Just a Thought | Friendship Evangelism
Here’s one reason that the church can’t rely on ‘friendship evangelism’ alone – mathematics.
Some areas of the church have been very vocal on the benefits of friendship evangelism over the last few years and for very good reason too. Sharing our faith with friends doesn’t involve talking to strangers, it rarely evokes a hostile reaction, there aren’t really any cultural barriers to be crossed and you usually get a warm reception. None of which can be guaranteed when embarking on ‘a mission.’
There is a down side of course in that we are more concerned what our friends might think of us if we talk to them about our faith than when sharing with strangers and we wonder whether it will spoil our relationship. There’s much that could be said about this but that’s the topic of a different article.
So if ‘friendship evangelism’ is so easy and productive, what’s the problem and where do mathematics come into it, you may ask? To answer that we need to start with the instructions Jesus gave to his disciples just before returning to heaven.
Jesus’ last words to his disciples are, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” We know this verse as “The Great Commission” and it is found in one form or another in all four Gospels.
Here’s where the maths comes in. In order for us to be able to fulfill the Great Commission our corporate friendship circles would need to extend to everyone. Before you quote the “six degrees of separation” theory to me let’s take a look at the mathematics from a UK perspective.
Depending on which figure you use, the number of people who are Christians is around 5%. That means that if we are to fulfill the Great Commission to reach the population of the UK we all need to have 20 non-Christian friends with whom we are sharing our faith.
On numerous occasions I’ve asked congregations to put up their hands if they have 20 non-Christian friends. When asked only a very small percentage put up their hands. Dropping the figure to 10 non-Christian friends produces a few more hands and reducing to 5 a few more. The results of my, granted not very extensive, research indicate that the majority of Christians within our churches have few if any non-Christian friends which is why the maths of friendship evangelism fails.
So what is the answer? Well it’s not to give up on friendship evangelism. The answer is for us to be more intentional. To be more intentional about sharing with our friends. To be more intentional about making friends with non-Christians. To be more intentional in our evangelism and discipleship.
There are as many different ways of evangelism as there are Christians. Some have been well tested over many years and skills can be learned. (Take a look at the details of the “Streetwise” training course for street evangelism) Other ways of creative evangelism are still to be discovered, maybe by you.
One final word about friendship evangelism. We should go out and join clubs and societies to make friends with non-Christians but we need to be careful to really make friendships for their own sake and not just as trophies to be collected.
Marten is an active Evangelist in Truro & National Director of OAC Ministries GB.