Regarding Friendship Evangelism

Working my way through John Leonard’s book Get Real: Sharing Your Everyday Faith Every Day and I was struck by some of the comments he makes concerning friendship evangelism:

[T]he conventional wisdom today is that friendship evangelism is the only form of evangelism. We all have a story of who we led a friend to Christ, or even how we came to faith through the influence of a friend. In fact, friendship is so stressed that it would seem that “being a friend” is all that’s needed to win people to Christ. It is this underlying belief that is so unbiblical (p. 65).

[…]

What does our Lord ask us to do? He asks us to love our enemies (Luke 6:27), pray for those who persecute us (Matthew 5:44), and bless those who curse us (Luke 6:28). Fully biblical evangelism is, in fact, enemy evangelism – loving, blessing, and praying for our enemies. We don’t need Jesus in order to love our friends – most of the time! We don’t have to rely on his grace to be kind to those we care about. Therefore, the world pays no attention to our bold statements about how different Christ has made us when there’s nothing extraordinary needed to love and care for our friends alone (pp. 65-66).

[…]

Enemy evangelism is dependent on Christ and the Holy Spirit. Friendship evangelism puts the focus on us, limiting the power of the gospel to our ability to be friendly. At the heart of friendship evangelism is the unspoken belief that the more people know me, the more they will want Jesus (p. 66).

[…]

The paradigm driving friendship evangelism gives us an excuse not to witness because if we’re not a friend of the person we’re exempt from speaking to them. This may explain why so few Christians witness today – because they have so few friends and the friends they have are not interested in the gospel. We need to reverse the way we do things. Instead of making friends, hoping that one day they will be interested in the gospel, we should find people who are interested in the gospel and befriend them (p. 67).

 

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5 comments

  1. I’ve read several books on relational and friendship evangelism. I even review a few. The common critique of friendship evangelism is that this method is “actions alone.” Even the comments above seem to fall into that.

    I think the go-to fountain heads in this category would be Joe Aldrich, LIfestyle Evangelism, and the Becoming a Contagious Christian by Hybels.

    What I observe is that none of these books teach “actions alone.” Each a pretty clear that we need a verbal conversation with our friends.

    I don’t think “Actions alone” is the teaching of these books. I think personal fear blocks the sharing of our faith as these leaders encourage us to do.

    In other words, the failure of friendship evangelism is not a supposed teaching of “be nice” only, but the fear that paralyzes people from speaking when given the opportunity.

    I elaborate more on this “distortion” in a review of different evangelism styles:

    http://www.evangelismcoach.org/2013/a-comparison-of-3-evangelism-methods/

  2. Those are fair points, Chris, thanks for bringing them up. Based on what I’ve read of Leonard’s books so far, I don’t think he’d disagree with you on this, but is addressing some of the more extreme popular forms of FE.

    1. Does he cite a teacher or book that teaches actions only? I’m looking for one.

      I’ve read a lot of books over the years and don’t remember such a book.

      Doesn’t mean they don’t exist, but I’ve not read one.

      1. I’ve run into this idea alot – but I have yet to find a published author properly cited who teaches “actions only.”

        I think the “actions only” critique may try to explain the symptom – seeing people being inactive in sharing their faith. I don’t think the cause is a particular teacher or teaching.

        Instead, I think the cause of inactivity is more related to other things – like the lack of a genuine and profund relationship with Christ, inability to formulate the gospel in words, or a highly awkard fear of rejection.

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