This is my report from the pre-game evangelism at tOSU on 9/23/2017. If you are only interested in the friendship evangelism part of the story, scroll down until you see “Finally.”

Sept 23, 2017 was another day of fruitful ministry for the Lord Jesus Christ at Ohio Stadium. The Buckeyes took on the UNLV Running Rebels, but before that, my team ministered to those attending and generally hanging around.

For the game on the 16th, I reported that I had a team of 13 people preaching and tracting. For the 9/23 game I only had 5 people! One of the team members was a total surprise that morning, a woman named Debbie whom I had never met before. And my friend Jeff came with me very last minute. I was also grateful for the old faithful, Joshua & Rachael Richards. We were not many in number, but Joshua and I managed to preach for about 90 minutes apiece while Rachael, Debbie and Jeff passed out at least 1,000 tracts!

We sang a few hymns to get started. The sound of the female voices mixing with mine of Joshua’s was very pleasing to my ears and I trust to our Lord’s as well. We had the usual batch of folks who encouraged us and folks who were indifferent with a small number of dissenters.

I want to share 3 things about this outreach which I find remarkable.

First, after years of preaching there, I was approached by one of the traffic cops because he wanted to encourage me. He said he is praying for the people who hear and sent me his really great testimony. He was saved and ended up forgiving his father’s murderer and sharing the gospel with him. If you are interested in that story leave a comment or go to the contact me page and let me know you’d like to read his testimony.

Secondly, I think I finally found an application for a passage of Scripture that has always escaped me.

Mark 9 38 John said to him, “Teacher, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him, because he was not following us.”39 But Jesus said, “Do not stop him, for no one who does a mighty work in my name will be able soon afterward to speak evil of me. 40 For the one who is not against us is for us.

I have never felt I understood the application of those verses. Every time I heard someone refer to that passage, they were referring to heretic prosperity preachers! I knew this verse couldn’t possibly mean that we support false teachers, just because they say Christian things.

But Saturday I noticed something. For the second week in a row, a large group of people from another church in town were there passing out tracts and holding signs. And another group of believers were there most weeks last year and all 3 weeks of this year too. You see, these people go to churches where I have enough doctrinal disagreement that I doubt I’d ever partner with them in an evangelistic outreach. But, I did have sweet fellowship with them in just a few minutes of conversation. And then it hit me, they may not be with me, but these folks are not against me either. They are fighting the same battle for souls, but from a different understanding of Scripture.

Finally, I had a chance to practice friendship evangelism {GASP}. Observe.

A young man approached me carrying a bicycle (I always find that decidedly odd). I was handing out tracts and I offered him one. He gave me the kindest smile and said no thank you and walked past me.

As providence would have it, the light changed and he was ‘stuck’ at the intersection with me, but there was no more traffic, so I struck up conversation.

Me: So, do you go to school here or work here?
Eli: I go to school here.
Me: What’s your name? I’m Michael.
Eli: Eli.
Me: Oh, that’s a good Bible name.
Eli (visibly bothered sorta grumbles without making a sound)
Me: Where you from?
Eli: Urbana.
Me: Oh, my friend lived there. Her son is XXXX.
Eli: I know him. He graduated a year ahead of me.
Me: And Buck Nut is from there too, right?
Eli: Yeah, Larry Lokai! I just saw him.
Me: That’s cool. So can I give you one of my cards now (extending a tract).
Eli (smiling): No, thanks. I still don’t want one.
Me: Even after this friendly conversation you still won’t take one?
Eli (still smiling, this guy had charisma): Nope.
Me: Ok. I’m going to write about this encounter. You’ve helped me prove a point I want to make to some folks.
Eli: Perfect, glad I could help.

Then the light changed and he walked off toward the sunset carrying his bicycle. Ok, that was a bit dramatic. It was 9:30am and the sun was still in the east, but I digress.

You see, dear reader, the point is that this was the exact situation friendship evangelists claim is required to get the gospel to people. Friendship evangelism, in its common practice can be loosely defined as not giving folks the gospel but doing good works so that people will see Jesus in you and ask you about the hope you have. People need to be warmed up to the gospel by our good works, kindness and godly behavior, without bashing them over the head with the Bible or talk of sin. You must adorn the gospel to make it palatable to them.

Many people, and maybe even you, my friend, use the concept as friendship evangelism as your excuse to not give out the gospel to people. Some twist scripture enough to the point where they practically have their mouths taped shut waiting for a non-believer to drop to their knees and say “What must I do to be saved?”

But on September 23, friendship evangelism failed to live up to its billing. Eli simply had no more desire to take a tract after my kindness toward him than before. In fact, he laughed at the implication that he would. And that is because friendship evangelism is a made up thing which is antithetical to the biblical explanation of how evangelism is done, even “personal evangelism.” You see, the gospel is a proclamation that the King of kings and Lord of lords has accomplished on the cross and in His glorious resurrection all that was needed to atone for His people’s sin. And that each and every one of us must repent of our own sin and trust Jesus Christ as our only righteousness before a holy and just God. And it is only in hearing this message that man can truly be drawn to Christ, and it is only by faith in this message that a man can be saved.

So withholding the gospel from someone whose heart is darkened by sin and waiting for them to ask you to give it to them is analogous to a medic waiting for a knocked out person in an ambulance to request CPR. No, my friend, we who are living must be giving the life-giving words to those around us who are dead and trust God to quicken all those whom He has chosen from before the foundation of the world.

Thank you for reading this post. I try not to ‘break dry bread’ with you, but at the same time I like to paint the picture of how things that day. Please pray that God would grant salvation to those who heard the Word preached or received tracts!

3 thoughts on “I Tried Friendship Evangelism and You Won’t Believe What Happened Next!”

  1. I once heard John Piper say regarding evangelism…The hard part isn’t getting people saved. The hard part is getting people lost.

    People just don’t want to believe that they need saving in the first place.

  2. That is awesome news. Thanks for sharing. I often wondered as well about Jesus reply to his disciples in Mark 9 concerning who is really for us and not against us. There are false teachers that are blatant and need to be called out and identified, and there are those whose understanding of scripture is very poor but yet want to see people saved, although believing that they have to add human means and gimmicks to coerce the unsaved. I’m glad to hear you address this. Keep on keeping on bro. Also, Praise God for the police officer’s conversion. God Bless!

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