Develop Better Relationships Faster

I have been re-reading Dr. Wayne McDill’s book, Making Friends for Christ: A Practical Approach to Relational Evangelism. In another post, I mentioned the chapter about the simple and powerful act of listening to others. With the idea of making friends for Christ on my mind, I ran across this article from Business Insider called “How to Make People Like You Immediately.” The author provides seventeen “science backed” strategies for developing better relationships faster, based on “psychological research.”

Christians often shy away from such strategies. They somehow seem sneaky and manipulative to us. We usually associate such strategies with irritating salesmen or those trying to get something from us. Dr. McDill addresses this concern.

‘Well,’ you ask, ‘aren’t we cultivating friendships for a hidden reason? Aren’t we really aiming to influence these friends for Christ? If that’s our motive, how are we any different from that saleman?’ That’s a good question. But there are differences. For one thing, you seek nothing for yourself from the relationship—no sales, no commission, no bonus. You are cultivating the friendship, not for yourself, but for the eternal benefit of your friend. The friendship is not, in that sense, merely a means to an end. The relationship itself is filled with meaning. . . .

We have already discussed the miracle key to your influence in your friend’s life—your sincere interest in his personal concerns. We said that one way to show that interest is to listen sincerely to the personal concerns of your unbelieving friend. But let me stress this: listening is not just a gimmick to make the person think you care about him. You must really care.
— Wayne McDill, Making Friends for Christ, 84, 97

Let’s take a look at these seventeen strategies for developing better relationships faster. Let’s evaluate them based on biblical principles, and see if we can learn more about influencing others for Christ.

The first strategy for developing better relationships faster is to copy them.

This strategy strikes me as inauthentic, especially if someone were trying to do it on purpose. However, I have noticed that I have a natural tendency to act and talk like the people I am with.

I live out in the country in the NC mountains. I don’t talk like my neighbors, since I have a non-accent left over from growing up in Oregon. But when I am visiting with them, I find myself drawing out my words and adding in mountain inflections by the end of the conversation. I also match the speaking pace of the person I am talking with. When my kids are with me, they grin and giggle at my change in speech.

Simply mimicking other people to get them to like you is superficial. But there is a true principle in meeting people where they are, acting in such a way that allows them to hear you better. Paul explains his own strategy:

For though I am free from all,
I have made myself a servant to all,
that I might win more of them.
To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews.
To those under the law I became as one under the law
(though not being myself under the law)
that I might win those under the law.
To those outside the law I became as one outside the law
(not being outside the law of God but under the law of Christ)
that I might win those outside the law.
To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak.
I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some.
I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings.

(1 Corinthians 9:19-23 ESV)

Next time we will discuss other strategies like “Spend more time around them” and “Compliment other people.”

Do you adjust your communication style to the person with whom you are talking? In what ways do you think it is appropriate to become like those you are trying to reach? Please leave your comments and questions below. I would love to hear from you!

The Miracle Key to Influencing Others for Christ

I have often been asked over the years how to talk to people who don’t know Christ. How do I shift the conversation to spiritual things? Some people seem so hard to talk to!

For some reason, we have made this task much more difficult than it really is. We are so focused on trying to influence people for Christ that we forget to be normal, caring people. We have also become overwhelmed and confused with various evangelism strategies we have heard about over the years. In fact, people feel so intimidated and insecure about talking with others about Christ that they avoid it altogether! 

I have been reading Making Friends for Christ: A Practical Approach to Relational Evangelism by Wayne McDill (my Dad!). Dad suggests that the key to reaching people for Christ is (prepare yourself for a shock) . . . be a real friend.

I was particularly struck by the simplicity of Chapter 4: A Listening Ear. Here are a few highlights:

“If we are to take our responsibility for evangelism seriously we must upgrade these casual acquaintances to a level of real friendship. How do we break the ice? Where do we begin? . . . How do we awaken an awareness of Christ? How do we get inside their thinking with the gospel?”

“I want to give you a miracle key that unlocks another’s life to your influence for Christ. I guarantee it to work if you use it prayerfully and sincerely. . . . The key is simple: your sincere interest in your neighbor’s personal concerns. . . . Everyone needs someone who cares enough to listen to him.”

“Sincere listening says eloquently, ‘I care about you.’ It’s a matter of deliberately switching ‘channels’ to guide the conversation into the area of the other person’s interests. It means forfeiting the right to talk about yourself. It means cultivating listening skills—looking your friend in the eye, paying attention to what he says, asking pertinent questions, nodding, smiling, commenting briefly.”

“Two rather amazing things happen. For one thing, the Christian learns a lot about his friend—his attitudes, priorities, strengths, hurts, and fears. All this helps him know how to pray for him and relate to him. But a second things also happens: the listening Christian becomes very special to the unbeliever. He has found a friend!”

