The following is an edited transcript of the audio.
Should we build strong relationships with neighbors and then share the gospel, or witness to them right away?
I would be loathe to say there is one way to relate to your neighbors, because they're different and you're different. And situations are different.
Sometimes more relational up-front efforts would be appropriate. You see the guy digging a ditch, offer to dig a ditch! Don't say, "Before I help you dig your ditch, can I tell you the gospel?"
Other times you move in, you meet for the first time—and you've had so many bad experiences where you've delayed and delayed telling the gospel until they wonder why you've never shared the gospel. Because if it's so important to you, why did you put it off for three years? And then you feel guilty and like an inauthentic Christian. So you're inclined at that moment to draw out where he is in his spiritual life, and share who you are, and say that you hope you can enjoy life together in this neighborhood.
So the answer is, I don't want to set up any rules here about how quick you need to do it. I just know that the emphasis in our day seems to me—maybe it depends on what church and community you're in—the emphasis today seems to be on heavily relational stuff, and then eventually sharing the gospel. And many of us find we don't ever get there.
So test yourself to see whether or not Jesus is really precious to you, and whether you believe this person is really lost without him and that it would be the best thing in the world for them to know this, believe this, and be redeemed by this.
And if you really believe that, then probably sooner rather than later you're going to find some way to share this with the person that you know.
But don't hear that as saying the only way to relate to an unbeliever is by talking about the gospel. I don't want to communicate that. You're going to be with this person 10, 15 or 20 years, if you both stay in the same neighborhood.
And God wants us to be in connection with unbelievers at work and in the neighborhood, and for that to somehow be able to go on even after we share the gospel. It's not like, "We shared the gospel, but they didn't accept it. So I'll never talk to them again."
This is a complex thing. Be yourself, and ask God for great love and great grace.