Infiltrating your Community with the Gospel

We need to reach out into our community.” 9616068841b1d3fc9b0ae450d8731906

Ok…lets get a big group together and do a service project. After all, we could volunteer for a couple of hours then go home…get back to our regular routines.

There is no doubt a service project can do good for your community and the people you serve. Yet, when Jesus said “go and make disciples”, He wasn’t talking about an occasional group project, but a personal lifestyle of sharing the gospel and helping people to grow in their faith. Think about “the Samaritan woman who ran back to the city and told people about Jesus (John 4) or when Jesus sent the twelve out in pairs to proclaim the kingdom of God (Mark 6).

Reaching my community means going out on my own and sharing the gospel…scary thought!

Jeff Iorg, in his book, Unscripted, explains it this way,

“evangelism is about connecting people to Jesus and connecting Jesus with your community—spontaneously, joyfully and honestly.”

How do I connect people to Jesus? Do I need to memorize a “gospel presentation” and knock on doors or stand on the street corner and talk to anyone who will listen…not sure I want to do that! 

You might find memorizing a gospel presentation helpful, although this is not about making “cold-calls” to strangers. Instead, there is a way to connect people to Jesus, while doing something you really enjoy. Iorg suggests we “share the gospel in the most natural setting possible—among people who share your interests, passions, or activities.”

Five Step Infiltration Strategy

Iorg recommends implementing a strategy of getting involved in the community that leads to opportunities to the share the gospel.

1. What hobby or volunteer activity you enjoy doing or would like to do if you had the time? Is it…reading, quilting, painting, running, or helping children, youth, seniors, or something entirely different?

2. Do it…join a community group, like a book club, quilt guild, running group or volunteer in a community program at a school, hospital, senior care home or shelter.

3. Lets say you are out there in the community. Look around and start to notice who is there. As you notice the people, pray specifically for God to work in their lives. Also, pray that God would provide opportunities for you to share the gospel.

4. Next, begin to engage one person or a few people in conversations that move beyond what is needed for the activity. Ask personal questions about their family, pets, or job. Or ask goal questions like…what do you dream of doing or where would you like to visit. Then listen and respond with genuine interest and concern. Be alert for opportunities to share the gospel and tell how your faith has impacted your life. Iorg goes on to point out that, “Witnessing is an unscripted dialogue, sometimes an ongoing dialogue with bits and parts of the gospel shared over time.”

5. Finally, continue to be involved and work on building relationships. Keep praying and ask if you can pray with them. Be available to help out with a need they have; invite them over for a meal. Live out your faith before them, as authentically as possible. It could just be that your friendship is what God uses to bring them to accept the gospel of Jesus Christ and help them grow in their faith.

3 Reasons to Show Hospitality

 

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Hospitality gives evidence of a sacrificed life

Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. Romans 12:1

Living sacrifice”…how is that possible? All sacrifices to God die, don’t they? Bulls, rams, goats, even turtle doves given as sacrifices to God…were killed. Jesus gave Himself up for us as a sacrifice to God when He died on the cross (Eph 5:2). If we are to be “living sacrifices” we need to die…we need to die to self and live for God. Pursuing hospitality is dying to the selfish way I view my house…my cooking…my time…my money and living for God by loving, sharing meals, and listening to the people God has placed in my life.

Hospitality isn’t just another “diffficut” command. Hospitality comes out of a life that is fully surrendered to God.

 Hospitality is opportunity to use our spiritual gifts

Since we have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, each of us is to exercise them accordingly… Romans 12:6

What is your spiritual gift? Is it mercy or service? Invite them in, share a meal and listen.

Is it teaching or evangelism? Regularly invite people for dinner who are interested in learning more about God and His word.

The Son of Man came to serve and give His life (Mark 10:45). He came to seek and save the lost (Luke 19:10). The Son of Man came eating and drinking (Luke 7:34).

