Have you thought about a resolution or goals for this new year? I know I have. Among other things, I want to lose 10 more pounds, exercise daily, and get into a more consistent rhythm of writing several times a week. Perhaps more than all of these, in 2018 I want to more fully embrace a Great Commission lifestyle in the power of the Holy Spirit that results in seeing many of the lost and broken people in my sphere of influence begin to follow Jesus
If that last goal of mine interests you, let me share with you one thing that I have learned that is absolutely essential — To make new disciples of Jesus, you must make new friends with not-yet-believers.
This morning in my normal time set apart with God I came across a revealing example from the lifestyle of Jesus that speaks to this principle. In Luke 9:11 we are told that crowds of people were following Jesus. Then Luke adds; “He welcomed them and spoke to them about the Kingdom of God, and healed those who needed healing.”
Notice the progression:
The Kingdom principle that we learn here is that to engage the lost and the broken effectively with the good news of God, one must actually be among the lost and broken. Jesus had a lifestyle of welcoming such people. His life and heart was open and hospitable to the religiously marginalized among the masses.
Today there is a renewed interest among many Christians to proclaim the gospel in relevant ways to pre-believers. A few are even trained and able to pray for the sick. Yet most are seriously lacking the discipline and lifestyle of welcoming the lost and broken as Jesus did.
To make disciples as Jesus commissioned us to do, we have to first make friends with pre-believers through cultivating a welcoming heart. Here are a few things I have learned that are helpful in cultivating authentic friendship with non-believers:
- Identify the pre-believers in your neighborhood and networks.
- Begin praying for them.
- Go and be where they are as led by the Holy Spirit.
- Utilize or develop mutual areas of interest with those far from God.
- Discover and exercise relevant ways to eat, drink, play and generally hang out with them.
- Invite those who eventually become spiritually curious to connect with your interesting friends who follow Jesus.
- Develop a pattern of welcoming not-yet-believers into your home and into your life.
These simple ideas are consistent with the exhortation that the apostle Paul offered the believers at Colossae where he wrote;
Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone” (Colossians 4:5,6).
Welcome proceeds proclamation and other forms of ministry. When you get this order right, proclaiming and demonstrating the gospel will be more naturally/supernaturally within your reach. Kingdom ministry happens best from an environment of relational relevancy.
If you are interested in taking some practical steps in cultivating a lifestyle of relational relevancy with non-believers, take a few minutes to consider the following questions:
- Who are the pre-believers in your neighborhood and existing networks? List them.
- How and when can you go and be where they are?
- What mutual areas of interest do you share with people far from God?
- Who could you soon invite into your home, or to share a cup of coffee or a hobby with?
Before I sign off, I want to ask you to consider doing a couple things for me:
- If you were inspired by this post, hit the “like” button and/or leave a comment.
- Forward this post to others you know who you think might be interested.
- Consider connecting with a few friends and talk through this post, and specifically the “Questions” listed above.
- In the comment section below, share with me your “next step” in cultivating friendship with not-yet-believers in your sphere of influence.
May you and I see many not-yet-believers discover Jesus and the life that he has made possible in the year to come. That would make it a truly Happy New Year!