Friendship Evangelism?

Posted: November 13, 2012 by Dillon in Evangelism
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There’s a worrying notion among many Evangelical Christians that “friendship evangelism” (befriending someone with the explicit intent on witnessing) is not only required, but Biblically founded. I have a major problem with this. recently published an article concerning this topic, and I will be utilizing it for some information.  First, we should find out what the argument is in support of “friendship evangelism.”

1 Peter 3:15 supports the practice of “friendship evangelism;” and this is why. The verse makes it clear that the Christian should be ready to give a reason (or an answer) for the hope that is in them to anyone who asks. People are only going to ask such a question if they know you. There would be no reason for a person to ask unless they’ve seen something different in you. And in order for a person to be that close to you, close enough to see how you live from day-to-day, they must be in relationship with you. Therefore, 1 Peter 3:15 affirms the practice of friendship evangelism” or “relational evangelism.”

With that understanding of “friendship evangelism,” Christians just seem a little snooty.  This theory is attempting to belittle those around us who are not Christians; indeed, this argument makes non-Christians out to be a prime target for “friendship.”  That is sickening.

The verb in the first phrase of 1 Peter 3:15, and the primary verb in the verse, is translated from the Greek verb hagiazo. The word means: “to make holy, i.e. (ceremonially) purify or consecrate; (mentally) to venerate — hallow, be holy, sanctify.”

Peter commanded his readers to sanctify Jesus Christ in their hearts — to worship and adore Him (John 4:24), to be conformed to His image (Romans 8:29), to be imitators of Him as His beloved children (Ephesians 5:1). And the way they were to do that, in the face of various forms of persecution and the real potential of martyrdom, was to give an answer for the hope that was in them — an answer to anyone who asks, even the very people who would kill them if they refused to recant, refused to deny the Lord Jesus Christ.

Basically, Peter is not instructing the early Christians in how to engage in new relationships with people.  Peter is reaffirming Paul and John’s calls to the faith.  We are to be faithful and ready at any given point.  But nowhere does it say to create new relationships with the express purpose of converting someone.

Christians sometimes wonder why the secular world would have such a negative view on a faith based on love.  The problem is that so many times (and I’m just as guilty of this) Christians fall desperately short of the love that they preach.  As I’ve learned recently, the greatest law is love.  This love should supersede everything.  That means that a Christian should make friends to make friends.  Making friends only to evangelize is juvenile, and will inadvertently prevent you from sharing your faith.  Imagine the roles being switched; most Christians would be offended if they were befriended only to be proselytized to.

What is so dangerous is that we forget humans are complex and multidimensional.  An atheist can still be a moral person.  A pantheist can possess more loyalty than a self professing Christian.  When you befriend someone, you befriend the whole package; friendship is not dissimilar to marriage in that way.  You look past the disagreements and look to the common ground.

I think it’s important to remember that there is a distinct difference between “friendship evangelism” and relational evangelism.  Relational evangelism comes naturally from having a prolonged and trusted relationship with someone.  It is not the goal of the relationship.  1 Peter 3:15 specifically states that you should be ready to defend to anyone who asks.  It’s not unreasonable to think that in a friendship questions about beliefs will come up.  But that should never be your goal in making a friend; the greatest law is love, and the easiest way to show love is through friendship.

Quotations taken from the CARM article, Friendship Evangelism and 1 Peter 3:15


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