According to the Barna Research Group, after the average believer has followed Jesus for two years, he/she has NO relationships with lost persons. He/she knows many but fails to connect with them in any meaningful way. This should not be.
Speaking with His Father, Jesus said, “As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world.” Now, why did the Father send Jesus? “To seek and to save that which was lost.” Why then did Jesus send us? “To seek and to save that which was lost.”
The world into which our Lord sends us is drastically different than our Christian norms. America’s worldview is no longer theistic or morally absolute. Where once we could present the gospel assuming that we’d be understood, we can no longer do so. We hold presuppositions that most persons do not. Many unsaved picture Christianity with the colors of television evangelists, YouTube videos, and broadcast caricatures like Ned on the Simpsons.
Christianity, as our culture sees it is a philosophy that’s been tried and found wanting. It is old news, not good news. It is a cramp on a lifestyle rather than a freeing gift. How do we infiltrate such mindsets so that people understand the sweet grace of Christ’s gospel? We must accept and apply two principles. First, relational evangelism is the best method now. People always want to be loved and accepted, and that gives us a great foundation for connecting to communicate. Second, teaching the gospel within that relationship must usually replace simply sharing the facts of the gospel and a call to respond. The gospel presuppositions are just not recognized or accepted as in the past and understanding takes longer.
How then do we connect with unbelievers so that we can communicate Christ to them? Chapters 1 and 2 of John reveal at least eight insights into how Jesus made eternal links with lost people. We can transfer these practices to our culture and harness His tactics for building redemptive relationships. Let’s briefly survey three of them.
Explore Their Spiritual Interests (1:35-39)
Two unnamed disciples of John the Baptist shared spiritual interests that prompted them to listen to and consider his message. John pointed them to Jesus who further questioned them: He asked WHAT do you seek, not WHOM do you seek. He built on their spiritual concerns.
Good news! All people have spiritual interests. They’re not always interested in Christ; they may even be anti-Christianity. But don’t be afraid to discuss their religion nor hesitate to ask them to explain their beliefs to you. God created us with spiritual interests; all people have them, and fishers of men can tap them. Remember, ask, listen, and DO NOT attempt to correct. Get to know their religious worldview and how it affects their life.
Be Question Oriented (1:35-38)
Jesus’ first words were an open-ended question (1:38). Open-ended questions help create connections between people. Everyone wants to be heard and appreciated. Everyone desires to share their experiences and tell their stories. Open-ended questions give permission to do just that.
Jesus’ inquiry unlocked the door for these two men to reveal their expectations of the one whom John proclaimed. It’s more important in the early stages of connecting with the lost to ask than to answer. Listen for their worldview, interests, hurts, life expectations, and religious beliefs. Try to pick up their passions. As you do, you will recognize “eternal contact” points.
Be Hospitable (1:39)
Jesus’ next words were an invitation to His place. It was around 10 in the morning, and they spent that day with him. Wherever he was staying, they ate and talked together for several hours. Other verses in the passage reveal that they learned about Jesus’ family and upbringing. Be sociable. Use your home, boat, round of golf, or grill to get together with the unsaved. Sitting around your living room, sharing a Coke, or standing around your smoking grill can go a long way toward eternity. Be welcoming and sharing.
To sum up, harness everyday life to make contact with lost persons. Explore your lost friend’s heart by asking open-ended questions. Use whatever forms of hospitality that you can to build a ‘non-church’ atmosphere. Safe, neutral, non-threatening ground is key to an unbeliever. Finally, give it time – this connection happen in one day or it may take 6 months. Either way, these tactics that Jesus modeled put lost folks at ease and provide opportunity to relate.
Let’s follow Jesus’ lead and get out there where he sends us: into the world, connecting with the lost.