Q I have been inviting my friend to my church for some time. But he seems far from committing himself to Christ. What do I do?
A Often evangelism in the church has taken place according to a pattern that can be summed up as “believe, behave, belong.” That is, if you believe what we believe and behave how we behave, then you can belong to the church. However, this was not the model in the early church. Nor is it successful in our post-Christian culture.
Here is an alternative: “belong, behave, believe.” That is, the church simply invites all people, no matter who they are, to belong in the community of Jesus’ presence. In that community they learn to behave with deeds of compassion, justice, and worship. In so doing they are drawn to believe in the grace and truth of Jesus Christ.
We see this pattern in the New Testament. The Samaritan woman at the well, for example, felt she belonged when Jesus accepted her for who she was, a sinner. Then she behaved with an act of worship, asking, “Give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty.” Finally she began believing in Jesus Christ as the Messiah, and “many of the Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony.”
In Acts 2, we see that the early Christians opened their homes with such hospitality to their Jewish neighbors that they experienced a sense of belonging. There they witnessed Christian behaviors: the apostles’ teachings, the Lord’s Supper, worship and prayer, and koinonia. Then “the Lord added to their number those who were being saved.”
As one historian put it, “The new believers were attracted to the community of Jesus’ followers first. Only then did they begin to realize that they were attracted to the person of Jesus.”