“Dangerous.” “Risky.” “Brilliant.” “Inspiring.” “A nice gesture.” “Doomed to failure.” “Exhilirating!”
“The Christian thing to do.” “We’ve never done it that way before.”
Just some of the many thoughts that came to my own mind or from the mouths of others who heard what was going on. I mean, we’ve lived here for almost 4 years now and you have NO idea what goes on behind the doors of the homes next to you. Nothing is a guarantee, and isn’t this supposed to happen inside of the church? That’s why we have jammin music and a bunch of ministries there. And it’s safer at the church. You know, people come there and they know what to expect, and they know how to act. Why not just “change” the way we do things within the security of the church building, rather than move out beyond it. People can be hostile towards Christians coming out of the four walls and into their homes. We don’t want them to think we’re Mormons or Jehovah’s Witnesses. It’s just a bad idea. Plus, it’s a big expense. All that food. You would never want to let them into your home, they might steal something. Or stake the place out in case they have a “need” in the future and want a quick fix, including your stereo system and flat screen. Plus, if they really want to meet you, they know where to find you. It’s plastered over everything that you’re a Christian – the cross on your door, the Easter flag hanging out front, your car is gone every Sunday morning, the Christian “cussing” you do when your lawnmower won’t start. If they want to meet you, or even go to church, they can find you at church. Jesus would never really expect you to “hang out” with non-Christians either. I mean, if they don’t go to your church, you can’t guarantee that they’re even believers, no matter what kind of “WWJD?” bumper stickers they have on their car – they could have bought it that way. If you go to church on Sunday mornings, maybe even Sunday nights, and take your kids to VBS, you’re doing alright. Jesus never lived in our society, He would totally understand. You can’t expect to apply Bible Time evangelism to our day and age. It’s impractical. It’s just “not done” that way anymore.
What the heck?!
All that this conveys is a spirit of cowardice, and not the energetic, powerful Spirit of the Almighty God! Ok, so I’m not the best planner in the world. So, maybe it was a little too aggressive to put fliers in the doors of 35 homes on our street, letting the inhabitants know about our cookout. I wouldn’t have changed it for the world.
Here’s what happened:
My heart is for the lost. My heart has been engaged in the field way out yonder, halfway around the globe – which is good, but a little hypocritical. Essentially, I have been saying that the people of East Asia deserve Christ more than the people in my hometown. Granted, I have always been an active church member, attending services whenever the doors are open, teaching Sunday School, yatta yatta. That’s all fine and dandy. I’ve helped at the food pantry we support – in the next town. Our hometown has always seemed to have it together. On almost every main street in the city, and even some non-main streets, there is probably a church somewhere in there. It’s fairly affluent. It just doesn’t have as many needs as, say, the city north of us or south of us. And, honestly, if even 1/5th of those churches are doing the same amount of things that ours is, then people are being reached. Right?
The truth is that a lot of churches in our country and hometown are seeing a decline in regular attendance. Yeah, there are those “feel-good” churches, the ones that have super-comfy seats, coffee holders, and all the “Christian-y” things happen behind other doors, away from the main congregation – those are growing by leaps and bounds. But I wonder how deep the genuine faith goes in those places. Not saying that all of them are weak Christians, just that, I wonder what the ratio would be. And then you have other churches who are still preaching in the manner of the 50’s-70’s – fire and brimestone, condemn ’em to save ’em. The members of those churches are of a significantly older generation and shrinking in number, until the last elder is taken to receive his reward in heaven.
While overseas, doing evangelism in one of those Far Eastern nations, I was confronted with my own hypocrisy of evangelism back home. I do believe that my ultimate vocation and ministry will be overseas, but that does not negate or excuse my actions while I’m “home”. At the same time, as the Japanese would say, “sazuga kamisama” (in a manner just like God), my mother was feeling the same conviction. In fact, she did the first neighbor-outreach project, making Christmas baskets of candy and cookies and whatnot for a few of our neighbors and passing them out, in the pouring snow. She’s great.
When I got home, Mom and I began praying for God to show us what we needed to do to reach out to the neighbors, the most effective way. Mom likes to plan, and she’s not an extrovert by any means. I am not really an extrovert either, but I have had a lot of social training. 🙂 We decided to buy a grill, a bunch of yard toys and whatnot. We were going to have a reason for people to come over if it killed us.
My college group from church decided to meet at my house this Sunday for our Bible Study. It was a perfect opportunity. They were gung-ho for it, (I am so grateful for my church. We might have missed the mark on a couple things, but there are people in it, and my close friends, who are so hardcore and adventurous…they rock!) we moved our Bible Study to an earlier time and were going to have a cookout party in our backyard for the rest of the evening. As I said before, I went up my whole street, handing out fliers for the event to 35 homes, inviting our neighbors to join us. I had no idea how many people would come. But God did, and that was all that mattered.
The day before, a neighbor called to say he couldn’t make it – he’d be out of town. The day of, a neighbor called and said she might come and she would bring pasta salad. We didn’t hear from anyone else. With Connect (the young adults group) and others from my church, we had 23 people coming. Then, we had another family come through, and then another set of neighbors. All in all, we had 28 people here, in our yard, last night. It was so much fun. We had burgers, manwich, hotdogs, cookies, brownies, etc. We had frisbees, cornhole, football, water guns. It was a blast! Totally awesome. There was a mix of ages, so everyone had a place, and we just had a really great time. The neighbors directly to the right of my home are Connect-age and I think they’ll come do stuff with us in the future. One woman is a bit older than Mom, but they built a good foundation last night. Another woman with two young kids, said she’ll probably come to our church. 🙂 So, cool. So much fun.
I feel so satisfied. I could not have asked for a better evening/event. Mom and I are super-jazzed to do something like this again soon. I think everyone in Connect was really encouraged too. The neighbors who did come were a perfect fit for a first outreach. The older woman said there had never been anything like this before in the neighborhood, and she’s been here for 50 years now. Unbelievable! All day, I’ve just had joy welling up inside me, tickling my heart and making me laugh randomly. It’s been bringing tears to my eyes, and last night, I just sat in my room crying in praise and thanksgiving to God.
He is so good, and He blesses His faithful. He loves to create. And when His people seek to create bridges to the lost, He is right there, setting everything up, giving all the materials needed. He is such a wonderful and loving God and I am so honored that He would use me – little ole me – to reach people.
I feel so full in my spirit.