Not every missionary travels, but every missionary translates. They communicate the gospel to the people around them in language and forms that are understandable.
If you are a follower of Jesus, you are a missionary. But my guess is that you feel ill-equipped to share your faith with your friends. It’s not desire you lack, but training. So how about some advice on contextualizing for your particular mission field?
1. Enter and challenge your friend’s idols
Your friends may not have idolatrous sculptures in their backyard or figurines on the mantelpiece, but they have idols. They are submitting to something for their ultimate significance and self-worth. They are controlled by something.
Becky Pippert writes, “Whatever controls us is our lord. The person who seeks power is controlled by power, the one who seeks acceptance is controlled by acceptance. We do not control ourselves. We are controlled by the lord of our lives.”
So how can you figure out what lord your friends are serving?
Conversation and questions. Lots of both.
What do they talk about all the time? Where do they spend their money? What drives them? What gets them up in the morning? What infuriates them when they can’t do it? What are their hopes and dreams and fears?
You enter in by asking those questions.
But they can’t leave with the impression that they can just add Jesus. You need to challenge. Point to the emptiness of their idols. Their lord(s) will never love them back—will never bring lasting significance and self-worth.
2. Clearly explain the character of God
I often tell people, “How can you know that you reject Jesus if you're not even sure about who Jesus is?” I’ve found that a lot of people are rejecting “institutional” religion. They’re rejecting hypocritical and apathetic Christians. They’re not responding to Jesus, but all this other stuff.
Whether or not your friends have ever stepped into a church, they have impressions about who God is. They need to hear the true character of God, not a bunch of counterfeits.
You may have some friends who are perfectionists. Because of their parents or another authority figure, like a professor or coach, they have this sense that they never measure up. So they are bombarded with thoughts like I’m not good enough, if I don’t perform, nobody will love me.
You are going to have to help them see that God is loving and gracious. He does not base his relationship with them on their performance. They don’t have to be perfect. They don’t need to have everything all together. Some of your friends need to hear that so desperately.
Other friends may need to realize that Jesus is not just their “homeboy” but also their king. They will need you to explain God’s holiness.
3. Call them to repentance
This is where it gets real hard. You can go 90% of the way. But what about the last 10%?
Will you ask them to turn to Jesus?
You can enter in and challenge your friends’ idols and they may receive it as a good advice. You can explain God’s character to them and they may walk away more “enlightened.” But one day, my friends and your friends will stand before God.
And the question will be: What did you do with you sin? Did you try to be your own savior or did you let Jesus be your Savior? What did you do with your life? Did you try to be in control of your own life or did you submit yourself to God?
I’ve got a friend who I met 8 months ago. I’m not even at the point of explaining God’s character to him yet. I’m still trying to get to know him and diagnose his little gods. Calling for repentance in our friends doesn’t happen overnight. But if we’re going to be faithful in communicating the gospel, it has to happen.