If friendship is discipleship, then the great commission to “make disciples of all nations” can also mean to “make friends of all nations.” To befriend the world. But that sounds shallow, doesn’t it? How can evangelism and inviting in the lonely boil
As alluded before, to “befriend” someone takes an entirely new meaning when it comes to spiritual friendship. Typically, “befriending” someone just boils down to sharing enough common interests with a stranger you randomly met at work or in a class or in a coffee shop to determine whether you want to hang out with them or not. That’s really it.
But within the context of spiritual friendship, “befriending” someone is the very beginning of discipleship. You will inevitably influence each other’s spirituality and relationship with Christ in some way or another, for greater or for worse, even in the smallest of ways, whether you realize it or not. Therefore, there is an uncovered missional zeal behind befriending someone. Through spiritual friendship, befriending leads to recognizing their spiritual condition at the start of your friendship with a hyper-awareness of “Christ gathered in your midst.” Your friendship moving forward, then, will consist of intentionally asking questions about the condition of his or her soul because it’s the natural response for the truest nature of friendship. And if the individual does not know Christ, then through the very act of getting to know them – the very basic definition of befriending this person – you have now been given a primal opportunity to walk alongside them until they decide to receive salvation by befriending the Lord and his Church.
And it all began with your friendship.
Obviously, this sounds incredibly idealistic. Rarely will the discipleship of a nonbeliever through friendship be perfectly clean with no drawbacks or confusion whatsoever. In fact, it’s a very, very, very messy process that could take weeks, months, if not years until the friendship yields salvific opportunities. But because you stick to the discipleship of the nonbeliever through your friendship, the likelihood of him or her going to church with you and committing his or her life to Christ for the long-haul will be much higher simply because you stuck with them. Mass evangelistic efforts cast a wide net, but nothing quite pierces the soul like a spiritual friend who deeply knows them.
As our culture becomes increasingly post-Christian, lost people will not walk into a church seeking help with their problems on their own. The church is no longer a nationally known resource to give people the help they’re looking for as religiosity fades into the background. But as loneliness increases more and more alongside American individualism, consumerism, and isolationism, the only way they may ever stumble into a “church” may be through Christians inviting them into the very comfort of their homes through the power of their spiritual friendship.
The missional power of our friendships is unprecedented for our era — but this can only happen when we stop looking at our friendships as only a personal “good” that makes us feel better or as an ego-boosting number on a social media profile. We have to start recognizing the spirituality of our friendships and take ownership of those who are spiritually lonely and befriend them, with all the missional nuances attached to that word.
At that rate, making friends is the equivalent of making disciples.