Back in February, America experienced a tragedy in the form of another school shooting. Since then, we’ve had additional acts of violence to grieve. But on that particular day, as the media once again exploded with politically charged calls to action, I kept thinking about the 19-year-old who had destroyed other young lives and his troubling record.
I kept thinking, Lord, where were all the Christians in the young man’s life? Did no one reach out to him?
And I can’t say that God answered me audibly, but He did lay on my heart, Would you have ministered to a teen with his history in your home? Near your son? Would you have been willing to love someone unlovely or even dangerous?
No, I wouldn’t have; not in my own wisdom and strength. And God forgive me, I remembered that I had recently played the Pharisee and crossed the street when I saw a particular neighbor there. From some previous observations, I had concluded that there were alcohol and/or drug problems in that particular household and I had decided it was best not to have a relationship with her. Because it might be messy, or awkward, or unsafe. My kid might learn words I wish he hadn’t; I might feel uncomfortable talking with someone from such a different background. Yet there’s my neighbor sitting on her porch, not physically bleeding like the Jew in the story, but from my observations clearly in need of Christ’s compassion.
I wanted to start this post with my own brief commentary on the Great Commission. I wanted to lead with all the things I’ve been doing to purposefully reach out to folks in my community. It’s so much tidier to write a list of practical suggestions, but the truth of it is, I’m not good atthis. I’m timid, not just about sharing my faith but about talking to people in general. And I’m one of those people who’s been talking and praying about a heart for missions since I was 13. But God is calling me out on it, calling me to do better.
After participating in a few short term mission trips, I tend to think many of us prefer the “hit and run” gospel sharing tactics. In a lot of ways, they take less courage than developing full blown relationships with people. There are few long term consequences if you manage to offend someone. There’s little danger of anyone calling you out on personal hypocrisy. And youhave no responsibility to the person you evangelize; you have no messy growth-process to contend with.
Please don’t misunderstand me: I am not condemning speaking of Christ in whatever ways you can, whenever you are able, as you are led. How could I? Philip is probably the most famous of the Spirit led “hit and run” evangelists, conveniently showing up just in time to explain Isaiah 53 to the Ethiopian eunuch, baptize him, and instantaneously disappear to another part of the country. (Acts 8) Talk about efficient travel.
But you’ll also notice that the Gospels are full of relationships. In addition to the many brief encounters they record, Jesus also takes two years to teach His disciples. He returns again and again to the home of Mary and Martha and Lazarus. When He meets Zacchaeus in the sycamore tree, He offers to return to the man’s house to have dinner with him. Why? Because that’s how relationships are formed. Paul, too, throughout his mission trips around the Mediterranean takes time to stop and work and live with people in addition to praying and teaching.
How to be a missionary anywhere? Make introducing God to people a priority. That statement contains two prerequisites, which I’d like to briefly unpack by saying this: it’s difficult tointroduce two strangers, particularly when you don’t know either of them yourself.
1) You need to know God. You need to have a personal relationship that is more than a passing fancy or casual acquaintance. You need to be prayed up, to know His Word, and to care about and act on His purposes for your life.
2) You need to know people. This is where my tidy list was going to come in before I trashed my first draft, but it’s really not all that complicated. Purpose to engage in your community and reach out to the people you meet. Take a class, sit on a board, run for a public office, talk to moms at the playground, coach a team, volunteer at the library, work your job – whatever it takes to lovingly live alongside others.
Be part of the place you live, whatever that place is, such that you create opportunities to invest in others. Offer to babysit, have another family/couple over for dinner, engage in God-honoring discussion and debate, go to the movies together, bring a meal over when they need it, discover what you have in common, be a friend. As Christians, we have no business hunkering down in our homes and Churches, eyes and prayers turned solely inward, our ministries primarily meant for us and ours. We must risk a little and reach out. Think of the souls at risk if we don’t.
“For ‘everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’ How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching?”Romans 10:13-14
I haven’t seen that particular neighbor I mentioned about in a while. It’s possible that opportunity came and went; God will reach her by other means and I can only repent for not following the Spirit’s prompting. Or maybe, like Jonah, He’ll give me a second chance at obedience. But regardless, whether sent down the street or across the globe, we’ve all got thefollowing marching orders and encouragement:
“And Jesus came and said to them, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.’” Matthew 28:18-20 (ESV)
About The Author
I am Chloe, a Christian housewife/mama/writer. I have a passion for learning - anything and everything - which leads to a fair amount and wide variety of reading. I also enjoy tea, long phone calls (or as long as Little Guy permits), writing/getting snail mail, and my (very slow) journey to becoming a diy'er. God continually blesses me with good friends and more-than- sufficient grace for each day.
I blog at An Audacious Poet (http://anaudaciouspoet.wordpress.com) as a way to share the sweetest parts of my lifelong learning; lessons on God's Word, deep friendships, motherhood, and marriage. Thanks again, Erica, for the opportunity to guest post!