Aren’t we always searching for new and improved evangelistic methods? How can we really make a positive impact on the world around us as Adventists? How can we effectively fulfill the gospel commission in our generation?
These questions perplex us as church leaders. We plan, meet and strategize. We alternate between conflicting approaches, but Jesus gave us an example to follow that is simple and effective.
As a child, Jesus learned about God at His parent’s knees. As an adult, He modeled a sacrificial devotional and prayer life. He listened to those who sought Him, while remaining observant and attuned to His surroundings. Likewise, we must follow His example in having a personal relationship with God and a genuine heart for others.
In the book Ministry of Healing, Ellen White shares Christ’s method of reaching 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.'"
Jesus became acquainted with people, they became acquainted with Him and His loving care for them won them over.
Here we see Christ combining the gospel with practical ministry. Relational needs are the bridge to those who do not attend church, so we must stretch across the cultural and social barriers our society has raised and foster caring, authentic relationships with those we wish to reach. When we put this relational approach into practice, we will not only succeed in soul-winning but also experience the blessings of true friendship and energized spiritual growth.
As leaders, we should practice these principles and encourage our members to do so as well.
A few years ago, a young member approached me with a passion and desire to reach his friends at the university where he was studying music. I encouraged him to connect with them and see if they were interested in spiritual things.
This young man’s common bond with other musicians provided a bridge for him to find those who were willing to study the Bible. Unsure how to lead them to Christ, he asked me to join and share God’s word with them, and three of his musician friends gave their lives to the Lord as a result of their friendship.
One is now a pastor in the Adventist Church, giving up a $40,000 saxophone scholarship to enter ministry. Another is a pastor’s wife, ministering on the very same campus where she was converted. The third was an atheist from China who has returned to her country with a completely different outlook on life and spirituality.
Each of these individuals is actively ministering in their fields, and I couldn’t have reached these young people alone. We are all still friends, encouraging each other in faith; friendship paired with the word of God is a winning combination.
The love of many is waxed cold in the world today. Jesus warned us things would get hard. More than ever, there is a great need for true friendship and care for humanity which has the power to change lives. Jesus showed us the value of mingling and meeting others’ needs; let us follow Christ’s method, engage in personal effort and bid them to follow Him.