>In Defense of Relational Evangelism, Part II

Posted: 22/11/2008 in evangelism, LDS, Utah

>In my previous blog, I told a short story about meeting Christians who did not agree with “relational evangelism.” They instead insisted on street preaching instead. I must now defend the view of Standing Together, and explain why I support relational evangelism.

Relational evangelism actually takes into account something very important: other people. Specifically, the people who we hope will eventually convert. One assumption behind my team’s work in Utah is that people convert largely due to their friendships and relationships with us –the friendly Christians. This may fly in the face of “confrontational apologetics,” but it is supported by psychology. Lewis Rambo writes in Understanding Religious Conversion”:

“Not all converts establish relationships before conversion, but many do, and it is important to note this common pattern. In interview I conducted with more than fifty converts, I found that relationships were very important to the conversion process, with only three or four exceptions. For many, a relationship with a friend or family member was crucial in leading the person to a new perspective or way of life.”

Elsewhere in his book Rambo mentions that the relationship factor is consistent in many psychological studies of religious conversion.

I learned elsewhere, from my Apologetics class, that you must do “apologetics as if people mattered. What this means is that before you argue, you must first win the right to be heard. Quite simply, you must somehow build rapport, very good rapport, with someone before you can expect them to listen to you on religion. Most people do not want to talk about religion and will only do so with those they consider very good friends. Standing Together tries to build this necessary rapport with individuals of the LDS community before asking them to consider different view points.

Some may still resist what I write because of my lack of appeal to scripture. I have not attempted to quote scripture because I am very careful not to proof-text. After all, it is hard to find chapter and verse for how I should interact with the LDS when there were no LDS when the NT was penned. However, I will leave the read with one last thing.

When Paul gave his famous sermon on Mars Hill he had apparently earned the ears and attention of Athenians. Standing Together in turn has apparently earned the ears and attention of the LDS. By the simple extension of an olive branch, the APU team was invited to lunch with LDS officials, a tour of their most sacred temple, and dialogue with students at BYU. Whether or not being nice, polite, and friendly fulfills “Biblical Warrant” it seems that Standing Together is listened to –a truly Biblical result that the street preachers seldom can claim.

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Comments
  1. Biomusician says:

    >”Quite simply, you must somehow build rapport… with someone before you can expect them to listen to you on religion.”This is why attempting to talk about religion on internet message boards is often futile – it too often draws polar personalities and opinions, and those who are willing to actually converse are ignored.Just some thoughts:When I look at Jesus’ ministry, I see that he often spoke to large groups. However, despite the large crowd following he had at one time, the people who really moved forward in their spiritual lives were the ones who got in contact with Jesus personally.As you said, the effectiveness of speaking to large groups is highly sensitive to the context, and is often directly related to how much the people there wish to hear you. But, if there is someone in the group with “ears to hear,” he may approach you.To sum things up, good evangelism requires good communication, and good communication often requires some sort of relationship, or at least respect. With all the talking that some Christians do about relating/communicating with God – a supernatural person unlike ourselves – you’d think they’d know how to relate/communicate with people who are like us.

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