Relational Evangelism for Today

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But not only had they changed individually, their relationships had changed. They were not as close as they all once were.

They were not all at the center of the church leadership. Many others had joined the church and they were dispersed among them in new relationships, carrying their founder fire to the whole body. It was tempting to be sad. Things were not the same. Their togetherness was not the same, but they were together, nonetheless.

Nine Relational Evangelism Ideas That Work – Rainer on Leadership #161

That togetherness is enough, I think. The alternative is a dissatisfying comparison with the past and a choice for what was. A desire to go back to the way things were, or even a forced fossilization of what is, will grind the wheels of our church planting engine to a halt. It hurts some to keep moving, knowing that your brother is way over there across town rather than right below you on the bottom bunk, but we must trust the binding that God has done. We cannot demand forever intimacy with everyone or no one new will ever be able to enjoy the friendship we offer in Christ.

Relational evangelism brings with it the occupational hazard of having to let go. We might need to be more intentional about catching up and I suggest you do that because I need to do it too but we cannot cozy up in the comfort of what was. We cannot maintain every relationship equally. We cannot demand that our togetherness stay the same. It cannot withstand the weight. So at your actual Thanksgiving table, whether you are with blood family, friends family or family in Christ probably a mix of that.

Treasure the togetherness. Marvel that anyone is together at all. Delight in the quirky constellation of people that have gathered to thank God in feast form. Families rearrange and relationships suffer and change. There is heartache and joy all around. Tell the truth. You will be tempted to dwell in the tension, but you might marvel in the longevity of those relationships and wonder what may come next from this foundation.

When I was in third grade my music teacher, Ms. Smedley, taught me all kinds of ridiculous songs that I for some reason remember all the words too. How quickly should we move on from those who are not interested in Jesus and our church? One of my friends was saying that there is no game but the long game with some people. They are so burned or so antagonistic that the only way they are ever going to follow Jesus is after a long season of loving by the Christians in their lives. I have more urgency. My urgency is rooted in my belief that the Son of Man will come like a thief in the night.

Jesus may come back tomorrow and I hope he does and I want as many people as possible to recognize and embrace Him when he does. I have a sense of responsibility to the charge that Jesus gave us to go and make disciples of all nations, and I am acutely aware of how limited I am in time and capacity. I want to make my efforts count. There are hundreds of thousands of people within a couple of miles of me who know very little about who Jesus actually is.

The argument could be made that any Usonian today has heard the story of Jesus so the basic urgency we see in Acts and the rest of the New Testament is not really applicable to our situation. That story of Jesus is not the Gospel. The Gospel is Jesus Himself and Jesus is alive in us in a way that many have not experienced before.


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Taking ourselves that seriously may be the hardest step to take, but once we do our evangelism strategy is just a matter of how heavily we lean into that truth. There is still Good News that is actually news to a lot of people. We need to experience the power of God among us for our doubts and our wounds to be assuaged and healed.

Protecting friends from my deepest fulfillment is crazy. If they are offended by my joy, so be it. Patterns of relating around things other than Jesus are quickly established because Jesus is a taboo subject. All this being said, I have had several long term relationships that have eventually resulted in a person becoming a Christian. I regularly invited them to Circle of Hope events. I told them about my relationship with God.

Is Relational Evangelism Enough?

I shared with them the work I was doing. When you wear a sandwich sign some people will yell across a crowd to you. I learned this and a lot of other things at the Party on the Parkway on July 4th, this past Thursday. He gave me his email address later because he was interested in what we were doing as a Circle of Hope. Four friends and I decided that since our fair city was throwing a party on the Ben Franklin Parkway and thousands of people were going to be there, we ought to be there too.

But how do you engage with people in a crowd? How do you break the wall of isolation between strangers? I made three signs with three questions lifted from the language of the Declaration of Independence. The questions turned out to be way too deep or esoteric for many people to engage with.

Relational Evangelism

One young lady just wanted to sign the Declaration of Independence. Their task is to build relationships with other young adults and to find out more about their academic, career, social, and spiritual needs. From there, the evangelists will build a leadership team of five young adults who will facilitate small group-based ministry and faith-based action projects.

Personal Evangelism Styles

Chambliss hopes that the Relational Evangelism Pilot Project will provide young adults with the spiritual direction they need at crucial points in their lives. It is my hope that the young adults involved in this ministry will see the good news in each other, find the community they are searching for, and embark on a spiritual path that will engage them more deeply with God, each other, and the world. Authentic community, rather than church attendance, is a key focus of relational evangelism and an important factor in the growth of intentional communities interested in being the church.

For instance, The Restoration Project is an intentional, ecumenical community in Tucson, Arizona, founded largely by young adults around the values of hospitality, simple and sustainable living, playful spirituality, and peaceful, prophetic action.

Servant Evangelism (aka Service Evangelism)

The community of The Restoration Project sponsors an open meal once a week, keeps a room open for hospitality, works in solidarity with those on the margins, throws parties, and lavishly invites people into their home and their lives. For example, Carol Bradsen shares the story of a neighborhood potluck sponsored by the community. Some of the visitors saw the invitation on the neighborhood list-serve and invited friends to come as well.

Many were young adults and wanted to know more about this group and what it was doing in the community. Jesus went to a lot of parties, so we are in good company there. The thing is, that night we experienced abundant life together.

Alban at Duke Divinity School » Resurrected Lives: Relational Evangelism with Young Adults

Beyond individual and community-based approaches with young adults, the Internet and, more recently, social media provide powerful tools to support relational evangelism. Through face-to-face meetings and internet surveys, Chu found that the single most popular venue for relational evangelism with young adults is on the internet, specifically through social media, such as Facebook. According to Chu, Facebook is the second or third most frequented website in the United States today and an important evangelistic tool capable of an incredibly broad reach of constituents with the added capacity to explore deep topics.

Nancy Davidge, a marketing communications consultant based in Marblehead, Massachusetts with a specialty in helping religious organizations and other nonprofits use social media, suggests that the good news has always been spread by the social media of the time. Today, many congregations have at their disposal a variety of accessible and inexpensive communications tools to help them build community through relational evangelism. Yet Davidge notes that while many congregations use tools such as email, websites, Facebook, blogs, and Twitter, they may still be missing an opportunity to build a long term relationship with people.

I express this in many forms, tapping into spiritual practices ancient and modern, and do this in a persistent not insistent , iterative way, incarnating a Christ who always shows up in the right place at the right time.

Miguelina Espinal, a young adult and the priest-in-charge of the Church of the Epiphany in Orange, New Jersey, echoes the importance of showing up in the right place at the right time in relational evangelism with young adults. Emily Anna Perow, missioner for youth and young adults in the Episcopal Diocese of Connecticut, believes that who she is today is largely due to her experiences of relational evangelism. We must give others that same opportunity. Lastly, relational evangelism is crucial in an age of religious pluralism.

Rather than deny religious difference, relational evangelism equips young adults to be secure enough in talking about their own faith to engage actively and authentically in interreligious dialogue and community action for the common good. In a religiously pluralistic world, relational evangelism contributes to the creation of healthy environments in which young adults listen to God at work in their lives and discern ways their gifts can contribute to the reign of God for all humankind.

Sheryl A. Kujawa-Holbrook is the author of two books published by the Alban Institute and is professor of practical theology and religious education at Claremont School of Theology in Claremont, California.



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