I was pre-Christian for the first twenty years of my life. I was around a lot of Christians. I had Christian friends and Christian members of my extended family. I was even in and out of a lot of churches (sometimes I even got paid to be in church, playing in various orchestras and such). Among my relationships with Christians, there were those in which I felt like I was prey.
We should definitely pray for our pre-Christian friends… but we should not prey on them.
Kevin was a coworker and friend of mind for a few years, a few years before I came to faith. He was a student at a local Baptist Bible College. I think in those days they had around 1,000 students at an unaccredited ministry-training school associated with First Baptist in Hammond, led by Pastor Jack Hyles.
They took very seriously the command to “Come out from them and be separate” (1 Corinthians 6:17). Actually, since to this day their doctrinal statements proclaim their exclusive allegiance to the King James Version, it should be: “Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing.” They were separate in the way they dressed and talked and associated with people. It was a big church (several thousand) before mega churches were common. They pretty much kept to themselves, unless they were soul winning. They invented the “bus ministry”… at one point they were sending buses into four states to pick up kids and bring them to Sunday school; they were serious… and in some ways it was really impressive.
But here is the thing… I got the feeling from anyone I would come into contact with from that school or church that I was a target. From the most incidental contact with someone from First Baptist, to the close working relationship and friendship I had with Kevin… I felt like prey… a target… a name that might be turned in to fulfill some quota if I would just get saved. I had the feeling that any act of friendship or kindness, any helpful favor or word, was all targeted at getting me saved. I felt like prey.
I don’t think Kevin and his coreligionists did any harm to me… but neither did they do any good.
On the other hand, there were those who cared for me, were genuine friends to me, and prayed for me. There is no doubt in my mind that the way they demonstrated the Gospel made the difference in my life.
Here’s what I am saying… we simply must have pre-Christian friends if we are going to be fulfilling God’s work, if we’re going to be involved in His mission. We ought to be purposeful about building friendships with those who do not yet believe. And they can’t be merely friends for the purpose of getting them saved, merely friends for our purpose. Especially in our day (time and culture) we need to allow people into our hearts and homes so that they can truly see the Gospel in action. We need to be friends and have friends… pre-Christian friends who we pray for, not prey on.
I spoke along these lines last Sunday. To hear more, you can listen online at pleasantbay.cedarpark.org/services