I was recently talking with a friend about how I have typically tried to do my work. I was explaining that I had been working with people from an unreached people group and that I typically try to connect with someone personally, but then fairly early in the relationship, share the Gospel with them so that they understand who I am and what I am about. Based on this, the person can have a clearer picture of the nature of the relationship that I am hoping to form.
My friend asked, “But what if sharing the Gospel will drive them away?” It is a good question, and not an easy one to precisely figure out what to do.
I explained that I don’t know that I have the right answer in this, but that I can explain how I typically think about these scenarios. As I share my faith with someone else, I want them to be able to understand who I am and the things that are important to me so that they can either appreciate that about me…or not.
And I am happy to do the same with them. If I can understand who someone is and what they are about, then we can have a relationship “in the open”, if you will. They don’t have to guess what I might want from them, and I don’t have to guess what they want from me. It is clear from the start and we can each then evaluate if that is the type of relationship that we want to have with the other person or not.
As I am working in my role of trying to catalyze a discipleship and church planting movement, I want to try to do this with a clear-eyed vision of where I am hoping the relationship will go. With people who do not believe in Jesus, I try to share the Gospel soon after the start of the relationship. My hope, of course, is that they will believe and that we can begin to walk forward together, following Jesus together. If they do not want to do this, we can still continue to be friends and I will pray for them.
On the other hand, if I meet someone who is already a believer in Jesus, I try to share a vision for who we believe God wants us to be and what the Bible teaches us to do. For those that are interested in learning more, I typically try to invite them to continue to go forward with us.
All of this to simply answer my friend that the Gospel and who we are in Christ can be a “filter” of sorts. It is a filter in the sense that we are looking for people who want to learn to follow Jesus as far as he will take us. For those that already know that they aren’t interested in this or having that type of relationship together, that is OK. As I say, we can still be friends and I will still be happy to pray for them. But for those who are not interested in this, we can understand all of this from the beginning.