Ellen White, in perhaps her most famous quote about how to reach people for Jesus, explained that it is “Christ’s method alone” that will bring “true success” in reaching people. Noting how Christ followed a four-step process before inviting people to follow Him, she explained how He crucially began with “mingling.”1
Do you “mingle” with people who don’t know Jesus?
I’ve found, over my years of ministry, that very few Seventh-day Adventists spend significant time doing this. We may pass out literature, go door to door, or put on evangelistic meetings. These things are all well and good—but they’re not, at least according to Ellen White, “mingling.”
Earlier in the same book, The Ministry of Healing, she explains what this practice looked like for Jesus. He accepted the invitations of the “wealthy and cultured” classes, attending their feasts and familiarizing Himself with their “interests and occupations.” Perhaps even more amazingly, of the Samaritans, whose religious customs and practices diverged from His own, she says Christ “slept with them under their roofs” and “ate with them at their tables,” even eating “the food prepared and served by their hands.”2
In other words, Jesus immersed Himself in the culture, habits, interests, and pastimes of those He was trying to reach. He ate with them, stayed with them, celebrated with them, lived among them.
He didn’t keep Himself removed from people, interacting with them only long enough to drop bits of religious truth. He was truly “God with us” (Matt. 1:23), unafraid to be sullied by the sin that characterized people’s lives.
As I said, I’ve discovered that very few of us do this—for various reasons. We’re often too busy, too afraid, or too committed to evangelistic approaches that keep people at arm’s length and unable to influence us negatively.
This was my experience for a long time, unsure of how to even relate to people who didn’t think like me, act like me, or believe like me.
What did we have in common, after all? And would my fellowship with them implicitly communicate I affirmed their behaviors and beliefs that differed from mine?
Jesus didn’t seem too concerned about such things. He regularly welcomed and ate with the outcasts, misfits, and religiously alienated—the “tax collectors and the sinners”—which caused the religious leaders to grumble and complain (see Luke 15:1-3). But He came to “seek and save” the lost—which is why He started with mingling (see Luke 19:1-10).
It doesn’t have to be too complicated for us: just begin by inviting your neighbors over for dinner—not with an agenda to immediately convert them, but just to share life with and relate to them as fellow human beings who bear God’s image.
We first must “win their confidence,” according to Ellen White’s four-step process, before we can even think about springing religious ideas on them anyway—which, in my experience, takes a long time in this religiously suspicious world. So let’s just follow Christ’s example by mingling with people—actually entering into their lives and loving them as people whom Christ died for and who deserve our love for love’s sake.
1 Ellen G. White, The Ministry of Healing (Mountain View, Calif.: Pacific Press Pub. Assn., 1905), p. 143.
2 Ibid., pp. 24-26.