Last time, we examined the first step of the Who Is My Neighbor Ten Step Process, “Introduction.” We talked about the dire need for Christians to be PROACTIVE in the evangelism process. We cannot wait for THEM to come to US; we must go to them, and we do that by making introductions. Today, we will be talking about step two in the Ten Step Process, “BUILDING A RAPPORT.” In our current world and culture, a seemingly more and more important step in soul winning is rapport building. Without building a rapport, it is easy to find yourself REJECTED time and time again. The word rapport means, “A friendly and harmonious relationship characterized by agreement, mutual understanding, or empathy that makes communication possible or easy.”
Creating this definition in the lives and relationships with the lost around us will ENABLE us to show them we can be trusted with such a sober subject as spirituality. When we do not take the time to build a rapport, we are not making communication “possible or easy.” Instead, we are making it much more complicated than it has to be. Building a friendly and harmonious relationship with our co-worker, classmate, next-door neighbor, friend, or family member will only empower us in the soul-winning process. We are tying our hands behind our back and putting earplugs in their ears by not building a rapport FIRST.
When we think about the life of Jesus, He KNEW every single person He ever came across. Not only could He read their innermost thoughts and intents, He knew their HEARTS. Even more than that, He CREATED the people He encountered, knowing them from the womb. This is what made Him the Master Evangelist. Jesus knew exactly what the lost needed to hear. Consider the Samaritan Woman; He knew she had five husbands, and the one she was with was not her husband (John 4). Or maybe consider the Rich Young Ruler; He knew exactly what was holding him back from discipleship, the love of money (Matthew 19:16-22). Lastly, consider some passages proving Jesus’ miraculous abilities: Matthew 12:25, “But Jesus knew their thoughts and said to them…” Luke 6:8, “But He knew their thoughts, and said to the man who had the withered hand, ‘Arise and stand here…’”
There is no doubting Jesus had the miraculous ability to read, discern, understand, and KNOW the hearts of every individual He ever encountered. The fact of the matter is, WE DO NOT HAVE THAT LUXURY. We are not able to know exactly what someone needs to hear, read, or understand. We are not able to know someone’s entire life story before ever hearing it for ourselves. When it comes to that next-door neighbor, co-worker, classmate, friend, or family member we are trying to bring to Christ… We must put in the time, effort, and WORK to know with whom we are dealing. This is why we must build a rapport with them. Taking the time to make a rapport will allow us to begin to understand, read, discern, and know the heart of the person we are trying to bring to Jesus.
Before we expect our neighbor to reject their entire belief system that has possibly been passed on through generations of family… We MUST put in the time to earn such tremendous trust. The problem with personal evangelism is that it has become so IMPERSONAL. We would rather press play on a filmstrip, send out mass newsletters, and do anything possible not to have to get PERSONALLY involved. That is not good enough anymore. Personal evangelism is supposed to be just that… PERSONAL. We cannot be personally evangelistic if we do not know the person we are evangelizing. Many times, they slam the door because there is no rapport.
To show them Christ and bring them to Him, we must show ourselves and show we are real people just like them. Show we have struggles, shortcomings, failures, and are merely trying to get better each day. Showing we have to clock in and clock out at work just like they do. Show we have financial and familial problems just like them. By showing these things, we are teaching them that they do not have to be perfect or have their life completely figured out for Jesus to accept them.
When it comes to the practical advice to accomplish rapport building, the program outlines many different approaches to take with each type of neighbor. However, we can receive a thousand different practical advisory steps… and never actually do them. Some people probably have already said to themselves, “There is no way this program could work so easily.” Well, as the age-old phrase says, “Don’t knock it, till you try it.” The problem is, many of us seek the head for evangelism above the heart for evangelism. We seek the knowledge, the verses, the methods, the programs (the head of an evangelist). However, we neglect to seek the heart for evangelism that sees the lost around us as our neighbor who needs our intervention. Without the heart that calls us to action, it does not matter how much of the head you may possess.
President Theodore Roosevelt once said, “People do not care how much you KNOW until they know how much you CARE.” In no way was he referring to evangelism and soul-winning, but today this adage rings true in our context. Until we show people how much we care about their emotional and physical needs… they will not listen to what we have to say about their spiritual needs. When we expect the lost to receive us with open arms without having first built some form of rapport or relationship with them, we might be crazy. There is no fast-food approach to evangelism. It is called PERSONAL EVANGELISM for a reason.
The same way Jesus showed everyone He ever encountered there was something genuinely different about Him, we too need to show the lost around us that there is something different about us. We care about them as a person just as much as we care about them as a soul. Without building a rapport, there is no possible way to accomplish this goal. Place yourself in the shoes of the neighbor you are trying to save. Would you openly, blindly, and unreservedly accept the fact you were lost from someone you hardly knew? The answer for me (and probably most of you) is NO. We may have Scripture after Scripture, example after example, answer after answer… but until we have shown them how much we CARE, they may never listen to what we KNOW. Take the second step of building a rapport; it may be the exact thing your neighbor needs from you.
-Ben Hogan, Minister of Evangelism