For twelve years, I've interacted with a guy who grew up Catholic and had no interest in spiritual matters. My best guess is that money was his god, for he salted away every dime he made and invested it in the stock market. 2001 was rough for him because he lost nearly a half a million dollars in the market after 9/11 when the tech bubble burst, dragging down everything else that was non-tech related. It took him nearly five years to get it back with careful investing. Then, when he was finally back to his 2000 financial condition, another recession began and he's not nearly as wealthy as he was two years ago (like most everyone else, I guess!)
I'm not sure if having his financial rug repeatedly ripped out from under him repeatedly has caused him to become a seeker or if it has to do with the fact that he will be eligible for early retirement in a couple of years. But something's changed.
A while back, I blogged about the principles of relational evangelism. I've been practicing those principles with him for a long time and I'm finally seeing some movement on his part toward a deeper understanding of God and just how much God loves my friend.
Refrigerator rights? Check! We take stuff out of each other's fridge at least once a month on a regular basis.
Bi-directional servantood? Check! We do favors for one another two to three times a month.
Cross-pollination? Check! He spends time with my Christian friends and I am spending time with his friends and neighbors.
Genuine friendship? Check! I truly believe my friend would call me a friend as well. We both have unconditional love for one another.
Yesterday, I was invited to say the blessing over the Easter lunch he and his live-in girlfriend of many, many years threw for friends and neighbors. Then, he told me he read The Shack and was re-reading The Purpose Driven Life (He went through the 40 days of purpose with me years ago but said he never genuinely read the book).
I will invite my friend (again) to both my lifegroup and to our church's corporate gatherings. One will pique his interest at this point in his process and lead to involvement in the other.
Oddly enough, both my wife and I thought his girlfriend would be the first to come to Christ because she's been open to the message and the messenger for many years, but has never been interested enough to take the next step. Both God and people surprise me all the time, yet I still try to guess at who will do what by when like my dog does when she thinks we're going somewhere in the car and she is invited.
The last few Easter weekends have been times of deep thankfulness for what Christ did for me. This Easter was exciting as well as meaningful. Keep an eye on my blog and I will keep you updated on my friend's journey toward the cross. And, let me encourage you to review the principles of relational evangelism with the small group members in your church. Encourage them to be a genuine friend and overlap that friendship with the person's friends and the Christian's friends as well and move it to the next level of relationship and let the Holy Spirit do his part.
In 8 Habits of Effective Small Group Leaders, Dave Earley wrote something that permanently changed my way of thinking about evangelism:
"Win them as a friend. Then win them to your group as a friend. Then they'll be won to Christ."