Friendship Evangelism--Cultivating Your Cul-de-sac

Caring for someone else is a vital step in sharing the gospel, and everyone can be involved. The apostle John tells us about a caring experience from the ministry of Jesus: “The royal official said, ‘Sir, come down before my child dies.’ ‘Jesus replied, ‘You may go. Your son will live.’ . . . So he and all his household believed” (John 4:49-53, NIV).

Caring leads to Jesus. The family of this nobleman accepted Jesus because He cared enough to meet a need. A sick boy needed Jesus to heal him. Jesus cared enough for a family that He was not acquainted with to pause in His daily activity and meet a need. The caring spirit of Jesus led an entire family to accept Him into their lives.

You may not have the power to heal, but you do have the capacity to care, to love, as directed and guided by the Holy Spirit. Think about this statement: “The world will be convinced, not by what the pulpit teaches, but by what the church lives” (Ellen G. White, Testimonies for the Church, vol. 7, p. 16).

It works like this. A woman walked up to Joe Aldrich and said to him: “Remember me? I used to babysit for you 10 years ago. Someone shared Jesus with me two years ago, and I became a Christian. But I want you to know that I turned to Christ because of what I saw in your life 10 years ago. I could not figure out what made your home so different from mine. I used to read the books in your office while I was babysitting to try to figure it out.”

Referring to the gospel and Christianity, she then asked, “Is that why you waxed my dad’s car?” Joe went on to explain to me that the young lady’s dad loved cars, but a heart condition prevented him from maintaining them. So periodically he would go over and wash and wax his neighbor’s car for him. The neighbor would sit on a folding chair and talk to Joe as he worked. They did not talk about spiritual things, because Joe knew that the neighbor was not ready. But he was part of Joe’s “neighborhood network.” 

The gospel penetrated that family because of a can of wax, a conversation, and a curious babysitter.

No wonder Ellen White wrote: “Christ’s method alone will give true success in reaching the people. The Savior mingled with men as one who desired their good. He showed His sympathy for them, ministered to their needs, and won their confidence. Then He bade them, ‘Follow me’ ” ( The Ministry of Healing, p. 143).

The method that yields success in acquainting people with Jesus is being yourself! Are you a plumber, a mechanic, a medical professional, etc.? Do you like to shoot hoops, golf, knit, ride horses, shop, garden? Fill in this blank with one or more of your interests: ________________________. Whatever God has given you an interest in doing, someone else could benefit from it. It could simply be inviting them to join you in enjoying a shared hobby, or it might be meeting a need, such as Joe’s waxing of his neighbor’s car. That is the way you get started building relationships that will touch someone’s life with the gospel message.

Try it yourself. Here are some things your Sabbath School can do to focus on fellowship. On a piece of paper, have the members write down their hobbies and job skills. Have them turn to the person sitting next to them. Share with each other what you have written down. Discuss together how each of you might be able to use your hobbies and job skills in helping others in your neighborhood or community, or as a bridge to deepening friendships.

Now expand the group and discuss the following questions in groups of four or six. If the members are sitting in the sanctuary in pews, have them turn around and face the pew in front or back of them so that small clusters of people can talk together. Based on the previous quotation from The Ministry of Healing, have the members share their thoughts with one another.

Place the following questions on a PowerPoint slide or a display board, or have the members write them down:
  1. How many successful methods are there for reaching people? (Answer: Christ’s method alone.)
  2. Is it possible for other methods to bring some form of success, but not true success? (Answer: No matter how we choose to reach people, ultimately we must develop a friendship with those contacted in order for them to be comfortable and to feel loved, cared for, and accepted. For example, if you give a stranger a Bible study enrollment card and they request Bible studies, in order for them to find true fellowship in your local church, a relationship must be formed.)
  3. What are some examples of how we Sabbath School members can apply Christ’s method?

Friendship evangelism is the core of all successful outreach. It would be a valuable activity to go through the entire chapter “Teaching and Healing” in The Ministry of Healing and list all the soul-winning suggestions Ellen White mentions—all based on Christ’s method.

IN A NUTSHELL

  • Friendship evangelism is the basis of all successful soul winning. That’s why Ellen White emphasized it as “Christ’s method.”
  • The included activities help the members focus on their soul-winning possibilities.

Kurt W. Johnson
© 2014 General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists