by Peter Bryce
AFM affiliate cross-cultural worker
When I was first introduced to the idea of sharing Jesus with Muslims, I was advised to follow an approach called “friendship evangelism.” This method is much like it sounds, involving invitations into your home, taking outings together to local sites, weekly visits to get to know them and their family, and trying to help meet their “felt needs,” such as getting a driver’s license or tutoring in English. The objective was to win an opportunity to share the Gospel with your new Muslim friend.
It is always good to invest in friendships this way, regardless of your friend’s religious background. But this method of evangelism left me with some questions. What if my new friend does not come to my party because their government organized a competing religious event? What if my friend does show up— with their own friends and family–and I never get a chance to share the Gospel because they are all too busy enjoying the party? What if my friend’s government finds out that I am witnessing to students and moves them, or tells them to avoid me?
What if my friend becomes offended because, “I thought you were my friend, but you just wanted to convert me!” What if I go for years just trying to move the conversation off everyday life to Jesus, but I never seem to bridge the gap between friendship and evangelism. Does this sound familiar? I have experienced all of this…and more.
This afternoon, I went over to a Muslim friend’s house with whom I had not connected for a long time. As I shared how God had brought me and my wife together, the conversation turned naturally to his own relationship with God. He confessed to talking to God at night and reading bits and pieces of the Bible. I shared how access to the infinite God is based on a relationship with Jesus, not working one’s way into heaven. I could see his spiritual hunger growing and I left him with an invitation to study Scripture together.
The experience I just described is what I now call “relationship evangelism.” In relationship evangelism, I look to engage a non-believer in conversation about his relationship with God, or maybe his utter lack of such a relationship. I might ask a question or make an observation about the person’s faith, or sometimes God will miraculously reveal something to me about that person. Perhaps there is a physical need and an opportunity for God to demonstrate His healing power. In conversing with a non-believer about God, my own personal testimony is of paramount importance. I share about my relationship with God as a model for how my friend, too, can build a personal relationship with Him.
There are several reasons why this relational approach can be very effective. First, members of other religions are very community- and hence relationship-orientated. Relationship with friends, relatives, and God are what life is all about. Reinforcing this concept provides a very natural bridge for talking about God. Second, God does speak to all who call upon Him, regardless of what religious system they find themselves in. God hears and answers the earnest, heartfelt prayers of the Hindu, Muslim, or Buddhist. He seeks to establish relationship with all people. Speaking the language of relationship focuses on what God has already begun.
Focusing our evangelism on building a relationship with God points new believers to the heart of Christianity: Jesus dying on a cross to bring us into right relationship with God. We should emphasize not apologetics but establishing a relationship with God through Jesus.
I invite you to join AFM in building these life-offering relationships with those around you, that all may taste and see that the Lord is good (Psalms 34:8).