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Three Steps to Building Relationships

These brief topics were written to help Christians think about the ways in which they share the Gospel with others. Cut this page out if you like and post it on your refrigerator. Decide for yourself whether this is a helpful addition to your “outreach repertoire.”

1) Get to KNOW them. 

2) Get to LOVE them. 

3) Get to DEAL WITH them.

Do you bring up the subject of religion right away when you make a new acquaintance? Sometimes it works out that way, but this is the exception rather than the rule, according to Rev. Warren Fanning of Sun City, Arizona.

The effectiveness of any outreach lies in the power of God’s Word; that is a given. Pastor Fanning’s point is that such witness can be delivered—and received—more easily and naturally when it comes from someone whom the hearer already knows and trusts. Pastor Fanning first got the idea when he was a Lutheran missionary in Great Britain. He told of an acquaintance who was a member of Britain’s MI6. This man was successful in reaching criminals and gaining information by befriending them first, building a relationship, and then sometime later (from a position of trust) finding out what they had to offer. Obviously, reaching people for Christ is different from reaching criminals to get information, but some of the same principles apply!

The first step: 

Get to KNOW them. 

Pastor Fanning says, “We kept this constantly in mind when working with new people. We would use any means necessary to just get to know people. We would play golf, have men’s club evenings—just about any social activity to strike up a new acquaintance. This is all long before even bringing up any serious religious discussion. Sometimes weeks or months would go by before first raising the topic of Christianity.”

The second step: 

Get to LOVE them. 

If you take the time to know people first, you will gain new friends (a wonderful side-benefit to this method of outreach!) These are people who now know you and have a certain amount of trust in you. They care about you, and you obviously care a great deal about them. So much so in fact that, in your love for them, you will want to share the Good News of your Savior with them. “If you prepare the ground in this way,” says Pastor Fanning,  “you will find that they will be far more receptive when you finally bring up issues of eternal life and death, sin and grace, forgiveness and salvation.”

The third step:
Get to DEAL WITH them. 

Finally, you will be in a position of trust, from which it is easier to communicate the Gospel (always bearing in mind, of course, that the power to convict and convert lies in the Word, not in your communication skills!) Pastor Fanning says, “Before long some trust developed (and a certain British distrust towards clergy was softened or removed) with some warmth as well. Then people would be ready for formal instruction. For us, this sometimes happened in groups of ten or a dozen. There was a real warm social atmosphere. The instruction sessions became their ‘church’ sessions, and brief pointed devotions and often favorite hymns were used, the latter by their leave. They might come to worship services in the meantime, but it was not stressed or pushed. It was wise to ‘keep the long view’ in mind, and make liturgy and budget and constitution, and so forth, a part of the instruction, before acceptance into membership. Those sessions turned out to be priceless. Regular and sometimes lengthy home visits were part of the agenda. It was long and sometimes hard, and sometimes disappointing, but it proved the effectiveness of the method . . .”

Is this something you can use in your personal witnessing to others? Why not give it a try? Get to know them—get  to love them—get to deal with them.

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