You want to expand past the walls of your church into your communities. You desire to reach the unreachable with the gospel. You rally the troops, give your best Great Commission sermon and off you go!
Or so you thought.
Week after week there seems to be a disconnect between the desire to reach people with the gospel, and the actual doing. What is holding your congregation back? What could really get you the results you’re praying for?
When I mention the word “evangelism” to people, there is always this strange response, they either flinch or look like they want to run. Many have the impression that evangelism is going out on the street corner handing out tracks and loudly proclaiming the gospel from a soap box. The people in our congregations need to hear more about what it looks like to be the gospel of Jesus in settings where they already are naturally: on the ice rink, at work in the hospital or school, in the business meetings. There are many people who have taken the gospel to where they are already without being weird. People are often confused about how to “share the gospel” in their areas of work or dwelling because somewhere we have believed that sharing the gospel is about leading people to a decision for Christ… and NOW. We need to help our congregation relax about what “preaching the gospel” looks like in their settings. Many feel guilty for just loving on the people they work with. They feel they should be “doing” more, saying more. In my context of being a business owner and artist in our city it has taken me ten years to build enough relationship and trust among the people I am with to begin to start speaking about the gospel. Up until this point, I have done something I feel we need to do a lot more of when engaging with non believers and that is, listen. Listen to their opinions, their stories, their hurts and struggles. I’ve listened to shocking beliefs and behaviours over the years. Listening does not equate with agreement, but listening is probably one of the greatest acts of love and service we can offer people. In a world where people feel isolated and alone, a listening ear can show more love than we could ever say with our mouths, and builds trust and friendship needed to express our faith to them when the connection is strong.
Many times I have felt like the worst missionary. When updating supporters, or asking for funds it has been hard over the years to say, “Well, I’m still dwelling among them… nothing to really show for it yet…” I have discovered that it really does take years sometimes to gain enough trust to share the gospel in the way we feel we are supposed to. YEARS. People are so tired of religion and feeling like our only motivation is to convert them and change their behaviour. There is a lot of mistrust out there that needs to be rebuilt. Trust takes time. The people in our congregations need to hear this, or they will feel defeated and possibly give up on reaching the people who surround them in their workplace and neighbourhoods.
Finding a deep love for people
Between the time it takes to build trust and seeing where we are naturally already is the call to a deep love for people, not a deep love growing our church or ministry. One of the greatest things I’ve had to grow in over the years is love for people. Time has built trust between myself and those I reach, but has also deepened my understanding of what it may have looked like for Jesus to wash the disciples feet. What does it look like when Jesus says, “This is my body broken for you, DO THIS in remembrance of Me.” Do this. We nee to let ourselves be broken for others, and when we do this, we remember the power of the cross and the resurrection for us and for them. Every time our life spills out for others like the blood of Christ flowed for us, we glimpse more of what it really means to be the hands and feet of Jesus. We need to continually surrender our ambition for our programs and come back to the heart of God for people.
What are your thoughts? What is Jesus asking you to do? What will it look like for you to move beyond the walls?
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Guest post by Connie Jakab. Learn more about Connie here.