July 22, 2015

Through fun and engaging storytelling, Theo teaches children God’s word and how they ought to live in light of it.

Reaching Our Communities for Christ

Image of Neighbors in the YardSummer is the season when people get outdoors, barbecue hot dogs, take walks in the park, hang out with friends and neighbors, head to the beach, and enjoy the long evenings. What a great time to be missional––to share Christ with people! Sounds fun, doesn’t it? To many it sounds scary.  

Most Christians want to obey Jesus’ Great Commission of sharing the Gospel, but they’re not quite sure how to go about it, or if they’re even qualified to do so. So they leave it to their pastors or Bible teachers. However, if you are a Christ-follower, then you are very qualified. The Holy Spirit dwells within you. He has filled you with His power and given you spiritual gifts to advance the kingdom of heaven. Remember, it’s the Spirit who draws people to the Son, not us; that task is in His capable hands. As ambassadors of the King of kings and Lord of lords, all we have to do is be willing vessels.      

I’ve listed some practical ways we can reach our communities with the Gospel. Choose one or more that fit your spiritual giftedness.

Start a Bible study

My wife and I started a study in 1988 when we moved into a new home in Southern California. The call went out to everyone in the neighborhood. Many came, and friendships were made, many of which have endured. What’s more, the Word of God was faithfully taught, and people were drawn to Christ. It was a study that lasted twenty-two years!

Perhaps you don’t feel qualified to lead a Bible study. That’s okay. Do you know someone who is? Offer your home as the place where people can come and hear the Word of God. Invite your neighbors. If we are missional, God will draw people to His Son.     

Invite your neighbors to a barbecue

Everyone loves to eat. What better way for you and your kids to meet neighbors? Advertise it with signs and balloons, just like a garage sale. Be bold: say a prayer before the meal. This will definitely set the tone for future encounters.   

We have done this with our new neighbors in Oregon. One particular couple we’ve met are not believers, but they had no objection when I asked them if I could pray before our meal. They said “sure.” They now know that we are Christians, and do you know what? We have become friends with them. We don’t beat them over the head with the Bible every time we get together, but we pray over our meals. God may use this one day; who knows?

Be winsome

Far too often Christians are viewed as judgmental spoilsports that are no fun to be around. Jesus was just the opposite. He hung out with sinners––tax collectors, prostitutes, and outcasts from society. People were attracted to His winsomeness. The “salt” in His words and life added flavor to the people with whom He came in contact. We may not live in neighborhoods with prostitutes or IRS agents, but we certainly live in neighborhoods where people are lost, hurting, and lonely. We can be like Jesus to them. That is, we can reveal truth, love, and God’s character in ways that are winsome!

Cathy and I are developing a relationship with a neighbor who comes over to our house to sit on the back deck and shoot the breeze. We talk about everything––fishing, hunting, ranching, irrigation. His dad is having health issues, so I told him that I’d pray for him. “Really?” No three point sermon outlines, but a natural outflow of my faith in Christ. I hope that in time I will be able to share the Gospel with him. 

Be intentional

it’s difficult to meet neighbors if we never go outside. My son told me that when he goes outside to do yard or housework, it’s amazing how his neighbors passing by will stop and talk. Our neighbors are real, flesh and blood humans with needs, hurts, and desires. Know that there is a God-shaped hunger in them that can only be filled with Jesus. Ask God to bring people by with whom you can strike up conversations, perhaps even share your faith. He will.

Be Active

if you live near a park or public playing field, bring a football or frisbee to toss around with your kids. Start a half-court game of basketball with them. Invite others who may be watching to join in the fun; their kids, too. These are great ways to break the ice, lower walls, and begin friendships. Afterwards, invite players to refresh themselves with a cup of lemonade or tea.        

Develop a Para Community

My pastor talks about going to the local Starbucks (he calls it St. Arbucks), and he uses the occasions to strike up conversations with fellow coffee lovers. He sees the same people regularly and has been able to build friendships. He is being salt and light in his para community. You can too.

Sporting events, such as soccer or Little League, are ideal para communities. Everyone at these events has something in common––their team.  Your kids. After the game, invite someone to a pizza place so that you can get to know one another.  Ask God to bring someone to you that you can befriend and allow the light of Christ to shine through. He will.  

Don’t be discouraged

Remember, it’s not important to “close the deal” with everyone you meet. Know that God may be at work with someone and that you are but a single link in a chain that may bring someone to Christ. I’ve been fortunate to lead people to Christ, where I was the last link in the chain. But there have been many more times where I was a link in the middle, or even at the beginning of God’s work in someone’s life.

These are but a few ideas of how our families can be missional this summer. We just need to be willing, prayerful, and bold. God will do the work. Ask Him to help you and your kids share the most amazing gift on earth with someone this summer: eternal life and a wonderful relationship with our God and Savior Jesus Christ! 

Michael Joens