We return to our series looking at lessons from John Leonard’s book, “Get Real.” This week Leonard opens with a jarring and pointed statement:
“Friendship evangelism is not biblical! OK, that’s an overstatement. And yet, the conventional wisdom today is that friendship evangelism is the only form of evangelism.”
Now, stick with him as he continues to be (perhaps overly) aggressive with this idea to prove a point…
Fully biblical evangelism is, in fact, enemy evangelism—loving, blessing, and praying for our enemies. We don’t need Jesus in order to love our friends—most of the time! We don’t have to rely on his grace to be kind to those we care about. Therefore, the world pays no attention to our bold statements about how different Christ has made us when there’s nothing extraordinary needed to love and care for our friends alone. To love our enemies requires God to show up in our lives.”
“Enemy evangelism is dependent on Christ and the Holy Spirit. Friendship evangelism puts the focus on us, limiting the power of the gospel to our ability to be friendly. At the heart of friendship evangelism is the unspoken belief that the more people know me, the more they will want Jesus. But is that really the case? Don’t we all have close friends, even family members, who have known us longer than we have been Christians—and who are no more interested in the gospel today than the first time we shared our faith with them? If friendship is the true power behind evangelism, wouldn’t more of our closest friends and family come to faith as a result of our friendship?”
And now he comes back to land the plane on this provocative idea:
“God may very well use your relationships with friends and family to bring them to Christ, but the gospel isn’t bound by friendship. It is just one of the means God uses to turn the gospel loose in the world.”
“Better to practice evangelism that is friendly than “friendship evangelism.”
He probably got your attention, though. He explains a bit about the comparison of “friendship evangelism” versus being called to love our enemies…
“There is another dirty little secret about friendship evangelism. We pick out those we want to be friends with, and most of the time these people are fun, attractive, and well-connected—the kind of people who aren’t a burden to be around. They are people who have “everything,” and we’re hoping that we can offer them a little more (while hoping we might get some of what they’ve got in the process). We would rather not think about befriending people who, if we became their friend, would appear burdensome. I say “appear” burdensome because they usually end up being more of a blessing to us—it’s counterintuitive.”
“Christ doesn’t just call us to have fun hanging with the guys or the gals. Mind you, there is nothing wrong with that, and we should enjoy those times. However, Jesus calls us to take up our crosses and follow him, and that means laying down our lives daily in service to others. We are called to be more than friends; we are called to be servants.”
“This is why we want to be more than a friend to people. Yes, it is nice to be invited to parties and be included in special events because people think of you as fun, but more importantly, we want people to think of us at critical times in their lives. When they get that frightening diagnosis, we want them to call us. And we want to be the kind of friends who will respond to that call without hesitation. When their phone rings late at night with horrible news, our number should be the first one they dial, because they know that we are much more than friends.”
A provocative idea (we’ve just selected a few of the main quotes to get at his main point), now some questions for thought or discussion:
1) When you think about your evangelism efforts, what is the rough breakdown of how much time, energy, effort, and prayer are spent on friends compared to ‘enemies’?
2) What do you think of Jon Leonard’s idea that we have so many friends and family that have known us so long but don’t have an interest in the gospel….. maybe that should be an incentive for us to expand our horizons to find people (presumably strangers) who are interested in the gospel and then be friendly to them?
3) If you were to take Leonard’s premise—that we should not only do “friendship evangelism,” but that we should expand and balance our efforts by expanding to our enemies or at minimum strangers—what would one or two first steps be for you in your life? What are 2 specific things you could do to take a step in that direction? What would be the challenges? What would be “easy” about it? What would be the (potential) blessings?
4) How could practicing more “enemy evangelism” help your “friendship evangelism?”