We hear a great deal about living in a postmodern age and how difficult it is to reach people for Jesus Christ. It is true that church attendance has declined in North America and that the belief system that used to characterize us has changed. Truth, for many, is relative. For others, absolutes are non-existent.
When we talk about our faith in Jesus Christ, someone will inevitably remind us that what we believe is fine for us but not for them. All this leads us to ask, “What does it take to bring people to Jesus?” The answer is what it has always been: God’s truth shared in love and friendship, illustrated daily in the life of the one sharing the Gospel.
For more than 50 years the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association has been helping believers share their faith through friendship and relationship. When people watch our Crusades on television and see hundreds of people come forward at the invitation to receive Christ, some may think that this is happening because of advertising, the anointing of the speaker or the musical talent. All of these may be factors. But the real reason people respond is because believers have been praying, befriending people and sowing the seed. Now they have brought their friends to hear the message of Jesus Christ. More than 80 percent who come to Christ at our meetings attend because a friend who knows Christ has brought them.
The simple plan we use to encourage believers in friendship evangelism is called Operation Andrew. It is based on John 1:40-41: “One of the two who heard John speak and followed [Jesus] was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. He first found his own brother Simon and said to him, ‘We have found the Messiah’ (which is translated the Christ). And he brought him to Jesus” (NKJV).
The elements of the Operation Andrew plan are:
Identify those who need Christ. Ask God to help you have His eyes and His heart for those who don’t know Him. Write their names on a card and place it where you can see it every day.
Pray daily for them. Pray that God would begin to show them their need for Christ and that He will help you to live in such a way that they see the difference Christ is making in your life.
Build bridges of friendship. Spend time with them. Have them over for dinner, play golf, go for coffee, listen to their problems. In other words, be a friend.
Share the Gospel. As you listen and befriend, God will open a door for you to talk about your relationship with Jesus Christ. The opportunity may come for you to invite your friend to an outreach event, a Bible study, a Christian concert or your church. All of these can be used by God to prepare your friend to accept Christ–but don’t wait for an event to share Christ if the door is open.
Help them grow in their new relationship with God. If your friend accepts Christ, you are the one who should help him or her get connected with a church and grow in Christ. A new believer is like a spiritual infant and needs someone to be a spiritual guide and mentor.
If your friend does not receive Christ, don’t be discouraged. Continue to be a friend, knowing that it takes time and cultivation to see a seed germinate.