Hospitality is not showing off our nice homes, fine cooking, and sparkling conversation skills. Hospitality is inviting people in, sharing meals and having conversations that can change lives.

Hospitality shows the genuineness of our love

Let love be genuine. Romans 12:9

What does genuine Christian love look like? Is it seen in our love and honor for one another? Or the diligent, fervent way we serve the Lord? Would one who loves genuinely rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer? Contribute to the needs of the saints? Yes…yes…of course. Yet the final command listed in Romans 12 is…seek to show hospitality. Whoa…what?? Can’t I love without inviting people in my home? Yes, of course you can. But how can we say we genuinely love  people and God for that matter, if we are not willing to seek (literally pursue) hospitality? My study on hospitality has shown me how selfish I am… It has challenged me to ask myself…do I really love my neighbor or God…genuinely? Unfortunately the answer too often is no.

Lydia sought to show hospitality

In Acts 16, we find Paul and his companions in Philippi, on the Sabbath, looking for a place of prayer. They found women assembled by the river. Lydia, a gentile woman was among the Jewish women there. The Lord opened her heart to respond to Paul’s message (Acts 16:14)…then what did she do? Say thank you Paul and go on her way? NO she prevailed upon (urge strongly…to persuade) Paul and his companions to come to her house and stay. Maybe it was because she saw the needs of Paul and his companions and sought to meet them. OR maybe she realized that her home and possessions — were resources to used by God. This was not one time event. Later, when Paul and Silas, who had been imprisoned, were released they went again to Lydia’s house and meet with the believers there, before they left the city.

Lydia’s example of hospitality gives us some questions to ponder…

How ready and willing am I to share my home…my time?

Will I be open-hearted and generous or closed and tight-fisted?

Do I see my home as mine or the Lord’s to be used for his purposes?

Ministry of Listening

He who has ears to hear, let him hear.  – Jesus

Closing the door behind them. Whew!woman-opening-door-400x333-1

Hospitality extended to new neighbors. Check.√

The kids and dog did not tear up the house. Check. √√

They enjoyed our favorite meal. Check.√√√

Listen to and learned about our new neighbors… Wait. I don’t remember much about them…their names are Jack and Jill (well probably not, but sounded something like that), but what else had they said? I don’t know, with serving the food, cleaning up the spills, the TV going in the background and the phones buzzing, it did get kind of crazy.


In the busyness of hosting, I can forget it is not just about a clean house and filling their plates. True hospitality is caring for others. Listening is a key way to show we care. Talking comes so natural, we are encourged to talk from birth (Did you hear her first word?!) Listening is not so natural and is much…much more difficult. So the question is, how can we learn to be good listeners? You can always read a book about listening. I have several, in fact. But we really need to learn from the best listener…Jesus.

Listen Like Jesus

The Feast of the Passover was near. Jesus and his disciples were traveling to Jerusalem. We pick up the story below as they are leaving Jericho, with a large crowd of people following.

And two blind men sitting by the road, hearing that Jesus was passing by, cried out, “Lord, have mercy on us, Son of David!”

The crowd sternly told them to be quiet, but they cried out all the more, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on us!”

And Jesus stopped and called them, and said, “What do you want Me to do for you?”

They said to Him, “Lord, we want our eyes to be opened.”

Moved with compassion, Jesus touched their eyes; and immediately they regained their sight and followed Him.    Matthew 20:30-34

Five Keys Actions of a Good Listener

Stop.  When Jesus heard the blind men call to him, He stopped. The journey could wait. I am guilty of thinking, “I can multi-task while I listen.” Listen and load the dishwasher, check my Facebook page, or watch TV…yeah not really. To be a good listener we need to be willing to stop, put our agenda on hold.

Focus.  Jesus called out to the men. Even surrounded by what was sure to have been a noisy crowd, Jesus focused on these two men. Giving His full attention, He showed concern for them and affirmed their value to Him.

Ask. Jesus, who knows everything, asked a question. He gave these men the opportunity to be heard. We too need to ask open-ended questions to show our interest in the person and what they have to say (tell me about…).

