My wife and I never set out to be missionaries in a foreign land. Heck, we never even knew missionaries existed until we were teenagers. We discovered the likes of David Livingstone and Jim Elliot whenever some volunteer youth worker would share their stories during the youth service. I was a full-fledged “Big Church” attender (adult) when I understood that there were still missionaries in the field spreading the gospel.
What we heard more often than not was that we needed to pray for the people in these far-away lands and we needed to fill the pews with our friends. We took that to heart. It was serious business. We thought of nearly every way possible to secure a confirmation for a visit to our Sunday morning Jesus-fest from our unrepentant pals. The problem was that we didn’t have that many non-Christian acquaintances. We needed sinners.
Being that we didn’t have a Sin Mart nearby and the Sinners-R-Us hadn’t opened yet, we sifted through our past. We started remanufacturing relationships with old high school buddies or reconnecting with that scout troop from days gone by. The best contacts were the people who were new to us, folks we had never met before. They weren’t wise to our agenda of love. We really felt like we were making some ground for God’s cause with these unsuspecting targets.
I remember one conversation we had in our house during this time. We had a friend-of-a-friend over for several hours just hanging out, talking and snacking. It was a Saturday afternoon and our mark had just announced that he needed to leave. Not wanting to miss this prime opportunity, Christie, my wife, asked if he would like to go to church with us in the morning.
The guest’s answer: “I’m not really into organized religion.”
Without missing a beat, Christie replied, “Then you’ll love our church. We hardly ever start on time, we change the order of service on the fly, and we sing off-key, but it’s ok because the piano is a little out of tune. There’s nothing organized about us!”
He was caught in “no man’s land” like a squirrel crossing the street in traffic. Our prey couldn’t possibly have anticipated that answer. He bobbed left, then right, and then left again. Eventually, I think he did attend a service or two, although I don’t remember him deciding to follow Christ. Huh.
By God’s grace and the prayers of our unrepentant friends we learned to be a little more tactful with our friendship evangelism. We began to use love and service to others as a start. With the guidance of verses like
1 Thessalonians 2:8 … so we cared for you. Because we loved you so much, we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well.
We changed the way we approached people in general and in turn God gave us great friends. It turns out people are people and not cattle to be counted then put in the barn. We opened our home and young adults began to come. Some were Christian and some not; some changed and some didn’t but they were our friends none the less. We stepped back and realized that Christ didn’t bait-and-switch the people He engaged in the Bible. He just baited them, with love.
You ever pull a Christian fast one on some friends?