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Friendship Evangelism by Christopher Heuertz

During the formative years of my Christian socialization I was led to
believe that evangelistic strategies didn’t necessarily require
thoughtful evaluation. The goal was the most important thing. And when
it came to evangelism, the ends almost always justified the means.

For the
past seventeen years I’ve been involved in missions. I don’t claim to
be an expert on evangelism or even describe myself as a missiologist,
but I have interacted literally with hundreds of organizations and
thousands of people involved in world evangelism. On more than one
occasion, I’ve also been the target of sincere evangelists: the Hare
Krishnas in airports handing me a book; the Evangelicals perusing the
streets of an urban center giving me a tract; the Jehovah’s Witnesses
who come to my door invite me to church; and the Mormons on their bikes
with their clean white pressed shirts actually trying to talk with me.
While the strategy differences are subtle, the fundamental approach of
the one seeking to convert me to her/his faith is generally the same.
It’s an approach that leaves me feeling victimized by a mentality that
reduces me to a potential convert. Let me explain.

In the more
thoughtful evangelistic strategies to convert someone like me, my
responsiveness (or lack thereof) is sometimes scaled which places me on
a receptivity index. This index then give clues to the evangelist as to
which strategy will work best on me. That mentality usually makes me
feel like a targeted consumer of religion and the evangelist a
salesperson marketing their version of faith. The best
evangelists track these sorts of marketing trends and utilize the best
practices of religious sales strategies to win the most souls.

Now,
even though the organization I work with is part of the larger missions
industry, we’ve tried to back out of strategic starting points and have
made simple commitments to love. We have tried to unwind our missional
imaginations from an outcomes-based success metric by looking at
ourselves to understand “success.” For us, success isn’t measured in
the responsiveness of those among whom we serve, but is evaluated in
our fidelity and faithfulness to those we’re in community with.

As
we give ourselves in friendship among some of the most vulnerable of
the world’s poor, we don’t give our love based on their response to it,
rather we offer ourselves as friends. Friends who stick around. Friends
who love, even when we’re not loved back.

There’s something in
the friendship between Jesus and his disciple Judas that invites us to
reconsider success metrics in evangelism. Though it’s likely Christ
knew Judas would betray him, Jesus was still faithful in love to his
friend. All the way to the end, even when that included a betrayal.



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