to them.

Fourth, pray for your friends. The hardest work in introducing someone to Christ is not done by us but by the Holy Spirit. Our regular prayer changes hearts as the Holy Spirit does His quiet work. Also, when a friend shares a problem they are facing simply ask "Can I pray about that for you?" Often they have never had someone offer to pray. If the opportunity is there, ask if you can pray with them right there. Together you lift their challenge to the throne of Jesus. This is far more powerful than we realize because in involving them they too are being invited into God's presence.

Fifth, when the opportunity comes up, be transparent about your own faith in Christ. My two nearly fatal illnesses have been the cause of much conversation by many who know of what happened. When people ask, "How did you pull through?" we simply tell them about the many people who prayed for me and how God miraculously healed. These kinds of conversations open doors to other conversations of faith. All people are on a spiritual journey and we want to encourage them to take the step over the line from unbelief to belief.

Sixth, introduce your unbelieving friends to other believing friends. There is a quality of relationship among believers that unbelievers are not used to. There is a quality of marriages that they are often unused to. Being with God's people opens the eyes of unbelievers to a world that they may not be used to. It certainly should challenge their world.

Seventh, be ready to share in simple terms your own spiritual journey and how God has changed your life. In the context of relationship and transparency this is neither out of the ordinary or pushy, it is simply life on life conversation. Encourage your friends to read the Gospel of John or other Scriptures and introduce them to good reading material. And continue to pray that the Holy Spirit will work in their hearts.

Missionary work is all about friendships where we genuinely enter into the lives of others with the same love and intentionality that Jesus did when on this planet and with us. And it is amazing to watch the Holy Spirit work and to be a part of God's redemptive plan with others. There is nothing more exciting in life.
  • Sep 06, 2011
  • Category: News
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