There are some Christians who date those who aren’t with the hope that their partner becomes a Christian. This is called “missionary dating”. While there are many ways to show how unwise this is, there’s a lesser known type of missionary relationship that devalues the nature of that commitment, as well. I call this the “missionary friendship”.
We should always desire to lovingly preach the gospel to those we know, and bear witness of its effect through how we live. But if we form a friendship with someone because we want to spring the gospel on them when they get comfortable with us, then that friendship isn’t authentic. I was inspired to write this because I came across a tweet written by Micah Fries who is the senior pastor of Brainerd Baptist Church:
Don't befriend people so that you can share the gospel with them. Befriend people AND share the gospel with them.
— Micah Fries (@micahfries) February 19, 2017
As soon as I saw this tweet, it immediately sparked something in me. Sometimes we forget how easy it is for us to overlook the desire to control our lives, whether it’s making it easier to share the gospel or producing conditions in our lives and relationships that are favorable to us, we have to constantly examine our hearts to keep our motives for what we do and who we connect with in check. Do you love people because God is genuinely forming His ways in your life that it manifests naturally, or are you trying to be a good-looking Christian?
Have you been raised in an environment where you’re taught to memorize the “12 steps of gospel presentation” and you approach people like customers who simply can’t resist your top-notch sales pitch? God never builds true and lasting relationships with people because He’s preparing to sell them His message, He is love and His desire for a relationship with you resulted in an authentic relationship with Him.
Don’t get me wrong; it’s easy to overlook the urgency we need to share the gospel. We can slip into the shadows of our friendships to avoid the difficulties of standing up for the gospel, it’s easy even for me to get away from it. We’ve even adopted a well-known saying to do it too. You know the saying, “Preach the gospel, and if necessary, use words”? If you really think about it, preaching means to speak the message you’re giving. Instead, our lifestyle is meant to show the gospel, as we preach it with words. This is why we have the saying, “Practice what you preach” when it comes to living out this message.
The first part of Proverbs 18:24 says, “A man who has friends must himself be friendly,” so be friends with those who don’t know the Lord because you’re a friendly person whom people connect with. If you have things in common with someone, it’s ok to connect with them while standing firm on your convictions and lifestyle. When you truly love the Lord and those around you, it shows, and the opportunities to love like He loves are endless.