“But he, desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, ‘And who is my neighbor?’” (Luke 10:29). In
a world that has seemed to go off the deep end by not caring about
others, the question “Who is my neighbor?” seems to be out of place. The
world is saying to each of us: “Take care of you and don’t worry about
the rest of humanity.” This is a very scary thought, especially when
Jesus tells us plainly that our neighbor is not just the person who
lives on the same block as us but everyone in the world. So what does
this statement mean to you and me?
Let’s start off with the fact that we have the responsibility and the
privilege to share some very important news with those around us. Yet,
how do we share this valuable news with others? There are many ways to
do this but not all have the best of results.
There is the “door-to-door salesman” technique. That type almost never
works and, in a day and age when knocking on someone’s door might get
you hurt, it is probably not the way the go. If you look at statistics
of each type of evangelism effort you will find that door to door is one
of the least effective ways to share the Gospel.
Then there is the type of evangelism I call “door is open evangelism:”
“The church’s doors are open and they can come in any time they want!” I
have heard this come out of more than one parishioner’s mouth and
unfortunately I have also heard a pastor say it. Yes, that is very true,
our doors are open, or at least appear to be open, to anyone. How many
churches do you know of that are growing with this type of evangelism?
There are none that I am aware of.
The Most Effective Way of Sharing Jesus
So, what way would work the best? One of the most effective ways I know
from experience is to make friends. This way seems to be the most
effective way to share your faith. Now, I want to be clear: It is not us
who bring people to faith. Someone coming to faith is the work of the
Holy Spirit through the means of grace. These means are the Word of God
and the Sacraments. Yet, as the Scriptures say, “How then will they call
on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in
him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without
someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As
it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good
news!” (Romans 10:14–15). This Word of God is not only proclaimed from
the pulpit in sermons but it is literally proclaimed as we go out into
the world and speak of His truth with our neighbors; whenever we share
what God has done in our lives.
Taking the Word out of the church and into the community is needed as
well. We—each one of us Christians—are needed to proclaim God’s Word. We
are the hands and feet of God on earth. Make no mistake that we are to
be out in the world letting it know who Jesus is and what He has done
for all who believe in Him. The greatest impact we can have for the
spread of the Gospel is when we become friends with people and then,
when the opportunity arises, to proclaim Jesus crucified and resurrected
There are many programs that teach various styles of friendship
evangelism. The LCMS has one called Everyone a Witness. Also, the book
Joining Jesus on His Mission by Greg Finke has a lot of valuable
Friendship is the key to any of these programs working for you, but it
must be a genuine friendship. If your only motivation to become
someone’s friend is so that they come to your church, or if you plan to
drift away from them after they come to faith, then you need to rethink
why are you becoming their friend and why are you sharing Jesus with
them in the first place. Friendship with someone should be a lifelong
commitment, just as Jesus made a lifelong—even more than that,
eternal—commitment to all who believe in Him and walk in His ways.
We all have made friends throughout our lives. Some are lifelong friends
and others are really only acquaintances, not true friends. You see,
becoming a friend to someone means more than just discussing the weather
or having a beer with them on a hot summer’s day. True friendship shows
up in your friend’s life when they need you most. A friend is there for
the one who is going through a difficult time. I think about a friend
of mine who was going through the loss of his wife. She was killed in a
car accident. He would wake up in the middle of the night crying and
couldn’t deal with the pain he was feeling. He would call me and talk to
me on the phone at all times of the day or night. There were many times
when I climbed out of bed, got dressed, and went over to his house and
sat with him and listened to his pain. I lost many hours of sleep as he
moved through this time of pain. But that was not what was important.
What was important to him and to me was that we were friends and friends
are there for friends in any circumstance. My friend was not a
Christian. He had heard about Jesus but never felt or believed that
Jesus was for him. It took many visits in the middle of the night and
many long conversations on many subjects before he ever got around to
asking me why I believed in Jesus.
Why Should I Care?
So we know that friendship evangelism is the most effective way of
sharing Jesus. But why should I care about evangelism? Why should I
worry? It is a pretty simple answer, but the follow-through is not that
easy. The answer is in Matthew 28:18–20: “And Jesus came and said to
them, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go
therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name
of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to
observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always,
to the end of the age.”
Jesus calls all who believe in Him to make disciples. Yet, some fall
into the category of “believing in Jesus but it is not my responsibility
or privilege to proclaim the Gospel.” Those who want to believe but do
nothing miss out on a great privilege—seeing someone come to faith in
Jesus. Standing on the sidelines was not Paul’s way of doing things.
Paul was in a race—a race of time, a race for life. The race of time was
the time he had left on earth to proclaim the Gospel. The race for life
was about all the people who would be lost if he did not proclaim the
Gospel to them. It was a race he was compelled to run, not because of
fear but because of love. Love for all people in his world.
Let us run that race the same way with love, not fear. Love for all