This month at South Side we are doing a series covering our six core values entitled “I.D.” This week we are unpacking our second core value which is “found people find people” or simply put, saved people reach lost people. There’s an old quote that says “Preach the gospel at all times and, if necessary, use words.” This classic quote, mis-attributed to Saint Francis of Assisi, is both clever and catchy. It just isn’t biblical. Evangelism—communicating the good news of King Jesus—always requires words. Christians are called to adorn the gospel with actions (Titus 2:10), to be sure, but our actions are not the gospel. No amount of righteous living can replace the necessity of verbally proclaiming God’s saving achievement in Christ. But even though all evangelism involves sharing the same message, not all evangelism occurs in the same manner. At South Side we believe that “Found People Find People,” and here are three ways we share Jesus as modeled in the New Testament.
1. Family Sharing
God intends the sharing of Christ to take place within Christian homes as parents raise their children “in the training and instruction of the Lord” (Eph. 6:4). Children of believers, then, are specially set apart as front-row witnesses to and beneficiaries of gospel influence (1 Cor. 7:14). The practice of family sharing is seen in the life of Paul’s protégé Timothy. “I am reminded of your sincere faith,” the apostle writes, “which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also” (2 Tim. 1:5). Timothy’s faith in Jesus first bloomed at home, thanks to the witness of his grandma and mom. (His dad, Luke tells us, wasn’t a believer.)
2. Friendship Sharing
Jesus was accused of many things; one was being a “friend of tax collectors and sinners” (Luke 7:34). Not a stranger, not a passerby, not an acquaintance—a friend. The Son of Man came to seek and save the lost (Luke 19:10), and he did so in the context of authentic relationships. Paul, too, modeled such “relational” or “friendship” sharing: Just as a nursing mother cares for her children, so we cared for you. Because we loved you so much, we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well. (1 Thess. 2:7–8) Friendship sharing can be a beautiful thing—so long as the friendship doesn’t crowd out the sharing. It’s easy to build relationships with unbelievers in the name of gospel witness without ever getting around to gospel witness. Intentionality, then, is vital that we share the saving message of Jesus.
3. Contact Sharing
The final (and least popular) type of sharing involves initiating gospel conversations with people you’ve never met. When I was in college, my campus ministry would often gear its outreaches around this approach—always a surefire way to get eye-rolls from the friendship- sharing -only crowd. Contact sharing, they insisted, is cold, impersonal, even deceptive. Anything can be abused, of course, so contact sharing can no doubt become unloving and unhelpful. But it doesn’t have to be. In fact, this method is explicitly modeled in Scripture too. In John 4 Jesus strikes up a conversation with a woman beside a well. Not only is she a complete stranger, she’s someone Jesus “should” avoid since she’s a woman and a Samaritan (double no-no). Nevertheless, he goes out of his way to meet her and turns their “natural” chat about water into a “spiritual” one about himself. He doesn’t waste much time, either, moving from “Will you give me a drink?” (v. 7) to “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would’ve asked him and he would have given you living water” (v. 10) in the span of just three verses.
And Jesus’s witnessing strategy here is not some New Testament anomaly. The earliest Christians also engaged in contact sharing: Day after day, in the temple courts and from house to house, they never stopped teaching and proclaiming the good news that Jesus is the Messiah. (Acts 5:42)
The earliest Christians were apparently eager to initiate gospel conversations with “random” persons, with strangers—with whomever their sovereign Lord led them to encounter (Prov. 16:9; 20:24).
If the danger in friendship sharing is never getting to the sharing, the danger in contact sharing is not caring enough to remember the person’s name. We aren’t manipulators, and we don’t work in sales (2 Cor. 2:17). God-honoring contact sharing, then, requires healthy doses of social awareness, common courtesy, and authentic concern.
Remember, as believers we believe that “Found People Find People.” People need to hear the good news about Jesus Christ, and there is no one-size-fits-all prescription for how that has to happen. It just has to happen. Whether we’re hoping to witness to a child, to a friend, or to a complete stranger, may the Holy Spirit grant us the courage to live lives of gospel intentionality this week—humbly and prayerfully seizing opportunities to brag about our great Savior. This Sunday at South Side we will continue our new series “I.D.” Come early and get a fresh cup of coffee at Café’ Connect. Worship begins at 10:45, we have classes for all ages, and would love to see you there!
South Side Church of Christ