06 Mar Help wanted: A “Senior Pastor” for Your Street
At Storyline Fellowship, we believe in relational evangelism. We say it this way: “warm conversations, not cold confrontations.” This means we love people where they are, we take an active interest in others’ lives. We resist the temptation to force spiritual truths into a stranger’s lap but strive to build a bond with unbelievers in our lives. Relationships are the key in a post-Christian culture.
What if God appeared to you in a dream and offered you a top-secret promotion? From that moment on, you were elevated to the role of “senior pastor” of your street. He explained that the people living in those adjacent houses were precious to Him, and in need of love, encouragement, and care. You were the one He had sent to reach them. You were now in charge of meeting their needs.
In a sense, this is exactly what Jesus meant in the Great Commandment when he called us to “love our neighbors as ourselves.” To love other people in the same way we love ourselves should not feel confusing. Just think about it. Do you feel intimidated by meeting your own needs? Of course not. You care for yourself quite naturally. When your stomach rumbles, you feed it. When your eyes feel heavy, you nap. When your work feels overwhelming, you plan a vacation. Taking care of self is a cinch.
Yet, Jesus calls us to take care of our neighbors in the way that we take care of ourselves. He calls us to care about those in close proximity with the same level of responsiveness as we care for ourselves. What if we as Christians truly began noticing the needs of our literal neighbors and taking it upon ourselves to respond? We should all feel the urge to take this seriously, yet in our busyness we push this command to our “someday/maybe” list.
Here are five practical ways to step up as a spiritual leader on your street:
1. Be the person that knows everyone’s name, including their children.
Your neighbor might say, “Hey there!” every time you pull the trash can to the curb. Be the abnormal one who calls people by their first names. Write them down and keep notes of your growing knowledge of the roster. This is so simple but few people do it.
2. Start praying for ways to be a friend.
This doesn’t mean you shovel their snow only because you want a platform. It means practicing love. This will require learning your neighbor’s story, discovering what makes this person tick, keeping track of their personal dreams as well as scars from the past. This process is the “real stuff” of life. It’s called building a relationship. Sadly, most Christians are better at sharing spiritual laws than they are sharing their lives and hearts. Make room in your life for your neighbors.
3. Prayer walk your street.
Walk down the street and pray—with your eyes open. Don’t be that super-weird person that bows in their front yard, lifts holy hands toward their landscaping, and begs God to bring repentance. As you walk your dog, say your neighbors’ names to God. You’re probably the only person on planet earth that intercedes for them. Believe that prayer works, and remind yourself that unless the Lord works in a person’s heart, your words will always fall on hard soil.
4. Invite them over for supper and be prepared to ask fun questions.
This requires a good level of trust to be in place. Most people don’t like to burn the rare night at home by engaging in small talk with strangers. Once you’ve become friends, invite your neighbor over for a meal, and ask questions about their life, story, background, hobbies, interests. Listen well and show a curious interest. Most people enjoy sharing their stories and feeling understood.
5. Look for an opportunity to share what Christ has done in your life.
When that right moment presents itself—and sometimes this takes years!—the Holy Spirit will provide a natural place to discuss the power of the Gospel, and how the grace of God is world-changing. Like a farmer, Christians should plant seeds of love, and wait patiently for God to bring all seeds to harvest. As Paul said, “So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow.” If the Lord grants you this opportunity, be sincere and share your heart. God can make anything grow.