How can I reach my friends for Christ?

Reaching your friends for Christ requires more than just inviting them to church - it requires a genuine relationship.

All across the country, it has been go-time for pastors and the parishioners they lead. We are on the cusp of the Christian Superbowl: Easter Weekend. 

Easter weekend is the pinnacle for the Western Church. The committed, nominal, and barely hanging on ascend upon local churches for everything from Passion plays to helicopter egg drops. It's bananas. 

Churches are cleaned and polished as a veneer of hope covers everything. Why? So that folks like you and me can invite people to church.  It's based on our friendships.

Each One Brings One

Inviting people to church has been the means of winning the lost for the last few decades. Campaigns such as "Each one brings one" plaster church signs, buildings, and cards as we scour our neighborhoods and cities looking for people to invite to church. Borrowing from Ray Kinsella, we've held to a field of dreams approach: "If you build it, they will come." The thought is, build a shiny building, have attractive worship and preaching, throw bang-up events, and people will come. And never is the church more shiny, attractive, and banging than at Easter.  

The problem is this approach isn't effective. At least not anymore. Tim Keller wrote, "For 1,000 years, the Western Church's basic ministry model was premised on the social reality that people would be coming, prepared, and positive, and we would simply preach our sound biblical sermons to them. Increasingly, this is not the case." Keller is spot on; in the post-COVID Western world, people no longer feel obligated to attend church to maintain appearances. The reality is, if you build it, they're probably not coming. 

Most are privy to this, especially lost people. To many, Easter feels like a bait-and-switch. As Christians, we have to be careful not to view people as projects, lost souls to be conquered and won. We can learn from Eugene Peterson who said, "People are not problems to be solved. They are mysteries to be explored." When we treat people like problems to be solved, they know it. They can feel it. And, before long, they want nothing to do with it.

I've always been wary of friendship evangelism, and when I invite someone to church, I am committed to walking with them if they come. Why? Because the shine and polish of Easter eventually wear off. What then? What happens when you're face to face with your lost neighbors and co-workers, everyone asking themselves, "What now?" 

And please hear what I am saying. Inviting someone to church is not wrong. But it is not always helpful. First, there are things your church will do that a lost person will think weird—things that will make them uncomfortable. At least, they should. More so at Easter. Easter is the season we celebrate a dead guy coming back to life. He walks out of his tomb, and a few weeks later, He ascends to heaven. One day, He's coming back on a horse to rescue those who beleive. Many of us will "take of his body and drink the covenant of his blood" this weekend. It sounds weird because, well, it is weird. Here's the point: lost people should always be welcome in our churches, but they should not feel comfortable. It's not like they belong. If they feel comfortable and fit in, we need to rethink how we do church.

More importantly, the church, specifically the weekly gathering, was never designed to win the loss. Yes, the local church is the vehicle God has ordained to win that world. Still, the church, the weekly gathering, exists to equip and edify the saints (Eph. 4:12). Or, as John Calvin said, "the Church exists to make the invisible attributes of God visible to a watching world." You and I get to display God's attributes before a watching world, and we do this long before each one brings one to church. 


Persistent, Sincere, Bold Pursuit of People for God's Glory

The Gospel is the power to save (Ro. 1:16), and the Holy Spirit applies that power. Luther says, "I believe that I cannot, by my own reason or strength, believe in Jesus Christ my Lord, or come to him. But the Holy Spirit has called me through the Gospel, enlightened me by his gifts, sanctified and preserved me in the true faith."

Think about it like this: the Holy Spirit comes riding in on the chariot of the Gospel, and you and I get to drive the chariot (Luther). This is what evangelism is all about: daily we go, proclaiming the Gospel with our words and actions, putting the love and glory of God on display for a watching world to see. Evangelism is not JUST inviting people to a building. And it certainly is not forming friendships in hopes of saving souls. Evangelism is the persistent, sincere, bold pursuit of people for God's glory.


It's persistent. It does not happen overnight. You were not saved overnight. My guess is, in a thousand different ways, hundreds of people showed you and shared with you God's love. And at some point, it took root. At some point, you believed. Maybe you remember precisely when it was, like a torrential downpour. Or perhaps you were like me—you found yourself soaking wet only to realize you had been walking through the mist for a few years. Either way, you're wet. You changed. 

The people we are trying to usher into the Kingdom are on a spectrum. Maybe they're beginning their journey, and we get to till hard soil. They may be at the end, and we reap the fruit of other's labor. Either way, it is a process—one that takes persistence.


Sincere & Bold
It's sincere and bold. We are not trying to be friends with someone only to insert Christ a few months later. Marketing tactics are not good for the soul. The people I befriend, I always tell myself, "If they don’t become Christians, it won't change my love for them (my prayer life, maybe). I won't just move on to the next person." Moving from person to person may be the norm for Tinder, but it's terrible for evangelism. Sincere people fight the urge to swipe right. 

In other words, my relationship-building is always natural, not contrived. Most importantly, I am always me. People are not going to be saved by osmosis. I must boldly proclaim Christ and pray that He saves. I am honest with people about who I am—I am bold. I lead with God and celebrate Christ from the beginning. I do not manufacture God into my conversations months down the line. I'm bold. I always start as I mean to finish.


His Glory, Not Mine
It's for God's glory, not mine. People are not trophies. They are walking miracles created in God's image. If evangelism is a task, chore, or challenge, people become a means to an end. My witness becomes more about me, not them, and certainly not about God. Only when I understand that I plant and water, but God gives the growth, can my witness be sincere. 

I cannot save anyone. I am not God. Thus, when people come to Christ through me, it is the power of God working for the glory of God. Also, when people do not come to Christ through me, it is the sovereignty of God working for the glory of God. Accept or reject Christ, as long as I sincerely, boldly, and lovingly proclaim Christ, it is all in God's hands.


Think About This
Again, invite people to church this weekend, but be ready to do more. Evangelism is more than events and holidays; it is the persistent, sincere, bold pursuit of people for God's glory. The question is not, "Should I invite someone to church this weekend?" The question is, "Why am I not telling the people in my life about Christ?" 

Easter is not evangelism. You don't need Pasion plays and helicopter egg drops to share Christ. Christ died for and becasue of our sin. Three days later He rose and beat death. Becasue He rose, so will those who beleive in Him. That’s the story of Easter. And it’s the greatest story in the world. One worth telling.

Tell it. Be persistent. Be bold. Be sincere. Tell it for the glory of God.

Keep shining, 

— Harp