Make Friends, Not Just Converts

by Darrin Patrick March 3, 2016

I know why you dread evangelism. You don’t want to be that guy or that girl.

I was that guy. Before I became a Christian, I was a complete mess. My dad wasn’t around and once I got bigger than my mom, I did whatever I wanted. So, I became the high-school version of a frat boy. I was drinking all the time and hooking up with random girls—anything to feel pleasure.

Some guys I knew—seemingly normal guys—started talking to me about Jesus. I met Jesus and it changed everything. The “problem” was that these guys were really into tracts. So I became tract boy.

We passed out tracts everywhere. One year we went down to New Orleans on a missions trip and passed them out around Bourbon Street on Mardi Gras. I left tracts above the urinals for guys to peruse as they were doing their business.

I was obsessed with evangelism. It wasn’t just on mission trips. I would stop people on the street in my hometown and immediately share Christ with them. I remember one time. I approached this guy and here were the first words out of my mouth: “Do you know Jesus!?” Very subtle. There were no preemptive remarks: “Excuse me, I’m going to be the weird Christian talking to you. Do you mind if I ask you some questions.” Nope, just right into: “Do you know Jesus?”

Another time I followed a guy into a bathroom at McDonalds. He was trying to get away from me. I wouldn’t let him leave until he prayed with me, kneeling down beside the urinal.

I was that guy!

Here’s some good news: You don’t have to share the gospel the way I did. You don’t have to dread doing evangelism. And you don't have to treat it like a salespitch. Jesus certaily didn't.

The incarnation separates Christianity from all other religions. Christianity claims that God actually came and dwelt with humanity as a man (John 1:14). Jesus was not just a prophet with a spectacular vision or leader with extraordinary magnetism; he was the eternal God entering the world as a baby. But the incarnation was not only the way Jesus entered the world, it was the manner in which he did his ministry.

Jesus was intentional about the relationships he formed. Yes, there were occasions when he taught large crowds in big fields or the Temple courtyard, but often he based his ministry out of someone’s home. God came to be with people. 

Think about Jesus and Zacchaeus (Luke 19). Jesus shows up in town and people flood the streets to get a glimpse of him. Zacchaeus, a short but eager IRS agent, climbs up in a tree to see over the crowd. Jesus looks up at him and says, “hurry and come down, for I must stay at your house today” (v5). Can you hear the urgency and necessity in his voice? Zacchaeus came down right away, while the crowds looked on, grumbling, “He has gone in to be the guest of a man who is a sinner” (v7). Jesus could have stayed with anyone, but he chose to enter into this messy man’s life. 

Consider Jesus and Matthew. Here’s another tax collector that Jesus approached. He invites Matthew to follow him (Matthew 9:9), which results in Jesus inviting himself to Matthew’s house. Jesus gets to know Matthew’s life and friends. He hangs with them. He gets comfortable with them. We read that Jesus was “reclining at the table” and reclining with him were his disciples and “many tax collectors and sinners” (9:10). God came to be with people.

So how do we do what Jesus did? What does that look like for us to be with people as we share Jesus with them?

Let me give you three ideas:

1. Get out of the house

In Jesus’ day it was really hard to hide from your neighbors. They didn’t have Amazon prime around to deliver groceries to them. There were no TVs. They didn’t have Facebook or Twitter to simulate community. But even though we’ve got all these potential obstacles to connection, it’s not as hard to meet people as we make it out to be at times. There are events happening all the time. Concerts, open mics, neighborhood meetings, little league games are happening.  The question is: are you there?

2. Open up your house

Just because your neighbors are reclusive, they can still long for community. In fact, I bet many would love to have friends, but they don’t know how to make them. Instead of lamenting that your neighbors did not invite you to dinner when you moved in—or in the 3+ years you’ve lived there—why don’t you invite them to your dinner table. Suggest a progressive dinner or host an Oscar or Superbowl party. Be the hospitable neighbor you wish you had.

3. Do what you enjoy

Think back to the picture of Jesus in Matthew’s house. He’s “reclining” there. That language isn’t there just to describe the shape of the chairs. He’s lounging. There’s an easiness that Jesus had with that crowd. Given the reaction of the Pharisees (Matthew 10:11), he was probably enjoying himself. Jesus liked parties and he loved people. He simply did what he enjoyed and brought the kingdom of God to bear there.  We can do the same. We can actually bring Jesus into conversation while we enjoy people, activities and places.

These three things have been huge for me as I’ve pursued friendships with people outside of the church.

Originally published at DarrinPatrick.org