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Strategic Friendship Evangelism
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By Del Dunavant
 
God has done so much for us!  Not only has He solved our sin problem, He fills us with great joy and peace.  The natural desire of our hearts is to bring others to Him.  But herein lies a problem.  In our past, we’ve seen others try to manipulate people into becoming Christians and we don’t want to do the same.  Or, we’re afraid that if we share our faith that we’ll lose our friends. These, and other concerns, are real.  So, let me share with you simple, yet effective ways I‘ve learned to naturally lead people to Jesus. 
 
No human can convert another; this is the work of the Holy Spirit.  Therefore, to begin sharing Christ with others, one must begin to pray that God will lead them to those ready to receive Him and for the right words to use.  The ShareHim organization has a prayer booklet that greatly helps me to do this.  (Or, go to iTunes and download the ShareHim app.)  On each page I write the name of a friend.  Daily in prayer, I claim 1 John 5:16 that God will give me “life” to give to each person in my booklet.  Each time I have a significant encounter with this person I record it in this booklet.  When I’ve had a number of these encounters I invite them to a social event (see below).
 
I regularly visit my neighbors and friends and try to build a redemptive relationship with them.  Often I bring something I’ve made; like a pen or baked goods.  After chatting with them, I say, “If you are ever overwhelmed and you want someone to pray for you, would you please ask me?”  Sooner or later, I’ve found, most will come to you for prayer.  Before long, when they have spiritual concerns or needs, they’ll be talking with you about them.
 
Even though I’m naturally shy, whenever I see a person, I smile at them.  If they smile back, I talk about anything.  If they talk back, I drop a “God hint.”  In other words, I bring God into the conversation.  For example, “Hasn’t God given us a beautiful day?”  If they ignore the God hint, I know they are not ready for Christ.  However, so many times this opens the floodgates of their desire to talk with anybody about their spiritual needs.
 
Jesus went about doing good.  We need to do the same.  Do random acts of kindness for your neighbors and friends.  If you know of someone taking a trip, offer to pick up their mail, take care of their animals, etc.  Or, join a service organization in your community.  Build relationships with all of these people so when they have spiritual concerns, they will know that you are a safe person to talk to.
 
You could also invite your neighbors and friends to social events in your home.  Whenever you do outdoor activities, invite them to go with you.  In other words, share your fun times with others.  Once they get used to having fun with you, invite “safe” Adventist friends along too.  In other words, I want my friends to have many Adventist friends.  Because in today’s world, people have to “belong before they’ll believe.”  As Adventists, we tend to do the reverse of this.  When you believe what we believe, then you can get baptized and belong to this church.  When my friends have many Adventist friends, they will begin to feel like they belong among us.
 
When you have won the trust of your neighbors and friends and they are developing friends with safe Adventists, invite them to your church’s felt-need seminars.  Just make sure each Adventist present understands the primary reason for these seminars is to develop relationships with the attendees.  When the people of our community find out that Adventists are loving people, people who are genuinely interested in them and their wellbeing, they will enjoy being part of our fellowship.
 
Whenever your church holds special events, like Mother’s Day, Memorial Day, Thanksgiving, Christmas, etc., invite them to attend.  If you have been doing the above, they will feel comfortable joining you for these special occasions. Inviting friends to special events is one of the most effective ways to bring people into our churches.
 
When you’ve been praying daily for your friends, when you’ve been building redemptive relationships with them, praying for them, at some point they will ask about your faith.  Have a simple, concise, explanation of the gospel well thought out and ready to give (see 1 Peter 3:15).  It helps me to remember three letters when sharing the gospel, which are P. S. A.  P.S.A. stands for problem, solution, and acceptance.  First explain our problem.  We’ve rebelled against God, separating ourselves from Him, and so we experience the problems of life and eventually death.  If they have a Christian background, I share Romans 6:23 (the wages of sin is death).  Then I give them God’s solution, “But the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”  If I have time, I’ll read Ephesians 2:8-9, telling how this gift comes through faith.  We must act as if this is true by asking God for His gift of eternal life through prayer.  Then I lead them through the “sinner’s prayer” which includes the following. (1) I realize I’m a sinner and deserve death. (2) I accept your gift of eternal life. (3) I want You to be my Savior and Lord. (4) Thank you for giving me Your gift.
 
As soon as they are through praying this prayer, I ask them if they now have His gift.  If they aren’t sure, I read 1 John 5:11-13. I conclude with sharing a Bible promise with them because Paul said, “it is the goodness of God that leads to repentance” (Rom. 2:4).  Then I secure an appointment with them to help them become consistent with a devotional life.  In their devotionals I keep them focused on the Gospels, slowly reliving each scene.  Weekly, I hold them accountable and encourage whatever progress they make.
 
Once they developed some consistency in their devotional life, I’ll ask, “Have you understood everything you’ve read in the Gospels?”  They almost always say, “No”. Then I ask, “Could I share with you the major themes of the Bible, so you could get more out of it?”  Almost always, they plead for me to do this.  Simply put, I’m asking if they want Bible studies.  
 
Remember bringing people to Jesus is something only God can make successful.  Unite with Him in prayer; serve as His hands and lips to reveal His love to them.  Many, throughout eternity, will thank you!
 
Del Dunavant is the director of Church Growth/Evangelism for the Northern California Conference