How to Share Your Faith With Those With Whom You Have an Ongoing Relationship
Relational evangelism is a term I use to describe evangelism that focuses on those with whom you have an ongoing relationship. That could be someone you see at work, someone with whom you work out with at the gym, or someone you enjoy some hobby or recreational activity together. It could be a barber or hairdresser, a neighbor, a friend from high school, someone at the check-out counter where you shop, or a server at a restaurant or coffee house. It could also be a doctor, dentist, nurse, or friends in a social group that you see on a somewhat regular basis.
The beauty of relational evangelism is that, over time, you can get to know them, build a relationship with them, find out where they are spiritually, and encourage them toward Christ.
An Example of Relational Evangelism
For example, let me tell you about my dermatologist. As always, this story is true, but the names have been changed to protect the innocent.
Dr. Chen is a dermatologist that I visit every six months. I’ve been building a relationship with him for the past several years. Dr. Chen is from a Hindu family. His family is loyal to their Hindu faith, but he is not very active or involved in it. During our appointments, I always seek to be an encouragement to him, find out what’s going on in his life and how I can pray for him, and remind him that God loves him.
Over a year ago, I shared the Share Your Faith app with him. He liked it and downloaded it on his phone, but he hasn’t looked at it since then.
Six months ago, I asked him if he would be open to reading something about Christianity. He said he would, so I gave him a copy of the Gospel of John because that is the best book for seekers and new believers to understand who Christ is and the life He offers. I suggested that he read a little bit every day.
Last week, at my six-month follow-up appointment, I asked Dr. Chen how he was doing with his reading of the Gospel of John. He said he was struggling. Then he asked, “Is it that difficult to understand for everyone, or is it just me?” (He is a brilliant doctor, yet so honest and humble.)
I said, “It’s not too difficult once you understand the context. Let me give you an analogy that will help you grasp the context a little better.” I then told Dr. Chen about prairie dogs.
The Prairie Dogs Analogy
I used to live in Colorado where they have a lot of prairie dogs. Prairie dogs are like squirrels that live in the ground. They come out of their holes, sit up on their haunches, and chirp or bark, and run around and play hide and seek with each other. They live in big families. I have a picture of two prairie dogs hugging each other. The caption reads, “Hugs feel good.” They’re fun to watch.
One day, I was alone in my parked car watching a group of prairie dogs play for about 45 minutes. I was thinking that the area where the prairie dogs lived and played was going to be a subdivision of houses, and bulldozers are going to come and wipe them all out. How do I tell the prairie dogs that destruction is coming and the way of escape? The only way I could do that is if I had the power to become a prairie dog so I could talk to them in their language and at their level.
But, the problem would be that if I became a prairie dog, I would be just as ignorant and oblivious to everything that’s going on, just like all the other prairie dogs are. So, somehow I would need to retain my nature, my intelligence, my essences as a man, and get into the body of a prairie dog. It would be like putting the soul of a man into the body of a prairie dog so that I could talk with them at their level and in their language but with the wisdom and knowledge of a higher created being.
“This is what God did; the infinite God of the universe came down to earth and got into the body of a man, and that man is Jesus Christ. Jesus said things and did things to prove that He was who He claimed to be.”
Dr. Chen said, “So, Jesus was giving proof or evidence?”
“Yes,” I replied. “When Jesus fed the crowd of 5,000, walked on water, calmed the storm, healed the blind man, etc., He was giving evidence that He was who He claimed to be.”
Dr. Chen said, “Okay. That really helps.”
I continued. “But, Jesus had enemies. The religious leaders of the Jews were threatened by Him because the people were beginning to follow Christ instead of them. Jesus was offering forgiveness, eternal life, and a personal relationship with God, and that was what the people wanted. Eventually, the threat to the Jewish leaders was so great that they put pressure on the Roman authorities to have Him executed.”
Dr. Chen said, “That’s happening a lot today around the world, like Venezuela, where the dictators eliminate those who threaten them.”
“Exactly’” I replied.
Dr. Chen said, “That is very helpful. Now that I understand the context, reading it will make a lot more sense. I’ll try again.”
“Great,” I said. “I’ll check with you in another six months.”
Relational Evangelism Takes Time
With Relational Evangelism, it is usually not “all the way in one play” where you bring a person to Christ at your first meeting. The process usually involves building a relationship, taking an interest in them, creating trust, and finding out how you can pray for them. It’s in that process that you help them find Christ. Their coming to Christ usually doesn’t happen all at once, but that is okay because follow-up is naturally built into your relationship. You will see them again.