How to Develop Relationships with Strangers or Other People

Our Reference Text is John Chapter 4.

I. Without developing connections, it would be impossible to win and disciple a person. (v.4)
II. Humility to go to places for connection (v.5-6)
III. Expand your knowledge of the current world (v.7-26)
IV. Making disciples should be a natural thing for a follower of Christ (v.27)
Philemon 6 states, “I pray that the sharing of your faith may become effective for the full knowledge of every good thing that is in us for the sake of Christ.”
V. Honesty invites honesty in return (v.29-30)
VI. Use the universal longings of the human soul as an opening for connection. (v.33-34)
1. The longing to go out from this normal world in search for a lost home or a “better country”
2. The craving of the soul to have a special someone where one can have a heart-to-heart love relationship.
3. The craving for inward cleansing.

The skill of building relationships is one of the most vital wisdom that anyone must develop in life. Connecting to people is also one of the important ingredients in fulfilling the mission of Christ. We have to make the most of every opportunity that comes in order to begin the process of evangelism and discipleship.

If there’s one Person whom we can follow on building relationships and nurturing connections, that would be Christ Himself. As the Master Missionary, He gives us powerful concepts and timeless principles on winning the lost to salvation.

Let us look at Jesus’ meeting with the Samaritan Woman at John 4 as the starting point for our study on connecting to people. The verse reads:

(5) So he came to a town of Samaria called Sychar, near the field that Jacob had given to his son Joseph.  (6) Jacob’s well was there; so Jesus, wearied as he was from his journey, was sitting beside the well. It was about the sixth hour.  (7) A woman from Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.” John 4:5-7 (ESV)

Here are some principles we can learn:

I. Without developing connections, it would be impossible to win and disciple a person. (v.4)

Remove the building of connections from the missionary activity and it would be difficult to win the lost, and thus it would be impossible to disciple a person. Jesus understood this truth therefore He sacrificed and went against the common prejudices of his contemporary culture in order to win the Samaritan woman.

The first step to the salvation of the lost may only require the preaching of the gospel or reading of God’s Word, but this still requires developing a connection from the evangelist to the hearers. The second step of building a person as a disciple towards Christlikeness requires a life-to-life work.

II. Humility to go to places for connection (v.5-6)
Humility is a needed virtue to be possessed by missionaries. It is a requirement in order to find common openings to present the gospel. It takes humility for a Jew to condescend from the predominant religious mindset in order to reach the Samaritans.
Evangelists are not out there to debate and win arguments but to communicate the gospel as clear as they can with all humility, love, grace and mercy from God. It takes humility to give self an effort to speak to the language of the lost in order to gain them for Christ.
III. Expand your knowledge of the current world (v.7-26)
If Christians have greater knowledge of the current events and people’s situations, they will be more widely available to connect the gospel to the life of any person in their everyday situation. When a gospel-presenter speaks about an issue or an event that is common to his hearers and engages their minds to the connections of these realities to their need, his hearers will incline their ears more as a result of surfacing and by exposing what is within them.
For evangelists to be more relevant to people’s hearts, their curiosity about the universe should always be expanding. Good disciple-makers are mindful of the struggles in the life of their disciples. They are faithful in applying  the gospel to the needs of the human heart. Effective disciplers are life-long learners.
IV. Making disciples should be a natural thing for a follower of Christ (v.27)
A true follower of Christ places a high priority on leading others to His Master and nurturing them to maturity. When a person is a genuine “fan” of a popular person, artist or group, it is natural for him to have a lifestyle of gathering, developing and leading others to follow the same.

Dawson Trothman, the founder of Navigators, once observed that you will know that a person is physically-mature if he can physically reproduce himself. He noted, that it is the same with the spiritual life. A spiritually-mature person can also spiritually-reproduce. Spiritual maturity, therefore, is the acquisition and development of capabilities to reproduce one’s self.

Philemon 6 states, “I pray that the sharing of your faith may become effective for the full knowledge of every good thing that is in us for the sake of Christ.” When we share our faith to others, we will be asked by questions and challenged by different situations. We should be honest to admit if we don’t know the answers, which would lead us to search, understand, and take to heart the needed truths. In searching for answers, we will be stretched and grow in our understanding of the Christian Life. Better growth happens when we make evangelism and discipleship a major part of our lifestyle.

V. Honesty invites honesty in return (v.29-30)

People easily sense hypocrisy, but also easily respond to honesty. Christians must be aware that hypocrisy is a hindrance to winning the lost. “Many people are not interested in the church because they know there are hypocrites inside.” An honest Christian can admit that there are inconsistencies and compromises in himself. That even him as a Christian is struggling with sin as a part of his life, too.

When both the Christian and the non-Christian share the same struggle, they have something in common. This is where the connection begins. Until hypocrisy is cured, honesty and humility will not begin to enter their conversation. There is now a sense that the two of you are both pilgrims on the same road, and that one of you have found answers in the Bible amidst the complexities of life.

VI. Use the universal longings of the human soul as an opening for connection. (v.33-34)

Every man has an evil nature and disquietness within his soul. When these longings are experienced and revealed, these become an opportunity to lead people to the richness of the gospel.

According to Evelyn Underhill, there are three deep cravings of the soul that only a mysterious truth can satisfy:

1. The longing to go out from this normal world in search for a lost home or a “better country”
Many people have experienced being homesick. There is an inner thirst for every man to find a home or a place that can quench all his longings.
2. The craving of the soul to have a special someone where one can have a heart-to-heart love relationship.
Most people long to connect with someone on a deep level. There is a hunger to love and be loved. People are very familiar with the experience of finding true love, going on a quest to search for the one and only love of his or her life.
3. The craving for inward cleansing.
No one can deny the fact that man has an evil nature. Darkness has always been a part of every man’s story. But during an honest conversation or discipleship group, there are times that people feel a sense of sin, guilt and shame within themselves. People thirst for purity inside their soul. This does not need to be an awkward time, but a moment of the Holy Spirit’s work in the non-Christian’s heart, which can lead him/her to the answers of the gospel.

Conclusion

Christ was intentional in investing his life to his disciples. If there is no one to mentor us, it is better to learn by constantly trying this lifestyle in obedience to the Lord’s command.
A believer who does not make disciples will suffer from a fruitless life. Many times, fruitlessness is the result of fear. Perhaps, many people are afraid to share their faith because they are afraid that they will not be able to answer questions. Fear will be overcome by studying. Questions should not make us afraid, but should rather challenge us to reach greater depths of our relationship with God.
As we go on to our journey in life, no matter where we are brought by the Lord, we must continually seek for opportunities to share Christ. Let us be fruitful.
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