The Barna Group recently released a fascinating report on how adults respond to evangelism. Among the findings, adults preferred faith interactions sparked out of sincere engagement rather than depersonalized outreach efforts. The takeaway? Nonbelievers are most receptive to faith conversations when they occur in the context of genuine relationship.
This topic is of great importance to us as believers, especially since the way we accomplish the Great Commission to make disciples can sometimes feel awkward or intimidating. In years past, the Church’s evangelism strategy focused more on a “reaping” mentality versus one of “sowing.” But the world is filled with millions of people who are on a spiritual journey. Many are not yet ready to attend church or make a decision to follow Christ, but they are open to relationships and to making small decisions that will move them closer to Christ.
I believe that if we redefine evangelism to mean leading each person we encounter a step closer to Jesus, we would approach outreach with more gentleness and confidence.
Several years ago, my wife, Pam, and I decided to pattern our lives in a way that would cause frequent and organic interactions with people in various stages of their faith journey. Rather than frequenting five different coffee shops, three grocery stores, and seven different restaurants, we brought focus to where we spent time. Now, we are “regulars” at a handful of places where we sow relationships through regular interaction. These small, casual interactions lead to real relationships through which we connect about meaningful matters of the heart.
We’ve also made a concerted effort to be “sowing” through acts of love and hospitality in our neighborhood. This has led to a number of fun relationships that are moving people toward Jesus!
First Peter 2:12 commissions us to “Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.” Perhaps the best way to accomplish Peter’s command is to reach out to serve and connect with those in our community. As we naturally befriend those yet to know Jesus Christ, we draw others closer to Him.
What would it look like if our outreach was less agenda-driven and more characterized by love, patience, and confidence that the Spirit knows the right timing? Every encounter we have with another person, believer or not, has purpose. Through patient sowing, we can see people wooed ever closer to the Kingdom of God through the presence of Christ they experience through us.