Years ago I was the president of my high school class. I was from a non-religious family where church was not even on the radar. But there was this kid in my class, Doug, whose dad was the pastor at the evangelical church in town.  We were friends and nearly every week he would call to invite me out to some event.

“Peter, come to youth group. Come to our snow retreat. Come to the youth bowling night.”

Every time I said no. I was not even remotely interested in church or God. But then one Sunday afternoon in October 1969 Doug called.

“Pete, we have a special speaker coming to youth group tonight. I really want you to come on out.”

I had finished my homework, had read the funny pages, and I was bored. The thought popped into my head: If I go, Doug will vote for me when I run for class president next year.

“Okay Doug,” I said, “I’ll be there.”  I was going to go to church for political reasons. 

What I did not know was that for some time this youth group had been praying that the class presidents would come to faith, figuring that would deeply impact the school. Doug had been taking aim at my soul in prayer every week.  That evening, I heard the Gospel for the first time. It made sense to me, and I prayed to receive Christ.

While I had one election in mind, God had another, what Ephesians 1:4 refers to as my eternal election. When I walked down the aisle that night in response to the altar call, Doug was right there beside me, arm around my shoulder, praying with me to receive Christ.

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Thereafter, Doug’s home became my home. More often than not there was another plate set for me at their table. His family welcomed me and I became one of the kids. I was mentored by Doug and his dad, and grew to receive a call to ministry from watching how his family lived, laughed, prayed, and trusted God.

Why do I tell this story? Because I am eternally grateful for my friend of nearly 50 years now who didn’t give up when I expressed no interest time after time. I also write to remind us that relationships are part of evangelism.

We don’t have relationships only to evangelize. But often our relationships open the door to share the hope that is within us. Even though I showed no interest, Doug stayed at it. It is hard to keep inviting people into relationship when they seem to care less about our faith. But that does not mean we should stop.

If God has put someone on your heart to invite into your life, then keep it up.  Don’t think that the person who is far away from God is a lost cause.

I had no desire and no idea when I woke up that crisp fall day that I would be transformed for eternity by the time I went to bed that night. But that youth group meeting was my date with destiny. God the Holy Spirit had been preparing my heart and orchestrating His time for me to come to faith. That evening my spiritual eyes were opened and God exploded into my life.

So stay at it. Keep on inviting people into your life. Remember God is an inviting God. He invites us into relationship with Him and with others.  And sometimes the Gospel is heard and the Holy Spirit welcomes even the most distant, unlikely person into a relationship with God.

For an interesting read on two different perspectives on relationships and evangelism check out these two articles:

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Peter Johnson

Senior Pastor at Hanoverdale Church
Peter has served as an associate pastor in NH and at Montvale Evangelical Free Church in Montvale, NJ. For nearly ten years he served as senior pastor of Northern Valley Evangelical Free Church in Cresskill, NJ before joining the Eastern District staff from 2007-2017. He is now Senior Pastor of Hanoverdale Church. Peter and Karen make their home in Hershey, PA, where Pete enjoys painting (art, not houses), gardening, and talking to his neighbors across the fence.

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