In 1 Thessalonians 2, Paul described his involvement and work among the people of Thessalonica:
So, being affectionately desirous of you, we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you had become very dear to us. (1 Thess. 2:8, ESV)
When we think of evangelism, we usually think of methods that don’t involve sharing “our own selves:” door-knocking campaigns, mailers, tracts, social-media invitations, and such like. In other words, we tend to think of cold contacts.
Yet without fail, if you ask any congregation, “Who here is a Christian because of the involvement of a friend or relative?” at least 95% will raise their hand. In other words, most Christians are Christians because of people who had “shared their own selves.” Let’s call those warm relationships.
How can we become more effective evangelists (a.k.a. better at making disciples)? By turning our cold contacts into warm relationships.
Now, cold contacts are essential for evangelism and church growth. Why? Because every warm relationship starts off as a cold contact. The key is to take our cold contacts to the next level.
Find ways to get involved in the life of the next visitor at church. Strengthen the relationships you have with your fellow Christians (because evangelism is equally about ministering to Christians as it is non-Christians). Develop relationships with people who respond to door-knocking campaigns and correspondence courses. Make yourself vulnerable to their needs; “share yourself” with them.
Here’s the lesson: Don’t think of a cold contact as the final goal; think of it as only the beginning.
And here’s something to ask yourself (cf. 2 Cor. 13:5): “How many non-Christians have I “shared myself” with without having the courage to share New Testament Christianity with them?” A Christian’s ministry, like Paul’s, should include both: sharing the Gospel and sharing himself.