Chapter OneSESSION 1
HANG OUT TOGETHER
Building Relationships with Seekers
Jeff and I are next-door neighbors. When he and his
family moved in about a year ago, my wife and I went
over to welcome them to the neighborhood.
At first, that was the extent of our interaction since
my time was limited and I really didn't want to add
any more people to my already full life. I was very
involved with the guys in my small group Bible study,
I played in a church basketball league every Monday
night with my four closest friends, and my wife and I
socialized on a regular basis with the Christian couple
across the street. Besides, it was obvious from the start
that Jeff and I had different sets of values and morals.
So I was reluctant to complicate my life with someone
who was the polar opposite of everything I was or
wanted to be and assumed our differences would make
Unbelievably, that has all changed. One day, I decided
to start praying for Jeff on a regular basis, and to
my surprise, I found myself viewing him as someone
who really matters to God-and to me. I began looking
for ways to reach out and to get to know him better, and
eventually got to the point where I started to genuinely
care about the guy.
To top it off, I discovered that we had lots of things
in common after all. We both follow sports pretty closely,
so it was natural for us to get tickets to the Bears games
at Soldier Field. When one of us needed help with a project
around the house, the other was right there to pitch
in. Now, whether it's a neighborhood block party, the
Fourth of July, or just a picnic in the backyard, somehow
we wind up together. We sincerely enjoy hanging out
with each other, and I feel we have a pretty solid friendship.
I can't get over how helpful Jeff has been to my
family and me. When we're away on vacation or a business
trip, he mows the lawn, grabs the mail, and checks
on the house for us. And I can't count how many times
this past winter I've come home late to find Jeff shoveling
Early on in our friendship, Jeff confided in me that
he was struggling in his job and was looking to make a
change. Without hesitation, I gave Jeff a small clue about
my relationship with God by letting him know I'd pray
for him and his situation. When he ended up landing the
job he'd been hoping for, he made a joke about my "special
connection upstairs." That's when I gently inquired
about any "connections" he had with God and confirmed
that, although Jeff and his wife attend church from time
to time, they probably were not Christians. We would,
however, talk about spiritual issues occasionally, and I
looked forward to those opportunities.
One such discussion went on late into the night after
dinner at his house. Jeff's wife, Amy, concluded our dialogue
with an amazing challenge. She said she'd recently
wanted to get a Bible study started in our neighborhood,
but hadn't felt that she or anyone she knew could lead it.
She wondered out loud if my wife and I would consider
doing such a thing. "Maybe," I calmly replied as my heart
pounded. I couldn't believe my own ears!
Yesterday, I was cutting the grass in my backyard
when Jeff suddenly appeared out of nowhere and signaled
me to cut the engine. He had just gotten off the
phone with a cousin who had been hounding him to no
end about Christianity. After declining an invitation to
attend church for the umpteenth time, Jeff had received
some "inside information" about me, his friendly neighbor!
I wondered where in the world he was going with
this. "My cousin told me you go to the same church he
does," Jeff explained, "and since we're neighbors, he's
hoping that maybe you'll be the one to finally convert
me." Thud. I felt like crawling into a hole.
Jeff just stood there with eyebrows raised, waiting
for my reaction. I frantically tried to smooth things over
by explaining that I wasn't really trying to "convert" Jeff,
but was simply open to talking with him about something
that has come to mean so much to me. He turned
to walk away, and I feared the worst. But then Jeff
stopped and slowly turned with a smile.
"So, man . am I your church project or your
But we proved to be gentle among you, as a nursing
mother tenderly cares for her own children.
Having thus a fond affection for you, we were
well-pleased to impart to you not only the
gospel of God but also our own lives, because you had become very dear to us. 1 Thessalonians 2:7-8
Open for Discussion
1. Share the first name of a spiritual seeker (nonbeliever)
you know fairly well. What is your
relationship like? If you are unable to identify
someone in your world who's seeking, what's
something you could do to change that?
2. What motivates you to initiate and build
friendships with seekers?
What are the greatest obstacles that hinder the
development of these friendships?
3. What fears and concerns do you suppose seekers
might have about being friends with Christians? (Come up with as many of these fears and
concerns as you can.)
4. Keeping the fears and concerns you just identified
in mind, what might a seeker need from you
to ensure that the relationship is going to be a
How would you rate your ability to create a safe
context for such a relationship?
5. Read 1 Corinthians 9:19, 22-23. A basic ingredient
to building meaningful relationships with seekers is
a growing level of trust within those friendships.
What can you do to build bridges of trust within
the context of growing friendships with your
What could dismantle the bridges of trust between
you and seekers?