Should we share the gospel with unbelievers or befriend them? You can and should do both! The gospel and goodwill are not enemies of one another.
To share the gospel with someone doesn’t mean you have to be rude.
To be kind to someone doesn’t mean you have to water down the message.
You need to learn the secret of having evangelistic friendships or displaying friendly evangelism.
The Apostle Paul planted a church in Thessalonica, but he couldn’t stay long. When his mission team arrived, they were labeled as those who “turned the world upside down” (Acts 17:6), and that reputation served them well. As they shared the gospel with the citizens, they witnessed many conversions. The change in the area was so noticeable that opponents persecuted them greatly. In fear that such hard times would trouble new believers, Paul fled from the city to reduce the tension (Acts 17:10).
This church shouldn’t have made it, but they did. Instead of folding under pressure and without mentorship, they thrived. When he wrote them this letter, he expressed his genuine gratitude and persistent prayer for the congregation. In the middle of this letter, he reminded them of his team’s example he desired for them to emulate.
7 Although we could have been a burden as Christ’s apostles, instead we were gentle among you, as a nursenurtures her own children. 8 We cared so much for you that we were pleased to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own lives, because you had become dear to us. 9 For you remember our labor and hardship, brothers and sisters. Working night and day so that we would not burden any of you, we preached God’s gospel to you. 10 You are witnesses, and so is God, of how devoutly, righteously, and blamelessly we conducted ourselves with you believers. 11 As you know, like a father with his own children, 12 we encouraged, comforted, and implored each one of you to walk worthy of God, who calls you into his own kingdom and glory.1 Thessalonians 2:7-12
Instead of burdening the people, they cared for them (2:7). He knew we all need gentle caretakers to help us develop as we follow Christ. All mature and immature believers need intentional, patient, loving, and endearing people to further our discipleship. Paul mentioned giving the church two key things: Christ’s gospel and his example (2:8).
Delivering information without presence is impersonal. It’s unfaithful to befriend someone without giving them the news that can change their life. We need both! Our souls require it.
We cannot be saved without the gospel, but most people receive the gospel from someone with established credibility.
You cannot simply claim you love someone if you are unwilling to share God’s love with them. That takes proclamation (gospel) and incarnation (presence).
His example was worth their repeating and ours! We only love someone ultimately once we become intentional about their spiritual condition. The gospel is the power of God for salvation (Rom. 1:16), but our care often creates the potential to be heard. If you want to love someone well, do what Jesus did. You operate like Paul’s example.
Be present in the lives around you, and share with them the message of the life that can change theirs.
Travis Agnew serves as the Lead Pastor of Rocky Creek Church in Greenville, SC. His most recent book is Just (About) Married.