God has given me the gift of being friends with outsiders. I am not sure why, but when I move to a new place or visit a new place it seems as though God sends people to me so that I can enter into relationship with them. I am not talking about merely having acquaintances, but entering into a real relationship with people. It’s weird how often this happens. A quick example. I was going to golf with a couple of friends at a really nice course, so I went for a warm up round at another local course. I went out by myself and didn’t want to be bothered. Even when I went to check in the guy at the front desk at the golf course asked if I wanted to play with others I said “no . . . please put me by myself.”
God had other plans.
After the first hole, we were backed up on the second and two golfers in front of me asked if I wanted to join them, I quickly said no, I’m good. But they persisted, so I joined them. For the next four hours I listened to their stories, said very few things, but asked some questions and continued to listen to their stories . . . it was a good time. After the first few holes I found out that one of the golfers was a retired baseball player, and a good one at that. He bragged about the course we were playing on and then bragged about his local pub that he owned and asked if I wanted to join him afterwards. I, of course, accepted.
We went to his pub and he ordered a ton of food and drinks and just wanted me to try a bunch of food and in exchange it seemed like he only wanted one thing: someone to listen to his stories. I did. I barely said a whole paragraph in our 6 hours of time together, but by the end, he was my new best friend and we exchanged telephone numbers and we now are going to be playing golf together regularly. What I found very interesting is his simple statement at the end of our day. He said: “This was such a great time, I am so glad that you joined us today, it was a pleasure to meet you and I can’t wait to introduce you to all my friends.”
Funny to think that I had this much impact on him in merely 6 hours and I hardly said anything. Instead, I did what many Christians, or should I even say evangelists, do rarely: listen.
In keeping with this example, here are four consideration for making friends today:
1. Be Available
The church has done a really good job of many things in the last 100 years, but one thing that really sticks out to me—We’re busy. It seems like we are either coming from something or going to something. Rarely do we have time for the Spirit to engage us in our schedule when and where and with whom he wants. We are simply too busy for the Spirit to sovereignly interrupt us.
Start clearing up your schedule so that you can be ready for the Spirit to send you people to engage with. Not only that, but start doing more things in public where people actually are. If we do these two things and we add to this a simple prayer of asking the Spirit to send us people he wants us to engage in, then we’ll be ready when he does and more open to engaging the world around us with purpose, intention, and excitement.
My wife has said over and over the best way to start meeting people is by simply going to the same public space weekly. Find a place where people are and keep visiting that place over and over again at the same day and time week after week. Not only that, but invite friends alongside you and see the fruit of being available yet intentional.
2. Be a Listener
Some people assume that one of the essential qualities of a good evangelist is the art of not shutting up. It’s as if the wittier the person is with their rhetoric, the more we hold them high on the pedestal of a good evangelist. I believe the most effective method of engaging the culture is the opposite approach. Your average person simply wants someone to actually listen to what he or she has to say.
The importance of evangelistic listening actually should be pretty freeing for most people. Many think that they must have some great answer to the most pressing problem in today’s world, but they don’t have the first idea on how to go about discussing that concern. In other words, I believe the abundance of social media avenues in our generation gives rise to a unique concern; many people spend very little time conversing face-to-face with people who will listen to them. So, just by you listening, you are giving them an answer to a problem that faces them—even if they don’t know it yet.
Don’t just be a listener, but think about a few of these things as you listen:
- What is a common thread in this person’s story?What seems to hurt them most?
- What do they celebrate most?
- Where do they need redemption?
- What do they see as their functional savior for their problems?
- How could Jesus and the good news be the answer to their hurt and their issues?
Be careful that as you think of these things you aren’t merely listening so you can be ready to speak next...that isn’t good listening. Listen so much that you desire the Spirit to tell you when to speak, if you are supposed to speak at all. I’ve found myself listening so intently to people that at the end of their rant, story, or whatever that I have nothing to say. But I am ready to listen and ask more questions for deeper understanding.
3. Be Curious
The worst thing you can do as you listen to people’s stories is to jump to conclusions and try to answer questions that they never asked. Be very curious and ask questions until they tell you they don’t want to answer. But I’ll be honest I’ve never had someone say that they don’t want to answer a question that I ask...and I ask very personal questions. But remember...if you are a listener and not merely someone who seems to think they have all the answers, people actually want to talk to you and go deeper with you.