Wait.  Jesus knew what they needed, but He didn’t just “fix” them or interrupt saying, “I know best”. He waited, to let them express themselves. Waiting is hard. Waiting shows the person that I value what you have to say and will wait until you are ready to share.

Respond.  Jesus was moved with compassion. He responded in a way that brought healing to these men. We cannot physically heal. Yet, listening helps us to connect with a person at their point of need. We can respond with words of encouragement and grace, that can bring healing to their heart.


The ministry of listening has been committed to us by Him who is Himself the great listener. We should listen with the ears of God that we may speak the  word of God.                                                             Dietrich Bonhoeffer in Life Together

Welcome as Christ has Welcomed Us

In Welcome Starts in the Heart  we looked at what Paul said about how we are to welcome another…with strong, surrendered, servant and scripture-filled hearts. In this post we will look at how Christ has welcomed us.Abstract defocussed cross silhouette in church interior against

STRONG HEART

Remember the question in the previous post about the OBLIGATION we have to bear the failings of the weak? And how I promised to deal with it later? Now is later…

Good, because I want to know about this OBLIGATION you say I have…

Christ is strong in faith…He healed with the power of the Lord (Luke 5:17), He had authority over unclean spirits (Luke 4:36), and He upholds all things by the word of His power (Hebrews 1:3). Compared to His faith, we are weak. How does He bear our failings?

For while we were still weak, at the right time, Christ died for the ungodly. Romans 5:6

Apart from Christ bearing our failings and His welcoming action toward us…we have no hope and are without God in the world (Ephesians 2:12). He is our High Priest and can sympathize with our weaknesses, because He was tempted as we are yet without sin (Hebrews 4:15).

Because Christ bears our failings we have an “obligation” to bear the failings of the weak in our lives, not out of a legalistic requirement but out of gratitude of God’s grace and kindness toward us in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 2:7).

Ok, I get it. Because Christ bears my failings…I “owe” Him a debt to treat others as I have been treated.

SURRENDERED HEART

For Christ did not please himself, but as it is written, “The reproaches of those who reproached you fell on me.” Romans 15:3

Christ surrendered Himself. First to God, by taking on the reproaches of those who reproach God and always doing the things that were pleasing to Him (John 8:29). Even though that meant humbling Himself to the point of death on the cross (Philippians 2:8). Also, for our sake He became poor, that by His poverty we might become rich (2 Corinthians 8:9).

So…not pleasing myself means that I should be kind and encouraging when I want to point out another’s faults. Not pleasing myself is to put up with the inconveniences that come in a relationship with someone weak in the fatih. Whereas, when Christ took actions that were not pleasing, He sumitted to the pain and shame of dying on the cross… Wow!

SERVANT HEART

For I tell you that Christ became a servant to the circumcised to show God’s truthfulness, in order to confirm the promises given to the patriarchs, and in order that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy.  Romans 15:8-9

Christ became a servant to both, the Jews and to the Gentiles. He acted for our good, that we would be built up in our faith. Earlier in Romans, we find that out of a servant’s heart Christ brought us justification by His blood, provided a way that we could be saved from the wrath of God, and reconciled to God through His death (Romans 5:8-10) when we receive Him by faith.

 Christ welcoming is so much more than I thought. It isn’t about Him being good or nice but that He serves us, in  life changing ways, as we live out our lives of faith.

SCRIPTURE-FILLED HEART

A heart full of God’s word gives the power to welcome. We know Christ as the Word,  that was in the  beginning, that was with God, that was God (John 1:1). Yet Christ spoke just as the Father taught Him (John  8:29).

UNITED HEART

May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Romans 15:5-6

Only when we welcome one another as Christ has welcomed us can we live in harmony with one another. With united hearts, we come together with one voice glorify God. In fact, Jesus prayed that we would be one as He was one with the Father. Not just one, but perfectly one so that the world may know that God loves us even as He loved Jesus (John 17:20-23).

