From the Archives: The Five Wins of Relational Evangelism

Note: This post originally ran in July, 2021. It is being posted again to go along with our current Life Group study on personal evangelism.

Today’s post is all about helping you evaluate where you are in building trust with others in order to share the gospel. However, before I begin, let me mention a couple of qualifications.

First, by “relational evangelism,” I mean the process of building or strengthening relationships for the purpose of sharing the message of Christ. The ultimate win is not just a new friend, but a new sister or new brother in Christ: that person hearing the message of the gospel is absolutely necessary for that to happen.

Second, this is not to say that the only effective form of evangelism is relational evangelism. In Acts 8, Philip explained Christ to a total stranger, and the early church spread rapidly by missionaries traveling to cities and proclaiming Christ. There is a need for so-called “cold call evangelism” today, not only in frontier missions or church planting contexts, but also for all of us to be ready for such evangelism opportunities in our everyday lives. (To be ready for these opportunities, check out this great tool.)

But there are times when we are seeking to intentionally strengthen existing relationships, or even build new relationships, with the hope of sharing Christ. There can be wisdom in gaining trust as we’re trying to proclaim the message of the gospel. The tool below is a means to help you evaluate where you are in that process, and consider what might be helpful as a next step.

To be transparent, I do not remember the source of this tool. I first worked through it more than 15 years ago when I was on staff with a college ministry. I have lost any notes as to where this originated, and it is not my intention to put this out as if it is something that I created. I’m simply sharing it because has been helpful to me, and I hope it will be helpful for you as well.

WIN #1: Win their SMILE

Generate a positive response to your presence.
– Find common ground (Acts 17:21–23)
They leave saying, “I want to see him again.”

WIN #2: Win their TRUST

Show them that you care. (1 Thess. 2:5–7)
– Remember them
– Serve them (Mark 10:45)
– Listen to them and learn from them (Acts 17:17–18a)
They leave saying, “Wow. He didn’t have to do that!” (John 13:3–14)

WIN #3: Win their CURIOSITY

Bring up spiritual things in a non-threatening way. (John 4:7–15)
– Tell your story (Acts 26:4–29)
– Ask about their story (John 4:16)
They leave saying, “I’d like to talk about that some more.” (Acts 17:19–20, 32)

WIN #4: Win their TIME

Secure an intentional time to talk about Christ. (John 3:1–21)
– Inspire them to want to get together (John 3:2)
– Invite them to get together (Acts 28:30–31)
– Secure the time to meet at a “third space” (i.e., a coffee shop or restaurant) to begin these conversations.
They leave saying, “I plan on being there.”


Create an engaging environment to discuss Christ.
– Have a one-on-one meeting for lunch, coffee, etc., leading to more meetings to discuss Christ.
– Spend much time with them (1 Thess. 2:8)
– Do an Investigative Bible Study (Acts 19:8–10)
They leave saying, “I never knew that Christ and the Bible were this relevant to my life.”

The goal in all of this is to share Christ. This isn’t to say you can’t share the gospel until step 5; sharing Christ may happen in step 3 or 4, or possibly even before that. But an investigative Bible study through the gospel of John is a great way to have ongoing conversations with someone about who Christ is and why Christ came, and most importantly it provides the opportunity for them to hear God’s word through reading Scripture on their own. At that point, all you’re doing is helping them understand what they’re reading. A great, easy tool for these investigative Bible studies are the Life Issues booklets; I highly recommend these.

If you’d like help from one of your pastors in having these conversations with your neighbors or coworkers or family members, please don’t hesitate to let us know! We’d love to pray with you and to help you think through how you can effectively share Christ with those around you!

Bert Watts has served since December 2016 as the Senior Pastor at Mountain Creek Baptist Church, where he has been on staff since 2012.

Photo by Alexis Brown on Unsplash