What is Relational Evangelism?

Some writers, emphasizing the kind of relationships we should develop with unbelievers, call it ‘friendship,’ ‘one-on-one’ or; ‘personal’ evangelism. Other writers, stressing our attitude in these relationships, call it ‘contagious Christianity’, ‘lifestyle evangelism’ or ‘affinity evangelism’. Regardless of what they call it, all of them are encouraging us to become the kind of Christians that unbelievers want to be around. How effective is relational evangelism? Evangelist Luis Palau’s research shows that 75% of all those who come to Christ do so through a relationship with a saved friend, relative or co-worker. The Institute of American Church Growth reports an even higher percentage, with almost 90% of the 14,000 Christians recently polled saying they came to Christ through a friend or relative who invested in a relationship with them.

Is relational evangelism part of your Christian experience? It is mine. Years ago, a fellow English teacher patiently helped me understand that the Bible was much more than just another great book. In my wife’s case, a friend shared what she was learning from the Bible as these two young moms got together each week for tea. Recently we heard that a former neighbour had been murdered. In spite of the tragic circumstances surrounding her death, we rejoiced as we remembered the one-onone Bible studies my wife had with her that led to her salvation.

Is relational evangelism biblical? Our Saviour may have preached often to the masses, but He became known as ‘a friend of sinners’ because to so many He was just that – their Friend, Luke. 7. 34; John 15. 15. Paul described his own work as a relational evangelist this way. ‘I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some’ 1 Cor. 9. 22. And don’t forget that Andrew led his brother Peter to the Lord, and Philip did the same for his friend Nathanael, John 1. 40-46. If relational evangelism is so effective, why aren’t more of us doing it?

Editorial by Larry Ondrejack, Grace and Truth Magazine, October 2000.

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