Why "Relational Ministry" is Keeping People from Jesus
"Relational Ministry" is very popular in youth ministry and evangelism circles. The philosophy goes like this: to lead people to Jesus, we need to be friends with them; if we are not friends with them, we have no right to share Jesus with them because we need to "earn the right" to be heard. Is this belief biblical? Clearly, it is not. Jesus Christ has not only given us the right, but has commanded us to share the gospel with unbelievers: "He [Jesus] said to them, "Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation" (Mark 16:15). Doing "relational ministry" might be direct rebellion against Jesus' command. And why is "relational ministry" so attractive? Because there is no persecution, there is no loss of friendship, there is no uncomfortability, there is no risk, in short: there is no cost. Does this mean that we are not to be relational with people. Clearly not. In talking about proclaiming the gospel, in obedience to Jesus Christ's command, the apostle Paul says this: "Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should. Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone" (Colossians 4:4-6). And Peter says this: "But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect" (1 Peter 3:15). Clearly we are to preach, proclaim, and answer, but this is to be done with grace, tact, love, gentleness, and respect.
Another false implication in "relational ministry" is that our relationships are what save people, and that you do not even really need to say anything, because Jesus will be seen in you, and they will ask what is different in your life and as a result will become a Christian. However, the Scriptures present another picture: "Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ" (Romans 10:17). Many people will not ask you why your life is different. Often they will just think you are just a nice person. They need to hear the message because it is the only way that faith is produced, and salvation is by faith alone.