"RELATIONSHIP EVANGELISM" Forces That Hinder Our Effectiveness INTRODUCTION 1. There is a story of a conversation between Jesus and Gabriel which is purely fictional, but illustrates a good point... After Jesus ascended to heaven, the angel Gabriel approached Him and said, "Master, you must have suffered terribly for men down there." "I did," He said. "And," continued Gabriel, "do they know all about how you loved them and what you did for them?" "Oh, no," said Jesus, "not yet. Right now only a handful of people in Palestine know." Gabriel was perplexed. "Then what have you done, to let everyone know about your love for them?" Jesus said, "I've asked Peter, James, John, and a few more friends to tell other people about Me. Those who are told will in turn tell still other people about Me, and My story will be spread to the farthest reaches of the globe. Ultimately, all of mankind will have heard about My life and what I have done." Gabriel frowned and looked rather skeptical. He knew well what poor stuff men were made of. "But what if Peter and James and John grow weary? What if the people who come after them forget? What if way down in the twentieth century, people just don't tell others about you? Haven't you made any other plans?" And Jesus answered, "I haven't made any other plans. I'm counting on them." -- Lifestyle Evangelism, Joseph Aldrich, p. 15-16 2. Twenty centuries later . . . Jesus still has no other plan! a. He counted on His early disciples and they delivered b. He's counting on you and me; have we done as well? 3. Before we succumb to another "guilt trip," I want to consider some reasons why we may appear "ineffective" when compared to the apostles a. My purpose is not to excuse ourselves b. But we need to understand some of the forces or influences which have clearly hindered our effectiveness I. TOO MANY PEOPLE A. WE LIVE IN A WORLD WHERE WE COME FACE TO FACE WITH MORE PEOPLE THAN WE CAN EASILY RELATE TO... 1. A casual stroll down the street or through a store brings us face to face with dozens of people every minute 2. Every day we come in contact with more people than we can possibly relate to in meaningful ways B. THIS FACT CAN EASILY RESULT IN CRIPPLING OUR ABILITY TO RELATE TO PEOPLE... 1. Since we cannot possible recognize or relate to EVERY one, we are tempted to relate to NO one! 2. Before long, we begin to adopt an attitude of "isolation" 3. Eventually, we lose the ability to effectively carry on meaningful relationships C. THIS CAN HAVE AN ADVERSE EFFECT ON EVANGELISM... 1. For a meaningful relationship is one of the most successful means of providing an avenue for the gospel (which is the thesis of this study) 2. But many Christians, caught up in the attitude of "isolationism"... a. Often do not have any significant contacts with non-Christians b. Are therefore unable to relate to others in a "redemptive" manner II. LIFE IS TOO FAST AND COMPLICATED A. DESPITE INVENTIONS TO SAVE TIME, WE ARE BUSIER THAN EVER... 1. Jobs change, people move 2. Congestion grows, traffic jams 3. Telephones ring constantly, TV drones on and on 4. We are held captive by schedules and the demands of others 5. We find ourselves unable to slow down our world... B. LIVING SUCH HECTIC LIVES... 1. It is easy for one to feel there is simply no room to add the "enterprise of evangelism" 2. One might feel that to do so may even be "the straw that breaks the camel's back" 3. So evangelism of any sort is often left out III. EXPOSURE TO LIMITED EVANGELISM MODELS A. EVEN WHEN WE WANT TO DO SOMETHING, WE ARE OFTEN GIVEN LIMITED "OPTIONS"... 1. Such as just inviting people to services 2. Or going around the neighborhood, knocking on the doors of complete strangers 3. Or learning how to teach home Bible studies B. THIS IS NOT TO SAY THAT SUCH METHODS HAVE NOT WORKED OR WILL NOT WORK FOR SOME... 1. These options DO work for some Christians, but not all are suited for the particular approaches given 2. These options DO reach some non-believers, but many are repelled by them C. BUT THERE CAN BE LONG-LASTING EFFECTS WHEN THESE ARE THE ONLY OPTIONS GIVEN... 1. Those not suited for these approaches can get easily discouraged as they try and find themselves failing to be something they are not 2. E.g., not everyone is designed to be a teacher - Ro 12:4-8 ; 1 Co 12:29 ; Ja 3:1 3. So unless other options are shown to be available, many quit making ANY evangelistic effort! IV. MISUNDERSTANDING "SEPARATION" A. MANY CHRISTIANS MISUNDERSTAND THE PRINCIPLE OF "SEPARATION"... 1. We ARE to be "separate" from the world - cf. 2 Co 6:14-18 2. But this does not mean "isolation" - cf. 1 Co 5:9-13 3. Yet I fear that many Christians tend to isolate themselves from the world in the name of "separation" 4. There IS a way to "influence people without losing your influence!" B. REMEMBER THE PRINCIPLE OF BEING "THE SALT OF THE EARTH"... 1. Salt must get out of the container and mix with food to be effective 2. Without engaging in sin, we can still have contact with the sinner... a. As did Jesus - Mt 9:10-13 ; 11:19 b. And so did Paul - 1 Co 9:20-23 V. THE CREDIBILITY GAP A. IN SOME CASES, THERE IS AN IMBALANCE BETWEEN THE "VERBALIZATION" AND THE "INCARNATION" OF THE GOSPEL... 1. I.e., the lifestyle of the Christian is inconsistent with the message being presented 2. When this happens, people are likely to think: "What you ARE speaks so loudly, I can't hear what you are SAYING." 3. In this way, a "credibility gap" is formed B. TO OVERCOME THIS "CREDIBILITY GAP"... 1. Christians must BE good news before they can SHARE the good news 2. We must be sure to live out the gospel in our lives before preaching it to others - cf. Ezra 7:10 ; 1 Pe 3:1-2 C. TO PUT IT ANOTHER WAY... 1. When love is seen, the message is heard 2. Conversely, when love is not seen, the message is not taken seriously 3. "The best argument for Christianity is Christians; their joy, their certainty, their completeness. But the strongest argument against Christianity is also Christians--when they are somber and joyless, when they are self-righteous and smug in complacent consecrations, when they are narrow and repressive, then Christianity dies a thousand deaths." - Vanauken CONCLUSION 1. These are some of the forces which hinder our effectiveness in evangelism today 2. Again, the purpose for considering them is not to excuse ourselves... a. For no matter what the circumstances here on earth, the Lord's plan for reaching the lost is still the same! b. He still depends upon you and me! 3. But perhaps by recognizing these hindrances, we will be more open to OTHER evangelistic options which take these problems into consideration 4. One such option is known as "Relationship Evangelism" (also known as "Lifestyle Evangelism"), which is what we shall examine more closely in succeeding lessons Note: The basic outline for this lesson was adapted heavily from "Lifestyle Evangelism", by Joseph Aldrich.