I have spent a lot of time in conversation with friends and mentors about what that is going to look like and had become a little discouraged.
“How are you going to reach your neighbors?” They asked.
“We are just going to be good neighbors.” I would say.
“How are you going to get them to church and to Jesus?”
“By being good neighbors we hope that the doors to that conversation will be opened.”
“What makes you good neighbors?”
“Doing work within our immediate area: community gardens, Communi-D barbecues. We aren’t living there yet so we don’t know what the needs of that community even are yet.”
“That sounds like a charity and those never get real converts to Christ.”
It has been a little disheartening.
I made two new friends this week. Ruth and Larry Allen are full-time volunteers of Grace Centers of Hope in Pontiac. They were kind enough to give me a tour of their facility and tell me a lot about what goes on there.
The place started at a church, then expanded to include a rehab, homeless shelter, daycare for its residents and now community development where they are rehabbing old houses for their rehab graduates. They started as a run-of-the-mill church that expanded to meet the needs of its community.
They had just taken us on a two hour tour of everything they do and we were just talking afterwards. One thing that Ruth said really framed and articulated exactly what we as Micah 6 Community are hoping to do.
She was talking about working in a community long-term and said, “We have to live side-by-side with people in order to earn the right to speak to them about faith.”
Earn the right. I could not (and have not) said it better myself.
Ideas and feelings and beliefs on religion, Jesus, life and purpose are the biggest, deepest and most personal things you could ever talk to someone about. Those conversations and the ability to speak into those things is a right you have to earn. Those conversations aren’t for Joe-schmoe on the street or guys going around knocking on doors. Those conversations are for people who have lived through your struggles, been a friend when it isn’t convenient, asked for help when they needed it and given help when you’ve needed it. Those conversations aren’t for strangers.
Perhaps a big part of the reason I am not pushing, planning or building a strategic plan for evangelism is because we don’t even know these people yet. While this may look like a lack of planning, it is in fact a plan not to go in with preconceived ideas based on stereo-types and generalizations. I think that is a much better plan.
I know that might seem like a cop out, and might not be a convincing model for people who worship models, but I do think that this is a way to create real community connectedness and friendships, which I think are more impactful than models or ideas.