WELCOME

We do not deserve Christ’s welcome. We are weak…ungodly…sinners…and enemies of God (Romans 5:6, 8-10). He bore our weaknesses on the cross…he acted for our good…to build us up spiritually. Our welcoming as Christ has welcomed us is key to living out our life of faith.

This challenges me. I have always thought that being welcoming and showing hospitality is optional, only for the gifted. Now, I see it is key to obeying the commands to love my neighbor as myself and to love the Lord God with all my heart, mind and soul. If I am not willing to be welcoming, then I am not being loving.

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” Matthew 22:37-40

Welcome Starts in the Heart

What does Paul mean when he writes to the church in Rome to “welcome” one another? new-life-join-a-church-converse-on-welcome-mat-153175668-300x200Merriam-webster.com gives the definition: to greet hospitably and with courtesy or cordiality. By that definition it would seem that all Paul wanted was for the church members to greet each other and be pleasant. But as we read the verses preceding this command, it is clear he has more then just “be nice” in mind.

A bible dictionary gives this definition of “proslambano” the Greek word transliterated welcome: to take into one’s society; to receive and treat with kindness. Keeping this meaning in mind let’s tackle what Paul said about welcoming one another.

Below is the first of two posts on how we are to “welcome one another as Christ welcomed us for the glory of God.”


We who are strong have an obligation to bear with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves. Romans 15:1

STRONG HEARTWe who are strong in our faith have an obligation…

Whoa…OBLIGATION…that is a strong word there.

Yes, it literally means “to owe a debt”.

But to whom…the weak person?

No, but hold on to that question as we will deal with it later. Keep the verses below in mind as you consider your obligation to bear with the failings of the weak.

Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. Galatians 6:2

As for the one who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not to quarrel over opinions. Romans 14:1

SURRENDERED HEART…We are not to seek to please ourselves…

Wait, if I welcome others I have to surrender my wants and desires, I can’t have it my way?? 

Think about it this way, to welcome one another with a surrendered heart we have to have the same attitude as Christ.

Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.  Philippians 2:5-8


Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, to build him up. Romans 15:2

SERVANT HEART…

So I am not to please myself, but to please my neighbor instead. What if pleasing my neighbor would mean doing something wrong?  What does it really mean to please my neighbor for their good, to build them up? 

So glad you asked, we are to have a servant’s heart toward our neighbor to please and build them up for their spiritual good. We are to speak and act  in such way that encourages them and helps strengthen their faith. I think the verses below will help you get the picture.

Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear. Ephesians 4:29

We urge you, brethren, admonish the unruly, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with everyone. See that no one repays another with evil for evil, but always seek after that which is good for one another and for all people. 1 Thessalonians 5:14-15


For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. Romans 15:4

SCRIPTURE-FILLED HEART… 

These are some hard commands…I need help!

Yes of course we all do. God knows we do, that is why He has given us His word that we might find encouragement and hope to endure. Reading, studying, praying, and memorizing His word, filling our hearts with Scripture, is the only way we can become the “welcomers” God has called us to be.

In the next post, we will discuss how Christ has welcomed us and how this welcoming can bring glory to God.

Sherry 

The Art of Noticing

Who ever thought “noticing” was an art?  I did not, until I started researching the subject for an upcoming women’s event at church. I was surprised by the number of books and articles written about the importance of noticing. There is even a Harvard summer school class on the “Art of Noticing”. This post will consider noticing as it relates to welcoming the invisible people God has placed in our lives.

Who, outside family and close friends,unknown do you see on regular basis…the sales clerk, barista, neighbor down the street, or co-worker? Do you know their names or remember much about them? Often, I do not.  God in His sovereignty, has put these invisble people in my life…in your life for a reason. He has given us as a mission field in our own neighborhood and community.

