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Tuesday, April 16, 2013

FIRE: It's a Relationship

          It has been on my mind for a couple of weeks and I have searched to find some pithy way of talking of it, but none has come to mind. I resolved tonight I must just speak on it as if we are having a conversation. The state of the world's salvation is of what I am speaking.
        While in America, I have been amazed at how much the Christian life has taken a lower level of care in society than it was just 20 years ago. I think it has come to my attention because witnessing and discipling is a big part of my life. Let me give you a few examples. I can go to a store and no one will say hello except the cashier and the greeter at the door, not a sales associate or a customer. I can watch national television and find so many shows my children are not allowed watch unless they are adults, and even then I would not watch them. I can go out and identify a person who is "closed" and in pain, and they will be surprised I take the time to talk to them and pray
 for them. At the end, I can talk to a person regarding attending church and their spiritual life. They may say, "I made that decision a long time ago and I don't need to go to church; I know He's got my back."

These incidents disturb me because people are so busy they are not taking the time to talk to other people, to observe them, to read their faces and body language, and to disciple Christians. If this was the norm now, what would occur if Americans became the minority in their own homeland and a new way of society or a new faith system was forced upon them? If there are no disciples of Christ or there are only nominal disciples, will the Christian faith be able to stand against opposing forces? I believe just a minority would be able to stand firm and the rest would either recant their faith or not care. What is happening? When did Christian Americans become so unconcerned with their culture and society that they did not care enough about people to share their faith with them? When did America become so insular and only work with other Christians? When did we close our hearts, eyes, and ears and choose not recognize people?

        I think a couple of reasons this has occurred is because: 1) Society adopted a policy of tolerance for every belief because it does not want anyone to "force" their beliefs on someone else; 2) People became so involved in their own lives and success that they did not notice people enough to have a real conversation with; 3) People feared telling of their Christian faith to others because they are afraid they will make a mistake be rejected by the person to whom they are talking.  Can I make a suggestion? You are not the one who may be rejected; Jesus
 Christ is the one whom they would be rejecting, if they did reject what you said. You would have been doing what Christ told us to do, go out and make disciples. Another thought, if you do not tell others because you are promoting tolerance, remember Jesus loves all his creation, men and women of all races and languages. He has been tolerant for thousands of years because He loves each of us. You may be the one He has chosen to tell this person near you about Him. Remember, He has a plan for everyone to hear about Him and when that occurs, the end will come. Would you like to be the reason someone has not been told about Jesus and God's love? We Christians are secure in our hope of living with God in heaven forever, but we also will stand and God will judge us for our actions and inactions. Christians need to take the opportunity God gives to tell others about Him; we must notice them. We must act upon the time God has given us to speak His love to them.

        What I find is that the number one reason Christians give for not sharing about Jesus is they are afraid. I addressed the fear of being rejected/denied earlier. They will not be rejecting you; they will be rejecting Jesus. The best way I found to get over this fear is to take a course on how to witness. Take two courses. Then, put it into action. The more times you make the time to share with others, the easier it will become. Most important, you must earnestly care about the person. When God saves you through Jesus His Son, He puts His Holy Spirit in you. This is God's Spirit; He has put His love inside you. You must call upon this love. You must allow yourself to step aside with your human limitations, prejudices, and fears and allow God to love this person with His love through you. Once you do that, they will want to listen to why you care; they will want to listen to and trust you. This is truly relational evangelism, God's love for others shining through you. God wants a relationship with them so much. He already loves them.

       How do we do this? I must say, witnessing is easier if we have known the person for a while, but we can use the FIRE method to show an interest in and learn about a person whether we know them or not. Our effort to listen to others tell us about themselves will not only make a person open up and trust us, but it will actually make us see they are human. We will see they need love and friendship. They may have other needs as well. This will unlock our heart for others and will allow others to trust us. 

        What is this FIRE? The short answer is Family, Interests, Religious experience, and Evangelism. Its application is not hard; it requires us to be human and genuinely to take an interest in another person. It also requires us not to talk so much as to listen. Get to appreciate the person. Ask them about their family. Do they have kids or grand kids? Who lives at home with them? From where do they come? Find out about them. Next, find out what the person's interests are. Do they enjoy reading, playing an instrument, playing computer games, or camping? We are now finding things we have in common with them. Next, find out what their religious background is. Do they go to a church? Which faith system do they follow? What are their thoughts on what happens when they die? Once we have taken time to get to a better knowledge of them, which may take fifteen minutes, a few days, or months, we will have a heart for them. They will understand that they can trust us and that we care about them.  

At this point, tell them about yourself, your family, interests, and religious experiences. By the time you have listened to them, you identified at least one need they expressed in their life. As you are telling them your religious experience, relate how God can meet their need as He has yours. Share that Jesus came to give abundant life because He loves them. Then share how God and Jesus showed that love and how it changed your life. Eventually you will come to a place where you can ask them if they want to know Jesus in this way, where He gives their life meaning, has forgiven them of their wrongdoings, and is the Savior of their life. He is there to take lead of their life to be their Savior, Provider, Protector, and King and He wants them to follow Him with the rest of their life. Tell them how your life has changed since you gave your life to Jesus. Ask if they want to make that commitment to follow Him as their Lord and Savior. Once you have led them in a prayer of confession and acceptance of Jesus Christ as their Savior, make sure you make a promise to help them grow in knowing what this new commitment means and how they can continue to be more Christlike.

        Try this. It is a relational way to speak to someone about God, Jesus, and His love and sacrifice
. Try it more than once. Speak to a person each week with an intention to talking with them about Christ. If you must, intentionally go out and be in the public without needing to shop or get back for a schedule, then you will be more open to seeing people who are in need or to whom God is leading you to speak. Be intentional. Go out once a week with the only agenda being to seek a person who needs to receive a word from God and who needs to know God and someone else cares about and loves them. It is a relationship thing. What is stopping you?