Showing the road map for discipleship
Relationships are vital for evangelism. Here’s why: your life is quite possibly the only tangible model a non Christian has that shows them what being a Christian is like.
A central question people have is: what will my life look like if I follow what you are calling me to follow?
And you are the front and centre example.
There is another related reason. Not only are you part of the advert, you are also a person’s first view of the fruit the gospel produces in a Christian’s life. Before their very eyes, they see the change process the gospel continues to work in someone’s life.
And so you show the road map for discipleship.
Not going alone
Have you ever noticed that the New Testament doesn’t seem to have to spell out to new converts that meeting together and church community are part of walking the gospel out?
The letters to the Hebrews and Ephesians for instance have to remind people to get along with each other. But no one ever seemed to have the impression that once saved you went it alone – clearly ongoing relationships with others in community was part of the deal.
Relationships as part of ongoing discipleship were evident in the proclamation of the gospel. That is what we find in 1 Thessalonians:
5For we never came with words of flattery, as you know, nor with a pretext for greed—God is witness. 6Nor did we seek glory from people, whether from you or from others, though we could have made demands as apostles of Christ. 7But we were gentle among you, like a nursing mother taking care of her own children. 8So, being affectionately desirous of you, we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you had become very dear to us. [1 Thessalonians 2v5-8]
Paul says he shared the gospel and his life. No clever tricks. No flattery. He taught them the gospel. And his own life with his team was the model the new converts would emulate once he and his team had moved on.
They modelled love, care and hard work so as not to be a burden. And then in 4v1 Paul can say “We ask and urge you in the lord Jesus, that as you received from us how you ought to walk and to please God, just as you are doing, that you do so more and more.”
The relationships were part of the teaching and the teaching was part of the relationships.
The Thessalonians encountered the gospel in the context of relationship and a life modelled to them. What was left behind was a church that was deeply relational and lived the lifestyle they had seen modelled.
And that’s why we don’t advocate relationship as a neat way into the gospel. That would be using relationships in order to get a hearing for the gospel. Paul wasn’t into that. We advocate relationship because it is part of the gospel itself. And that means we will share lives with non Christian friends genuinely and speak the gospel (even though it will risk those relationships sometimes) so that we can model the gospel lifestyle to them.
For further reading see our evangelism module.