Practicing the Art of Noticing

1. Really see the people around you. Frequently, I view the receptionist, waitress or clerk as “necessary” to get my real work done, without really seeing them. Noticing means I pay attention to learn their name and use it during our exchange and as I have opportunity, observe them to learn what is happening in their lives.

2. Pray discreetly for God’s grace and mercy in their lives. Prayers based on what we have observed, without asking if they have a request. In the book, The 9 Arts of Spiritual Conversations, John Crilly calls this “praying behind people’s backs”. I love the idea of secretly praying for a person. Once I start praying for someone I no longer see him or her as an annoying neighbor or only a “necessary” person, but a real person with needs, cares and concerns just like me.

3. Gently engage and genuinely listen to them. This is an area with which I really struggle. Often, I am in a rush to accomplish the next thing on my to-do list. Stopping to look at the clerk, ask how her day is going, and listen to her answer requires time, time I do not always want to give. I have been convicted of the importance of taking this time, because my goal should not be checking off my list, but loving God by caring for the people He has placed before me today.

Her name is Tammy. We discuss family joys (grandchildren) and struggles (losing a parent), vacation fun and everyday stuff, every 6 to 8 weeks when I go in for a haircut. Yes, she is my beautician. In past besides polite chit chat, I don’t think I knew much about “the lady who cuts my hair”. But this time I have chosen to notice, pray and listen to her and let God guide our relationship.

If we are to welcome others as Christ has welcomed us (Romans 15:7), we must take the time to notice the people God has placed in our lives. See them as people, not just as the family in the house next door or that service gal or guy. Pray for them, as specifically as possible, not just, bless our neighbors. Listen…listen…listen…nothing says, “I notice you” as stopping and listening.

Welcoming starts with the simple act of noticing and can lead to a change in eternity, as we let God use us, just as He had planned.

 

In Pursuit of the “Good Life”

The “good life”…

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My “good life”

How would you define it? To have the “good life” do you need more money, power, and influence…or do need comfort and ease…peace and quiet?  I am definitely more of a “peace and comfort” type when it comes to pursuing my “good life”.

No matter where you find yourself between these two extremes, the reality is that we are all pursuing something in our desire to have a “good life”.

Would it surprise you to know that God wants us to pursue things… “with intense effort and with definite purpose or goal.[1] Let’s look below at what God says about pursuing through the New Testament writers.

… pursue the things which make for peace and the building up of one another. Romans 14:19

…pursue hospitality.   Romans 12:13 net

Pursue love…  1 Corinthians 14:1

…pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, perseverance and gentleness.  1 Timothy 6:11

Pursue peace with all men, and the sanctification without which no one will see the Lord.                                                                                                                                                           Hebrews 12:14

He must turn away from evil and do good; He must seek peace and pursue it.  1 Peter 3:11

So if you were making a list. You would need to include:

love, peace, faith, righteousness, godliness, sanctification,

 building up one another, perseverance and gentleness

…hospitality.

Does anything on the list surprise you? You might have expected the commands to pursue love, peace, and faith. But what about hospitality? Does pursuing a godly “good life”mean I need to pursue hospitality?

If you have been reading my blog lately you will have read of my struggles with hospitality (Welcome Stranger) and lessons I am learning about hospitality and love (Learning to love like that…). I think we need to view hospitality as the open door for us to pursue the things of God.

Such as peace with our enemies…

But if your enemy is hungry, feed him, and if he is thirsty, give him a drink; for in so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” Romans 12:20

to build up another in need of encouragement…

Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear.Ephesians 4:29

to show gentleness to one in need…

Brethren, even if anyone is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself, so that you too will not be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ.Galatians 6:1-2

to have our own faith strengthened.

…that is, that I may be encouraged together with you while among you, each of us by the other’s faith, both yours and mine. Romans 1:12

Make today the day you to pursue hospitality as you pursue the things of God.

[1] Louw, J. P., & Nida, E. A. (1996). Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament: based on semantic domains (electronic ed. of the 2nd edition., Vol. 1, p. 662). New York: United Bible Societies.