Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Answer to Wrong Question

The other day a friend asked me to help a student studying missions. This student was writing a paper on how to work with animistic people. Since I worked with such a group for many years, the Pokot tribe of northwest Kenya, he sent me a series of questions to get my insight. One question was interesting.

“Can you describe the process of beginning to establish a relationship with someone for the sake of witnessing?”

I’m not sure why, but that question struck a defensive cord within me. “Why,” I wondered, “would anyone develop a relationship with someone just for the sake of witnessing about Christ?” Now that I’ve had time to think about it I guess I get the question, though I think it could have been crafted differently.

Most pastors and missionaries do seek avenues of developing networks of relationship, which lead to witness. Joining the Lions Club in the city, being a chaplain on the police force, starting a feeding program among the poor, teaching English, etc. These methods, and a host of other ways into the community, are not bad within themselves. Outsiders do need to build relationships, whether they are in the ministry or in business. The crucial question here is, does the means justify the end?

My answer to the student was that a person should establish a relationship with the Pokot, or any person, because it’s the natural thing to do, not merely an path for sharing the Gospel. As a follower of Christ I will share my faith, when given the opportunity, with anyone. But should I develop friendships for the express purpose of evangelism?

One my Face Book friends uses his “friendship” to advertise his business. Daily he posts something about his company in an attempt to drive traffic to his website. Occasionally I have used FB to do the same thing, but my friend uses it so much that I have put him in my “hide” box. I don’t want our relationship, even through the electronic social network, to be used for his sales agenda.

I think you get the point. Yes, there are legitimate ways in building a network of friends in a community. However, the best way to present Christ is to honestly make friends with people. It took me years to develop a network of relationships with the Pokot and I must admit, most of it was driven by how I could tell them about Jesus. Perhaps one reason the Pokot, and many other unreached people groups in the world, are still not reached is because they can “smell” our proselytizing agenda. So my advice on how to reach the unreached is simple – learn their language, learn their culture and worldview; develop genuine friendships within the community through everything from starting a school to being a cattle herder. If you do that well you will always have an opportunity to tell your friends the importance of Christ in your life.