According to all the studies I’ve read over the last 40 years, the typical churchgoer will never help another person enter into a meaningful relationship with God.

Bible studyWow! How can that be?

On second thought—maybe it’s not so hard to believe….

A co-worker has cancer, and you want to say you’ll pray for her, but—what if she rejects your offer and spreads it around the office that you were trying to convert her?

Your daughter’s best friend complains that her parents are always yelling at each other. You want to tell the parents that they need God in their lives, but—they might turn on you, and your daughter could suffer.

You invited your cousin and his wife to a church outreach last year, but—instead of enjoying it, your cousin started asking difficult questions about why God lets people suffer. So now you try to steer clear of him.

It happens all the time. We see someone who needs God, but we hold back.

I’ve become convinced that we’re usually rendered ineffective by two emotions: guilt and fear.

Guilt, because deep inside we’re sure we ought to be doing more for God than we are.

Fear, because we really don’t know what to say, and we’re sure that if we say the wrong thing, we’ll be ridiculed or challenged, and maybe drive the person further from God.

Most of the time, we ignore the guilt and convince ourselves we’re doing okay by sticking to the “safe” things—attending the worship service and maybe a Bible study or prayer meeting, being part of a committee, teaching a Sunday school class. We avoid anything that would expose our inadequacies. And we avoid intimacy with people who ask personal questions, like, “What has God said to you lately?”

Of course, giving in to fear eventually leads to more guilt.

And then we start wondering where the power of God is in our lives.

We look at the woman who’s taught neighbourhood Bible studies for over 30 years, and wonder why we can’t be like her.

We look at the man who’s seen many of his coworkers accept Christ, and wonder why we can’t lead someone to Christ, too.

And we beat ourselves up and feel we’re worthless. And we want to change… But how?

Well, maybe there is a way.

We can start by realizing that we can’t all be Billy Graham, and that if each one of us could impact just one other person, we’d be making a huge contribution.

We can be honest with ourselves and God, and ask his forgiveness for not always obeying him in the past.

We can ask God to work through us now. Then ask him to bring to mind the name of just one person who doesn’t know God but is open to a relationship with us. And then we can begin to pray daily for that person, and we can start to build a friendship. Nothing more. Just relax, become friends, and earn the right to be heard.

How do you do that?

Take your coworker with cancer to a spa for a girls’ day out.

Invite your daughter’s friend’s family over for a barbecue and start getting to know her parents.

Go with your cousin to a soccer game and ask him how he’s doing.

If we spend 90% of the time together listening and 10% of the time talking, we’ll get to know them well enough to be able to pray for them intelligently.

And if we keep from driving them away by telling them upfront that all they really need is God, and we really do become friends, we might just find them asking us why we’re so different, and wanting to know more about the God we serve.

August 30, 2013

About the author 

N. J. Lindquist

N. J. Lindquist is the award-winning author of books, articles, short stories, and blog posts. She also edits and publishes the "Hot Apple Cider" anthologies. A former high school teacher, N. J. co-founded The Word Guild and teaches workshops for writers as well as speaking on various topics including creativity and leadership.

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