by Pastor Mike
My prayer for this new year is that Calvary would be a welcoming and open congregation ready to receive those in need of Christian community and the Gospel we believe. Just as importantly, I hope that all of us as individuals would be good friends, co-workers and neighbors reaching out to those around us, and when possible, expressing what our Christian faith means in our life.
One of the aspects of Christian faith that many struggle with, is how to share what they believe with those around them. Most Christians would quickly say they believe it is important to share their faith with others and many deeply desire to be involved in making new disciples, but the problem is, we often have trouble moving from abstract to action.One of the aspects of Christian faith that many struggle with, is how to share what they believe
So, here is a strategy for caring for those around you in a Christian way, and, when the time is right, sharing something about your faith. I will use the example of doing this in your own neighborhood, but you could apply it to co-workers, friends, or even family.
1. Get to know Your neighbors.
Sociologists have found that Americans are increasingly anonymous towards their neighbors – even those living right next door. Because of transience, busy lives, and the popularity of renting, especially in urban settings, many people never take the time to get to know those living around them. So the first step towards talking about your faith is simply to get to know those close by. Identify those people you have in mind – or a number of houses on your street – that you would like do a better job of caring for. Think about them regularly, begin to notice when they are outside, and gain an understanding of which cars and people belong to each house. Perhaps even make a list of the homes, or people you would like to do a better job of caring for.
2. Be Present
This point is perhaps the most obvious, but is so often overlooked. In order to care for and love anyone, we have to be present and available in their lives. If you never spend time in your neighborhood, you will probably never get to know your neighbors. By the same token, most of us are not good a building new relationships while we are watching TV. Consider how much time you spend outdoors, especially in the front of your house. Think about going on neighborhood walks more often (could knock out two New Year’s resolutions with one change, exercise is good!). Try to be present and familiar within the community you are tying to reach. An extension of this can be to make your home a more open place for others. Hospitality is one of the easiest ways to build relationships; as we open our doors others will open their lives.
3. Pray Over Your Goals
This applies to anything you want to accomplish this year, but especially those goals that involve being a part of God’s work. As Christians, spending time in prayer is a must, and praying for others in specific ways is a good regular habit. Even if you have no idea where to start with building new relationships, or sharing something about your faith, you can be in prayer for those around you. All of us have neighbors we can pray for, even if we don’t know their names. However, this becomes even more fun when you do get to know your neighbors better and you can begin actively praying for things happening in their lives. Life changes such as having a baby, illness, a job transition, or losing a loved one, are all opportunities to be in prayer for others. Even consider asking “Can I pray for you about that?” Life changes are also conversation starters as it gives you an opportunity to follow up in the future and ask how “such and such” is going.
4. Go Deeper
This step is usually the hardest for all of us. As we build relationships with other people the temptation is to keep it shallow. We are good at talking about sports, the weather, and the lovely politics of our city, but we are not very good at going deeper in the relationship. (Some of us avoid it like the plague because it requires an emotional investment.) But as relationships grow and people become more comfortable around each other, there will often be an opening to do more. Going deeper allows us to really practice Christ-like care and concern for those around us. It is the difference between small talk on the curb, and taking over a meal when a life change has occurred. Going deeper also allows us to get to know the heart of those we are caring for. What is most important in their lives? What are their fears and joys? Do they have a solid social network or church they attend, or, could they be longing for community and all they need is an invitation? Just like that you have found an opportunity to invite them to join you for a church event, or for worship.
As we reach out to those around us, we are not thinking of others as targets who need us to help them or convert them. Instead, we are looking for ways to open our lives so that God might use us to be a blessing to others. In this way, God continues to carry out his Great Commission, and he just might use us to do it.