The Frustrating Fallacy of Friendship Evangelism

The Frustrating Fallacy of Friendship Evangelism

It’s been said that most people are introduced to Christianity through a friend, and this was, in fact, how I eventually came to visit a church. I had a friend named Bill who invited me for many years before my wife and I finally took him up on the offer. As I was training students at a recent evangelism camp, we talked about the fear that many of us have related to sharing our faith with strangers.

If most people are introduced to Christianity through a friend, shouldn’t we focus our efforts on reaching our friends rather than people we don’t know? This approach to evangelism is sometimes called “friendship evangelism,” and it sure sounds like it would be a lot less intimidating than approaching strangers with the message of Salvation.

But there is an important fallacy underlying the concept of friendship evangelism. The reason friendship evangelism is statistically dominant is simply because we, as Christians, are so uncomfortable sharing our faith with strangers. We have created this statistical reality. We typically only share our faith with people we know, so it shouldn’t surprise us that these are the people who come to know something about our faith! But does it have to be this way, and more importantly, is this approach consistent with what the New Testament teaches?

“The reason friendship evangelism is statistically dominant is simply because we, as Christians, are so uncomfortable sharing our faith with strangers.”

 

In order to answer this question, we needn’t go further than the words of Jesus. During His earthly ministry, Jesus commissioned seventy-two of His followers to travel from town to town, announcing, “The Kingdom of God has come near” (Luke 10:9). Were these disciples told to engage only people they already knew? Hardly. In fact, Jesus warned these budding evangelists that they would be in unknown, often dangerous territory; He told the group they would be “lambs in the midst of wolves” (Luke 10:3).

Later, after the Resurrection, Jesus commissioned His apostles with a more sweeping directive: “You shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth” (Acts 1:8). It’s clear that the expansive geographic parameters described by Jesus would require the apostles to move quickly beyond the limits of their friends and acquaintances.

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