We were created to worship. Out of that context we proclaim the good news of the One we worship so that others can join that movement. Ultimately the goal of growth in Christ in this life is to become a daily, moment-by-moment Christ-follower who shares His gospel not out of compulsion or from an assignment but because it is our very nature. If every believer in a nation lived that way, many nations would be different in a few years.
Missional witness means we witness in the context of our lifestyle with people we know and have a relationship. It is more holistic—unlike knocking on a door of a stranger, being missional means there may be times when you will not talk about Christ explicitly with the other person but are always seeking to demonstrate a changed life. I have neighbors I want to see saved. I do not share Christ every time we have a conversation. In some cases they would never talk to me. I try hard to be a good neighbor and a good friend. The remarkable thing is that by doing this, most of the time the neighbor brings up spiritual matters! My goal is to see all my neighbors saved. In the meantime, I want to be their friend. But friends do not let friends go to hell.
When Paul described how the gospel came to the Thessalonians in 1 Thess 1:5, he said it came through words, power, the Holy Spirit, and assurance. But then he added, “You know how we lived among you for your sake” (NIV). The lifestyle of the apostle helped his witness. Read 1 Thessalonians 1–2 and see the missional life of Paul. Read Acts 20:17–24 and see how Paul got to know the Ephesians and shared the good news in the context of living it out before them. We must be intentional, but we must also be missional.
Missional witness means we will build relationships with others who do not know Christ to love them to Him. It means we will appreciate (though sometimes not embrace) their interests and cultural distinctives. I was part of a research team who surveyed pastors in a western state about their personal witness. We asked a couple of questions that nailed several of those surveyed. First, we asked how many meals they had shared with an unbeliever in the past year. Second, we asked how many times they had an unsaved person in their home. Pastors began to realize they had given little time to building relationships with others outside the church. The institutional church has devoted so much effort to getting people into the building that it fails to value missional living adequately. If it means reducing the number of events at the church building in order to give believers time to build relationships with neighbors, so be it.
Relational evangelism consists of ongoing witnessing encounters with people we know—family members, coworkers, and friends. Relational evangelism allows repeated opportunities to witness. Andrew shared Christ with Philip (John 1:40–41), and Philip shared with Nathaniel (John 1:45). Many people will be won to Christ only after a significant relationship is built up over a period of time.
Alvin Reid and Thom S. Rainer, Evangelism Handbook (Nashville, TN: B&H Academic, 2009).