Posted by: Brian Musser | May 28, 2012

Relational Evangelism

As a Campus Minister I am privileged to see the world from a unique perspective.  I intimately understand the Church.  I know the passion, the heart, the intentions of Church as it tries to connect with the world around them.  Because of this understanding the Church, specifically the Baptist churches around Philadelphia, thought it was prudent to send me as their emissary to Drexel University.   It is my task to speak for the body of Christ into the academic community at Drexel.  I take that assignment very seriously.  But the coin has another side to it.  I work at the university.  I spend most of my time not in the church but outside of the church within the academic community, with students, faculty, professional and administration.  Most of my daily relationships are with persons I would never know if I spent all my time within the walls of a church.  As well as one can understand friends and colleagues and coworkers, I understand those around me.  I know who they are, what they want, their hopes and dreams.  This gives me the unique perspective.  I am a liaison between the Church and those who aren’t connected to the Church.  I get to make introductions for Christianity to strangers of Christianity, or old distant acquaintances.  Ultimately, I get to present Jesus Christ to a community that doesn’t always understand what the Church is saying about Him.  Basically, my job at its very core is evangelistic.  I am to share the story of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of God, in such a way at Drexel that those who hear it find it meaningful and convincing so that they want to establish a relationship with Him.

As I have done this task for seven years, I have noticed some things.  My unique perspective has produced questions.  Some these questions revolve around a disconnect I have seen between how we teach evangelism and how most Christians have come to faith in Christ.  Informally I asked most of the Christians I know to tell me their story of how they “got saved,” “came to Christ,” “became a Christian.”  I do not have a statistical evaluation of these stories just a general sense.  If you are a Christian and want to play along please consider answer the poll here.

Relationships Were Vital in Most of us coming to Christ

It has been my observation that most people establish a relationship with Christ because of either a close friend and/or a family member.  Maybe your story is different but it seems that most of our stories revolve around an extended relationship with an individual who plays a significant role in us committing our lives to Christ.  I personally came to Christ because of my mother taking me to church where the volunteer children’s teacher and the pastor of the church had the opportunity to develop a relationship with me over time and share the Gospel with me.  I came to Christ because persons I trusted asked me to.  I know I am not alone in my story.  I would venture a guess that most of our stories revolve around a significant person or persons leading you to Christ.

Working at Drexel has led me to a significant conclusion.  Christians are normal people.  I know a lot of Christians.  I know a lot of people you do not identify as Christians.  There is very little difference between the two groups.  They have the same wants and needs, hopes and desires.  They find the same things interesting, meaningful and purposeful.  They communicate basically the same way.  The only basic difference is the effect Christ has had on their lives.  I say this to make one specific point.  The way you came to faith in Christ is exactly how others will.  Your human experience of finding meaning, hope, purpose, grace through the life, death and resurrection of Christ is exactly how others will as well.  You are a normal person and there are other normal people out there that will connect directly with your story.  The way someone was vital in the story of you connecting with Christ, the way someone through their relationship with you communicated the truth of the Gospel is the way you will be able to communicate that truth to others.  Since, relationships were vital in our coming to faith in Christ, we should naturally assume that they will be central in us leading others to Christ.

Most Evangelism Training Does Not Center on Sharing through Relationships

Now this is where the disconnect comes in for me.  If most of us have come to Christ through these significant relationships, why do most of evangelism resources and trainings concentrate on getting us to share with people we do not necessarily have a relationship with?  Instead of training people to talk to the person next to them on the plane about Christ, why don’t we equip them to talk to people next to them at the dinner table about Christ?  Instead of training people to communicate the Gospel in five minutes from start to finish, why don’t we train them to communicate the Gospel consistently over five years day in and day out?  Instead of training people to communicate the Gospel to people we may never see again and don’t really care about, why don’t train them to communicate the Gospel to those we most deeply care about?

What If You Were Equipped to Share Christ through Your Relationships?

I’m not sure if I know how to do this but I am trying.  I am trying t o design my life in such a way that I concentrate on communicating what I believe to those I’m most intimately connected.  I am concentrating on telling my story to the world but specifically to that part of the world that enjoys listening to me most often.  I am intentionally sharing what believe not as much on subways and street corners but at picnics and on long car rides.  Then I’m also working on how we equip “church folk” to see this as the way to share our faith.  So that evangelism becomes about sharing the most important thing we believe to be true with the most important people in our lives.  Can you imagine the joy possible in doing evangelism this way?

Allow me to end this briefly with some Theology.  I try to be extremely orthodox in my Christian beliefs.  I am a Trinitarian.  That means that I believe that God by nature is three distinct persons so united that they are truly one essence and being.  If the Trinity is true then God’s very nature is relational.  God has spent an eternity in loving relationships between the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  I believe that this eternal loving relational God is the very Ground of the entire Universe, therefore, it makes sense that God would be more easily communicated to others through loving relationships because God is defined by loving relationships.  It is easy to communicate a loving God if there is already a loving relationship present.   Loving relationships I believe are the exact and perfect way God desires to be communicated to others.  So let us strive to use the tool we have been given to communicate the God we know to those we love.

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