“As the relationship develops, the friends who has sensed your genuine interest will feel much freer to be himself. Only then will he share very personal needs and problems. He will also be more likely to listen to you.”

While listening:

  • “Make mental notes about what you hear. You must think about what you are hearing. . . . You will soon have a file on her in your own mind and in your prayer journal.”
  • “Strive for full empathy. Only in this way can [you] begin to make connections between the deepest need of the neighbor and the answer of the gospel.”

I recommend this book to you as a life changing resource for fulfilling Jesus’ call to make disciples. But don’t wait to read it before practicing these simple listening tips. What a natural, authentic way to love others!

Second Edition of Making Friends for Christ Available!

Here is the description of the book printed on the back cover:Making Friends Cover "This is not a gimmick. It is not the next modern evangelism strategy for you or your church to use for a while and then discard when the next one comes along. It is not about pretending to be friends with people to fulfill a hidden conversion agenda.

"Making Friends for Christ is an exploration of loving others the way that Jesus loved us, intentionally, relationally, and sacrificially. The people all around us want to be loved. They need a friend who will listen to them and care for them. And that is just what Jesus wants us to do. As we live in love and truth, his light shines into people’s lives so that they may know Love Himself.

"Making Friends for Christ is a guide for learning how to be a real friend. It offers practical, everyday ideas for touching the people God has already put into your life. You will learn how to be a good listener, overcome common barriers, and invest in relationships. You can turn your home into a place of ministry and effectively tell how Christ has changed your life. You can learn to pray in faith for your friends and family and join with other believers for support and encouragement.

"This second edition of Making Friends for Christ is revised and enlarged for the challenges of the Twenty-First Century evangelism.

"Wayne McDill teaches Communication and Bible Exposition in Wake Forest, North Carolina at Southeastern Seminary.  He has also taught courses in Evangelism, Church Planting, and Pastoral Leadership.  He is author of seven books, including the first edition of Making Friends for Christ, along with books on preaching and personal Christian growth."

You can order the book from Amazon HERE.

The Witness of Just "Being There"

“The first necessary element of inductive evangelism is that it is incarnational. Incarnation means “in flesh.”. . . As a communication strategy, incarnation means that God came here personally to earth. . . . Evangelism as incarnational begins with this concept of presence, of “being there.” Just by being there you are communicating, without saying a word. . . . The Christian community in the world not only carries a message, we are the message.” “The fact of your presence among your lost neighbors is a beginning point for your witness. They are listening. They are watching. They are asking what it means that a person claims to know God and converse with Him. And where we are present, God is communicating. Just as our common humanity ties us to our neighbors, our new life in Christ ties us to God. We are citizens of two worlds. We are here on a mission.”

- Wayne McDill, Making Friends for Christ

Jesus' Communication Strategy

Here is an excerpt from Dad's book Making Friends for Christ: An Inductive Strategy for Personal Evangelism. You can hear Dr. Wayne McDill present the contents of the book in the seminar our church is hosting this Friday evening and Saturday morning. Check out the details here.

"Since Jesus is our model for communication strategy, it is important to us to see how His mission is presented in the Bible. In Jesus of Nazareth God communicated with man as never before. He translated His message into a language mankind could understand, the language of human experience. Jesus was, in an ultimate sense, the Word of God to man. God had spoken once and for all time in an unmistakable way. His message was contained not only in the things said by this Visitor from another world, the message was also in who He was and what He did, His attitudes, and how He related to those around Him. His communication strategy then becomes ours.

. . . An evangelism that ignores the experience of the individual person is not consistent with the gospel of Christ. People can sense our motives. They know when we are attempting to manipulate them for our own purposes. They know when we are out for their good only, and when we aim only to fatten our church rolls and our offerings at their expense. They know when we really care, and when we see them only as objects on which to unload an evangelistic “pitch.” They know when we are actually listening, and when we only wait impatiently for a chance to continue our canned presentation."

Making Friends for Christ Seminar

If you are in the Boone area (or don't mind driving), please consider attending this upcoming seminar our church is hosting:

Making Friends for Christ

Making Friends

a seminar with

Dr. Wayne McDill

Author and Senior Preaching Professor at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary

Friday, Feb 26, 6:30-8:30pm Saturday, Feb 27, 8:30am-12pm

The banquet hall of The High Country Home Builder’s Association 755 Hwy. 105 By-Pass, Boone, NC hosted by Highland Christian Fellowship

Find out more about the seminar and download a FREE copy of Dr. McDill’s E-Book

Showing the Face of God: An Inductive Strategy for Evangelism