“After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them on ahead of him, two by two, into every town and place where he himself was about to go. And he said to them, ‘The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest. Go your way; behold, I am sending you out as lambs in the midst of wolves.’” (Luke 10:1-3)
About twenty years ago I participated in an evangelism program with my church. We studied Scripture together, prayed together, and then went out to knock on the doors of people who had visited our church. Those visitors were expecting us since they filled out a form asking if they would like someone to come to their home. I was happy to have the company of one or two other Christians since we were never sure about the reception awaiting us.
The Lord brings us together in local church families and friendships for his glory and growth of the kingdom of Jesus Christ. Christian associations are meant to be uniquely redemptive, to encourage and equip each other in our sanctification and evangelism. We are all “lambs in the midst of wolves;” who could be chewed up by the hardness and ungodliness of the world in which we live. Every other religion expects its converts to jump through hoops, proving their worth and right to become a disciple. Christian faith is never gained by works or force, but only by the power of God the Holy Spirit working through believers (Ephesians 2). Jesus instructed his lambs not to go from house to house or stay where they were not welcome. (Luke 10:7, 10-11) The gospel is never embraced by force, so we should never use forceful means to “convince” someone to believe in Christ as Lord and Savior. A friend may be just the person we need to remind us of this and help us stay grace-centered for God’s glory.
The friendship believers have with Christ is a redemptive friendship; its focus is the glory of God through the sanctification of believers. Our human friendships should also be redemptive, as we encourage and equip each other in our spiritual growth. As Christ died for His friends, so we ought to be willing to die to ourselves for the good of our friends. God has called us to our local churches and is drawing us to himself together with our friends. He is providing us with the food and drink that will refresh our souls and knit us together with those whom he has appointed for our combined strength. Will you reach out to your friends, for the sake of the gospel, taking your friendships to the next level for mutual strengthening?