Winning the West: Friendship Evangelism
By: Pastor Harvey Seidel
Friendship evangelism... Oh, what a questionable phrase! Some people will get up in arms about that statement, but, really, if you don’t make friends with someone you probably won’t have LASTING fruit with them.
I guess the objection to “friendship evangelism” is that many just become friends and never work toward winning the friend to Christ, AND, that can be a danger. The opposite of friendship evangelism is to just witness to them and get a decision and move on. Lasting fruit comes with becoming a friend. It is important that we work toward winning others to Christ, and there is definitely a time to witness and seek to get a decision; however, in church planting, it is not getting decisions but rather making friends that builds a church ministry with those who get saved. Anyone can catch fish and leave them on the bank, and usually a varmint will get them. If we win someone to Christ and don’t seek to establish them into a local church, a varmint will get them. The cults boast that many of their “converts” are people, often won to Christ by a Baptist, but never discipled. So when the Jehovah Witnesses, the Mormons, or some other group comes along, they are right there to pick them up. A good fisherman takes the fish home, and makes good use of it.
Friendship evangelism is simply reaching people for Christ by being a friend to them. It’s a very effective way of getting out the Good News of the Gospel. Neighbors will want to have what you have if you are a good testimony of the saving grace of Christ. No one wants what you have if you are a poor witness of the Saviour. So, in practicing friendship evangelism, it makes us live a closer walk with the Lord and others. We are a Bible for others to read. Someone said we are the only Bible some people will ever read.
"We are writing the Gospel a chapter each day,
In the things that we do and the things that we say,
Others will read us, faithful or true
Say, what is the Gospel according to you?"
In friendship evangelism, as in so many other endeavors, your effectiveness will be determined by what you are, what you do, and what you say. We have found that those we become friends with, get to know, get them to come to church and hear the preaching, are those who "stick to it" when they get saved. 1 Corinthians 1:21 says “For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe.” There is just something about hearing the preaching that makes a man understand the Gospel.
Statistics say that it takes five different encounters with a Christian before an unsaved person will respond to the Gospel. So, five different people are going to have to meet that individual in some setting to reach him for Christ. If those stats are correct, you and I can get them involved in our friendship and soon they will be rubbing shoulders with other believers who have the same goal of being a friend to see them come to Christ.
Yes, we have an ulterior motive. That motive is to see them get saved! Others would say, "That is not a true friendship." It is if you are concerned for souls! Let me give you an illustration of what I am talking about. In our church in Thermopolis over the years we have seen some older, I mean “older” men, come to Christ. On one occasion a man was ill and several of our men befriended him, and helped care for him. This went on for several months. I had the joy to visit with him from time to time. On one occasion, he was in a sick bed and I visited with him, just briefly, and asked if I could pray for him. He hesitated, then said, "Yes, I would like that." On another visit, I said, “May I share the gospel with you?", again, a hesitation. "Yes," he said, "I believe I would like that." After sharing the the plan of salvation I asked the question if he would like to receive Christ as his Saviour? He said, "Yes, I would." That would not have taken place had some of the men and women of our church not become friends with this family, sharing the truth of Christ. By the way, his wife also got saved that day. After having him pray to receive Christ, I turned to her and asked if she would like to do that too. She responded: “I did it when he did it.” There was a big grin on her face!
They accused Jesus of being "...a friend of publicans and sinners..." (Matthew 11:19). He offered friendship to all kinds of people - name a few and you will understand what I am talking about: Zachaeus, Nicodemus, the woman at the well, the woman with the issue of blood. You can name more.
Paul became friends with a lot of different people and built churches on those friendships. Study the Scriptures and see if this principle holds true.
Harvey Seidel recently retired as the Pastor of First Baptist Church of Thermopolis where he had pastored for 26 years. Before Thermopolis, he was the founder and director of Baptist Church Planting West where he spent 30 years in Church planting all over the West. Bible teaching and expository preaching define the pulpit ministry of Pastor Seidel. Making the Bible both real and practical is his goal in ministry