For various reasons, evangelism is a difficult subject for many Reformed Christians. Some die-hard Calvinists may have glanced at the title of this message—friendship evangelism—and asked, “What’s evangelism?” Or, if they are really die-hard Calvinists, perhaps they asked, “What’s friendship?” But this attitude is not what the Bible teaches, not what the tradition of the Reformed faith teaches, and it is not what we have sought to practice in this congregation.
“No man, when he hath lighted a candle, putteth it in a secret place, neither under a bushel, but on a candlestick, that they which come in may see the light. The light of the body is the eye: therefore when thine eye is single, thy whole body also is full of light; but when thine eye is evil, thy body also is full of darkness. Take heed therefore that the light which is in thee be not darkness. If thy whole body therefore be full of light, having no part dark, the whole shall be full of light, as when the bright shining of a candle doth give thee light. And as he spake, a certain Pharisee besought him to dine with him: and he went in, and sat down to meat” (Luke 11:33-37).
Jesus teaches us that when we turn on the lights, we do not do this in order to hide it away (v. 33). You don’t keep a light bulb burning in a back room of the basement—not on purpose anyway. Now Jesus says that we do this so that “they which come in may see the light” (v. 33). Now there are many places in Scripture where a “shining of the light” refers to what we call contact evangelism, but this is not one of them. When someone stands up in the town square and preaches the gospel, he is shining the light, but by a different means than is in view here. Jesus moves from a mention of lighting a candle to the cryptic statement that “the light of the body is the eye” (v. 34). If your eye is single, your whole body is full of light. If your eye is evil, your whole body is full of darkness. This business about the eye was a Jewish idiom, referring to generosity and stinginess respectively. But be careful—there are people in darkness who think they are in light (v. 35). They think they are hanging from the ceiling when they are in fact under a bushel. All of these are connected—eye, body, room. Jesus then was invited to share a meal with a Pharisee, and He did so (v. 37).
Clearing Some Debris:
Contact evangelism is the equivalent of an evangelistic cold call. If a person is gifted and called to this, it is wonderful. Friendship evangelism is far more organic and does not depend in any way on anything like calling, ordination, or giftedness—Jesus is presupposing here that this experience will be shared by all His faithful followers. It is commonly called friendship evangelism, but we could call it light of the eye evangelism.
But not all that calls itself friendship evangelism is. Friendship evangelism is something other than friendly evangelism. Scripture say to let your love be without hypocrisy. You don’t want to invite a nonbeliever over because you have a product line you’d like to show him. Under such circumstances, the nonbeliever would right feel abused. This is not friendship evangelism, but rather pretence evangelism. Friendly marketing evangelism is not friendship evangelism.
At the same time, be aware that true friendship with nonbelievers will always hit a sticking point. If you had the best relationship in the world with your mother, how could you be complete friends with someone who despised her? But the impediment needs to be that problem, and not your personal grievance that he is not letting you “complete a sale.”
Also remember a few common pitfalls — take heed to your own walk with God. First, evangelism is a two-way street, and sometimes the world recruits people from the Church better than we recruit people from the world. So you want to be an evangelist to the rich, evangelist to the bar crowd, evangelist to attractive, single women on campus? You can only export what you have, and if your spiritual life is a mess, then that is what you will take on the road. Second, evangelism is not what many assume. Many Christians really don’t want to be struggling spiritually, and they view evangelism as a means of grace. They feel like “real Christians” if they are sharing their faith. But sharing your faith is not an assigned means for propping up your faith. And last, evangelism is not so that you can become an ecclesiastical Billy the Kid, just another gunslinger with notches on your Bible.
A Woven Life:
Our postmodern world wants you to think of everything as a collage, with everything arranged by juxtaposition only. The juxtaposition does get an “effect”—you have your church people, biology class people, work people, and so on. Your life and your worldview is a pastiche, a hodge-podge, and not a Charles Hodge-Podge either. Owen Barfield said that what C.S. Lewis thought about everything was implicit in what he said about anything. The biblical worldview is woven. An integrated Christian life should be woven together in who you are. This means that when talking with anybody about anything, you will find yourself talking about Christ—and you will get to Christ without changing the subject.
What do I mean by juxtaposition? “What’s your major? Who do you think is going to take the Super Bowl?” And then you grab the spiritual discussion by the ears and haul it in. “Aaa! Too soon, too soon!” There is an old blues song—“never make your move too soon.” Don’t lug it in unless it is part of who you are. If everything is connected, soon is fine. If everything is disconnected, two years of friendship won’t make it any easier. If we really understand the Godness of God in everything, we can’t answer five honest questions in a row without it all coming down to Christ naturally.
Now for the Surprise:
What is the common theme that ties everything together? What is the integrative tie? It is your relationship to your material possessions, to your money. “And I say unto you, Make to yourselves friends of the mammon of unrighteousness; that, when ye fail, they may receive you into everlasting habitations” (Luke 16:9). Use ungodly mammon to make friends for yourselves, friends who will then receive you in heaven.
We see the same thing in our text. Jesus said that if your eye is light (if you are generous), your whole body will be full of light. He then said if your whole body is full of light, then it will be the candle that should give light to the room. And the well-lit room is the one where people can see well enough to ask questions. The room is lit so that those who come in might see it.
Now everything rides on this. Friendship evangelism rests upon generosity, sacrifice, kindness, openness, hospitality, goodness, and open-handedness. That is to be the texture of your life, and non-believers are welcome to come along with you. In short, is your evangelism giving or taking? Are you a benefactor or a salesman?