(Black Coffee. See www.mio.co.za).
A while back I read a book called Kiss and Tell by Pete Gilbert.
The book is about evangelism and looks at how friendship evangelism (or relational evangelism or lifestyle evangelism) trumps other kinds of evangelism in terms of overall effectiveness.
The basic idea is that we ought to evangelise through friendships with people, rather than do ‘cold-turkey’ evangelism such as door-to-door evangelism, big events, or even things such as TV.
Not that those don’t have merit, it’s just that they’re not as effective overall.
Where this really makes sense is in the statistics. As can be seen in a PDF which summarises the statistics in the book, in a US survey of 15,000 people, 80 percent of people said they came to faith in Christ through a friendship. Only one percent said they came to faith in Christ as a result of a “crusade” (who actually likes that word?); one percent due to a visitation; one percent because of a ‘crisis’; three percent because of a cold church contact; three percent because of a church event; five percent because of Sunday School and six percent because of contact with church leaders.
When you check out the factors leading to conversion you’re greeted by some more shocking numbers. Out of 500 UK Christians, zero percent (probably rounded off, but still) said they were influenced by Christian radio/TV. Zero percent! Yet so much money is pumped into TV evangelism, isn’t it?
Also, you’ll see that 69 percent say their “conversion” was a ‘gradual’ coming to Christ and 31 percent immediate (like a Damascus road experience). Conventional evangelical Christianity likes the Damascus road experience, yet more Christians appear to be saying their ‘conversion’ was gradual — step by step. Clearly, when a seed is planted there are things happening under ground we don’t see, and we don’t give this enough credit at all.
Evangelism is best done through friendship, then, but it must be intentional. We can’t be everyone’s friend but never share the faith and hope we have. I’ve found that being myself has the most effectiveness. In other words, what do I talk around my Christian friends? Why can’t I talk about those things to my non-Christian friends? It’s who I am, after all.
Furthermore, true friendship is what is needed here. We cannot claim to be someone’s true friend unless we share with them what gives us life and joy. At the same time, our intention is to be their friend, not to get some sort of badge for getting another one saved. Discipleship is a relational, friendship dynamic.
So what does the Bible say? In most examples, it appears that Jesus made evangelism some sort of discipleship process.
Look at the story of Zaccheus in Luke 19. Jesus accepted Zaccheus as a friend first (vs 5), and then later salvation came to his house (vs 9). It’s a touching story.