Evangelism. That word scares a lot of Christians. It scares me at times. When I think about the weight of the Great Commission and look at how many lost people there are in the world it just overwhelms me. How can they all be reached? There’s not enough time! It’s too great a responsibility!
The Great Commission is a great responsibility. But the truth is that reaching people with the love and message of Jesus Christ is often a one-at-a-time, person-by-person process. It requires patience and perseverance and also a love for and commitment to individual people. One of the best tools we have in making disciples is what is commonly referred to as “relational evangelism.” We develop friendships with people who don’t know Christ, and through our interaction with them, the love and message of Christ is shared. This brings me to my point: to build relationships with people who don’t know Christ, we must be able to relate to them.
We must find common ground with the lost around us, to build bridges and allow Christ to be made known in their lives. As Christians, we sometimes make this harder than it is. We feel like we have nothing in common with non-Christians and, worse yet, think that we shouldn’t have anything in common with them. In fact, we work hard so that we don’t have anything in common with them. But this is plain wrong. Jesus didn’t retreat from the world around him—he spent time with people and built relationships with them. He related to them. He met them where they were. And we are to do the same. How? Here are some suggestions for building common ground.
First, when you are looking for common ground with non-Christians, it’s best to find it in things you are genuinely interested in. If you fake interest to build relationships, people will see through it and will not trust you. God has given you your own unique interests and passions so that you could reach out and minister to people with those same passions and interests. Are you a computer nerd? Then build relationships with non-Christian computer nerds! You speak their language already. You think the same way. And they will relate to you more than, say, football players. (That’s not to say that you need to limit your relationships to people just like you—that would be a tragedy! But effective missionaries use the languages they already know and experiences they already have to minister to people that understand those languages and experiences. If you are into drama, you’ll speak the language that non-Christians in drama will understand. Use that to your advantage.)
Second, continue to develop the interests and passions God has given you. Don’t conform to what you think a Christian should look or be like. So what if none of the Christians you know BMX or dress in black? As long as your interest doesn’t lead to sin, then go do it! You may be the only Christian at the BMX track—they need you there. If you don’t go and build connections with other BMX’ers, who will? Your mom probably won’t.
Third, a word of caution: remember that it is Christ in you that will cause people to sit up and notice. Don’t be so consumed in your passions, your appearance, or your subculture that you lose sight of your Lord and Savior. You must identify with Him first and foremost. People will truly want what you have if Christ is bursting out of you, not if you fit a certain style or if you speak their language perfectly.
Finally, here are some ideas for finding common ground:
- Food: Seriously! Everyone loves food! People love to eat and talk—there’s something spiritual about breaking bread with other people. If you really like that sushi place in your town, find a non-Christian to go with you. Maybe you can make a habit of eating sushi together every month. Over time, you can build a true friendship where you can share Christ.
- Books, Movies & Music: People have really specific tastes in books, movies, and music. Find people with similar tastes and talk about them. If you love reading westerns, talk to the non-Christians you know who enjoy them as well. This can be a great way to bring in conversation about philosophy, truth, and God.
- News & Current Events: We are all interested in different types of news: sports, finance, politics, technology, etc. Find people who keep up on the same things and talk to them. The more you talk, the more opportunities you’ll have to take your relationships deeper.
- Sports & Recreation: Often, people need to do things with you to be close to you. Learn to rock climb like you always wanted to, and develop relationships with other rock climbers. Like to sew? Start hanging out with crafty people. Have crafting parties at your house. Investing time and energy in people’s lives can help even the most anti-Christian person open up to you.
Try taking inventory of yourself in each of these areas and start looking and praying for opportunities. You may find that you are already in position for relational evangelism. If not, the Lord will open them up to you if you ask.