The posture of a listener opens people up to talk about and come to you about very deep issues and they’ll give you permission to ask the deepest questions about identity, idols, sin that you desire to ask.
The easiest way to be curious is when you hear details of someone’s story, never come to your own conclusions on the “why” in someone’s story and keep prodding them and asking them so you can uncover the “why” as they would tell it.
I’m always curious when people tell me their stories. I don’t hold back asking questions. And they aren’t bashful in giving me answers to my questions and going even deeper than I expected.
4. Be Transparent
When you hear brokenness in their story that you can relate to, don’t hold back in telling them so. When they are vulnerable, make yourself vulnerable. This is where the church has, for the large part, disappointed many people. We haven’t been willing to open up about our own sins and hurt, but merely desire to point out other’s. As you open up about your story and your hurt, it opens up an actual relationship. An actual relationship is a vulnerable, two way street, not merely a one way relationship.
Do not hesitate to go as deep as they are going or press further into your sins and hurt to allow them the freedom to go deeper as well.
At this point many in the world have been better than some in the church. They know they’re broken, but some in the church act as though they are whole, without sin. Because my wife and I are transparent with who we are, we’ve found that it helps us develop deep friendships with the world, while it hurts us with the church where we receive constant pushback. The church would rather the scars and hurt stay deep within, so that she can look as though she is without stain. The problem is that when you do this, you hold in contempt those you are trying to reach and they can feel it. They can see it. And, they disdain it...and you...then Jesus.
We must know that we are not Jesus, but we represent Jesus. We actually get to show people Jesus the more transparent we are, showing our brokenness. When we show our brokenness, yet have joy in Christ, it gives hope that maybe our friends can also be loved by our Dad through Jesus as well.
Jesus Calls Us Friends
Jesus was called a “friend of tax collectors and sinners” then uses that same term as he speaks to those who were merely curious about who he was, to his very own disciples, and even to the one who betrayed him. I believe this is very purposeful, as everything Jesus did was, to make sure we identify, not just a few of God’s image bearers, but with all of God’s image bearers. Just think of this. The King of Creation, who could be friends with anyone, sent his son down so that we could be called his friends, that we could make friends, and that we could do exactly what Jesus has done for us: show us who the Father is.
This is the whole point. Jesus continually tells us that the reason he was sent was to show the Father. So, as he makes friends, that’s why he is doing it—to show off the Father.
The one who created time, makes himself available for us so we could be available to others knowing he holds time in his hands
The one who knows all things, is a listener to what we need and desire, so he can give it to us for the sake of making disciples. “Ask and it will be given” (Matt. 7:7).
The one who created us and is the center of the ultimate story is curious about us and our story. Jesus shows this with all his questions to his disciples and especially to the woman at the well.
Jesus…the one who Created the heavens and earth and was completely free of sin and was transparent with his creations. He pleaded with God to see if there was another way in the garden, because he was genuinely troubled with what was about to happen and to show us what it looked like to have an actual relationship with our Dad.
If the church, which is us, would just listen and start practicing these four simple truths, I would bet we would see how easy it is to not only make friends but share the hope that is within us (1 Pt. 3:15). You see Peter tells us to always be prepared to give a defense of the hope that is within us when people ask. But, my question is this: Are people in such a deep relationship with us that they would come to us and ask us about our hope? Or, do we see evangelism as something we have to go out and “do” with those outside of relationship because we don’t have any friends who are different than us in both appearance or beliefs?
Relationships take time and patience, judgment and condemnation takes seconds. May we pursue relationships the same way that Jesus has pursued us.
Seth McBee is the adopted son of God, husband of one wife, and father of three. He’s a graduate of Seattle Pacific University with a finance degree. By trade. Seth is an investment portfolio manager, serving as President of McBee Advisors, Inc. He is also a MC leader/trainer/coach and executive team member of the GCM Collective. Seth currently lives in Phoenix, AZ with his wife Stacy and their three children: Caleb, Coleman, and Madelynn. He is also the artist and co-author of the wildly popular (and free!) eBook, Be The Church: Discipleship & Mission Made Simple. Twitter: @sdmcbee.