Is friendship a necessary component of evangelism? I would say no. We see plenty of instances in Scripture where Jesus spoke to the masses and many believed.
However, Jesus also developed deep friendships with his 12 disciples, and the impact on their lives was profound. Although not always a means for conversion, I would argue deep friendships should be a necessary component of your ministry.
Jesus included friendship in his ministry. Below are 3 reasons why you should too:
1.) Jesus was incarnational. To be incarnational means to become like someone else. This is exactly what Jesus did for us. He had all the blessings of Heaven, yet he chose to forsake it and become like one of us, so we might be saved.
If the all-knowing and all-wise God saved us by coming to share his life, why should we seek to see others saved in a different way?
Paul tells the Corinthians, “I have become all things to all people that by all means I might save some” (1 Corinthians 9:22). Being incarnational is one piece of living a missional life.
That means spending time after work with your unbelieving co-worker, doing what he likes to do. It means going over to the apartment of your unbelieving classmate, and spending time with his friends.
Jesus became like one of us, therefore we should become like our friends, so that we may reach them for Christ.
2.) Jesus Stayed. When Jesus was friends with people on Earth, he did something we have a hard time doing. When we rejected him, he stayed.
In full-time ministry, we can be prone to only spend time with those who show an interest in Jesus from the start. When ministry becomes your job, pressure can build for you to have friends trust in Christ. Therefore, we seek to find those who will most help us to accomplish this goal.
It is great if our friends trust in Christ, but if we refuse to befriend those who at first reject Jesus, we are not following his lead. Jesus seeks to befriend everyone, even those who have rejected him for many years.
In the Old Testament, Israel abandoned God many times over, yet God didn’t abandon them. Our friends might reject Jesus at first, but that doesn’t mean we should reject them, because Jesus didn’t reject us.
3.) It is hard to preach to strangers. It is not difficult to go through the motions of sharing the good news of Christ with someone for the first time. It is, however, difficult to use the gospel to speak into someone’s life in a way that deeply touches him or her.
To apply the gospel to someone’s life, you need to know him or her well.
I can tell someone Jesus wants to forgive their sins, but that becomes more real when I know specific sins my friend is feeling guilty about. I can tell my friend God is his Heavenly Father, but I will have little understanding of the impact until I know about my friend’s earthly father.
In his ministry, Jesus knew all things without needing to ask. We may not be all-knowing like Jesus, but we can learn about others just as much from asking.
Jesus knows all of us completely, which is why he is the best lover of our souls. We should take the time to get to know our friends deeply as well, so we can share Christ with them in the most intimate way possible.
Jesus became our friend. We need to follow his example.