We loved you so much that we shared with you not only God’s good news but our own lives, too. – 1 Thessalonians 2:8 NLT
I have always had an interest in the missionary known today as Saint Patrick. He was taken to Ireland as a slave, learned the language and customs, and escaped from slavery only to return as a Christian missionary to the same people who had enslaved him. He preached the gospel of Jesus for the forgiveness of sins, but Patrick also took the time to know and build relationships to share Christ as well.
Relationship evangelism is a powerful approach to sharing the gospel, which emphasizes building genuine connections with people. It involves demonstrating Christ’s love through our actions, by being present in their lives, and patiently doing life with them. Here are three relationship practices you can use to intentionally share Christ with others.
1. Make authentic connections. In our fast-paced world, relationships often become superficial and transactional. However, relationship evangelism urges us to be intentional in forming authentic connections with others. Just as iron sharpens iron, meaningful friendships can sharpen and refine our faith and understanding of the gospel. By developing genuine bonds with people, we create an environment where faith can grow organically. St. Patrick demonstrated this principle by living with the people he sought to reach. God might not be calling you to another part of town or different employment, but He is calling you to connect with the people in your neighborhood and workplace. Make an effort to get to know the names of your neighbors and find ways to minister to them. Be yourself and go introduce yourself to your neighbors.
2. Be Present in their Lives. Relationship evangelism encourages us to go beyond mere surface interactions and invest time in understanding the struggles, joys, and aspirations of those around us. By empathizing with their experiences, we reflect Christ’s love and compassion. In particular, the Celtic missionaries teach us that evangelism is not a one-time event but a continuous process of being present in the lives of others, just as Jesus walked alongside His disciples during His earthly ministry. Being present in someone’s life is not about trying to fix their problems but about showing that you care, value them as a person, and are willing to walk alongside them on their journey. Go over and introduce yourself. If you see them working on their fence or yard, go over with your tools and offer to help. This opens the door to conversations. Your presence can make a meaningful impact and provide much-needed comfort and support. Be present by communicating, being available, celebrating milestones, and praying with and for them.
3. Practice the ministry of listening. One of the most significant gifts we can offer in relationship evangelism is the ministry of listening. People long to be heard and understood, and by genuinely listening to their concerns, doubts, and questions, we create a safe space for them to explore their faith. Practically speaking, make sure you maintain eye contact, avoid interruptions, show empathy, use verbal cues like, “Tell me more about that!”, avoid distractions, and provide helpful feedback. Ask them how you can pray for them and then pray for them by name and in person or over the phone in real-time. Be a genuine and good listener. Ask good questions that open people up so you can practice listening closely to the need behind the need. The Celtic way of evangelism emphasized the importance of storytelling, and as we actively engage in listening to others, we can also share our own stories of encountering Christ.
Relationship evangelism is a beautiful expression of Christ’s love in action. By building bridges through authentic connections, being present in people’s lives, and listening with empathy, we open doors for the Holy Spirit to work in their hearts. As we engage in relationship evangelism, let us remember the words of St. Patrick, one of the Celtic missionaries who said, “Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me, Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me, Christ in every eye that sees me, Christ in every ear that hears me.”
1. What is one action you can start doing today based on the points you just read?
2. How do we discern when it’s appropriate to share our personal faith journey with others?