Reaching the world starts with our neighbors
When overwhelmed by the mission of the church to teach all nations and the great commission given to go and make disciples, Jesus provides us with a witnessing tip to get started.
Love your neighbor as yourself.
It is a simple strategy yet profoundly difficult.
It means to sacrifice our own self-interests for the interest of others. It means to stop absorbing ourselves in our own little world and capture the interest of those living around us – for the sake of the gospel.
Love my neighbor as myself? It’s hard-enough just to know their names.
When it comes to employing outreach strategies, we tend to forget that the best mission is to work the field where God has planted us. Whether a subdivision, apartment building, townhomes, or living on forty acres, we all have neighbors. We wave at them when we drive by their house. We watch their kids grow up from a distance, buy their children’s cookie dough when they knock on our doors, or watch them mow the lawn on a warm summer day.
Neighbors are people Jesus refers to when he asks us to engage the world and proclaim his message.
A simple strategy yet profoundly difficult.
When I view my house as a castle – a private sanctuary to exercise my natural inclination to be left alone to recharge my battery – it is difficult to love my neighbor as myself. I struggle to get past the “good morning” wave because I’m too tired to engage.
If you are like me, I have some good news for us. Jesus forgives us. To love our neighbor as ourselves needs a clean heart, a renewed spirit, and a refurbished zeal. Touched by his grace, filled with the fruits of Christ’s life in us, we can take that first step out of our comfort zones and be who God desires us to be – a good neighbor for the sake of the gospel.
I would like to offer the following suggestions to help us do that:
Be visible by taking slow meandering walks throughout your neighborhood. Pray for the houses that you walk by. And whenever you see a person, stop and chat with them. Introduce yourself and get to know their name. Be bold by asking how you can pray for them and their family. [I am discovering how powerful this walk can be.]
Be vulnerable and not worry about making a good impression or try to be somebody you are not. By remaining in Christ, your neighbors will see Christ through you. And that’s okay!
Be discerning in all your words and actions because your neighbors are watching. They observe you leaving for church on a Sunday morning and when you return. They watch how you interact with your spouse and children. Let’s not give our neighbors excuses to reject hearing the Truth when they see us behaving like a hypocrite.
Be gospel intentional. Keep your eyes and ears open to all opportunities that God provides. Be a first responder when people need help. Be that person in your neighborhood for people to go to when they have a spiritual question.
The Bible tells us to always be prepared to give an answer for the hope that we have in Christ to anybody who asks. (1 Peter 3:15)
Anybody who asks? Isn’t that interesting.
It seems that part of being an evangelist for Christ is not necessarily pulling on sleeves to gain an audience but be willing to provide an answer when somebody tugs on our sleeve to ask a question.
That is a different dynamic.
Loving our neighbor as ourselves places ourselves into positions to have our sleeve tugged to answer a question. And that can start by getting to know the names of our neighbors and allowing them to know us.
Loving our neighbor as ourselves doesn’t stop at being a light for Christ but taking that next step to verbally reveal the source of that Light.
Loving our neighbor as ourselves means daily reminding ourselves to be gospel intentional throughout the day.
Love for Christ prompts us to be willing messengers and good neighbors. And God takes that willingness and provides us with opportunities to convey the reasons for the hope we have in Christ.
And that’s how believers reach the world with the Good News. It starts with our neighbor.
Why I believe Wisconsin is a great mission field
Praise and Proclaim has launched five outreach initiatives in Wisconsin that includes going door-to-door to proclaim the gospel. We are meeting people who are willing to be engaged to hear a short gospel message. Congregations in Wisconsin can be encouraged to trust Jesus words that the harvest is ready and the workers are few. I provide a few reasons why this is true.
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The impact of building credibility in outreach
Praise and Proclaim has had the privilege of conducting forty-seven outreach initiatives since its inception in 2016. With every congregation, we attempt to learn while we train members to verbally proclaim the gospel.
I believe we have uncovered a powerful way for congregations to engage their community and transition to sharing a brief gospel message. I explain more in this short video.
Promises to prepare believers to be witnesses
There are powerful words associated with remaining in Christ that are not to be taken lightly. Words of promise and ramifications. Words of promise and boldness.
In an uncompromising world, there are absolute promises that requires an enormous sacrifice.
Jesus makes promises for all people. For those who trust in Christ and remain in his love, promises turn into reality.
With a careful reflection of the words of John 15, we can discover seven important truths that a believer can count on. These promises help prepare us to be his witnesses in today’s world.
#1 Believers are already clean!
“You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you.” (John 15:3)
Believers are clean not based on what we have done or can do for Christ, but the powerful claims of His Word.
The Lord lovingly tends to those who remain in Him. He disciplines those he loves and delights in pruning branches in our lives that are not bearing fruit. The act of pruning is often painful, but necessary for believers so that they may bear fruit in greater number and higher quality.
#2 Bearing fruit is a promise that believers can count on.
“If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit.” (John 15:5)
A healthy tree bears good fruit. It’s a natural response because that’s what fruit trees were created to do.
Faithful believers who remain in Christ bear good fruit because that is what they were created to do. The acts of faithfulness are focused on the “remaining” rather than the “doing”. This means remaining steadfastly in his Word so that a believer can be a healthy tree in Christ. This includes trusting God’s promises when life is sunny or stormy and that God is planting them right where they need. He provides the right people at the right time to pick the low-hanging fruit from a believer so they can “taste and see that the Lord is good.”
#3 Obedience is a wonderful opportunity for believers to experience the presence of Christ.
“If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. (v. 10)
Obedience does not affect a believer’s status with Christ, but introduces His presence to the world.
#4 Jesus claims all believers to be His friends.
“Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.” (v. 15)
Perfect love is found only in Christ. Believers have no greater friend than Christ. The greatest demonstration of perfect love and perfect friendship is when Christ laid down his life for us. Isn’t that amazing?
#5 Jesus chose all believers to be his friends.
“You did not choose me, but I chose you..” (v.16)
Jesus picked us out from the crowd. He taps us on our shoulder and wants to be associated with us. He is not embarrassed to be seen with us. He listens to us intently. He cares for us passionately. He is perfectly trustworthy and forever has our back.
Jesus separates us from the world and leads those who remain in him down the narrow road and through the small gate to be with him forever.
#6 Because Jesus has chosen all believers to be his friends, they are going to be hated by the world.
“..you do not belong to the world, but I have chose you out of the world. That is why the world hates you.” (v. 19)
Rejection hurts. We desire to belong. We long to be liked, accepted, acknowledged, and befriended. By trusting in Christ and remaining in his love, believers are going to be marked, persecuted and hated. Believers ought to accept this promise from Christ and not be surprised when it happens.
Despite the tugs to be accepted, loved – or feel like you belong – by the world, remember that nothing in this world can come close to what Christ will deliver in heaven. Remain in him.
#7 A believer’s life in Christ is a testimony for Christ.
“When the Advocate comes, whom I will send to you from the Father – the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father – he will testify about me. And you also must testify, for you have been with me from the beginning.” (v. 26-27)
Always be prepared and ready to provide an answer for the hope we have in Christ. When believers step out in faith to share the gospel with others, they share the words of Christ. The words will not be their own, but they will come from the Spirit of truth, our Advocate, who lives and reigns in them.
Fruits of the Spirit that display itself in our life in Christ are produced from the Spirit. Trusting Christ’s promises prepares us to be his witnesses.
Testifying the truth of Christ can only be produced from the Spirit of truth who gives us the words to say. Remaining in Christ’s promises prepares us to be his witnesses.
Praise and Proclaim updates:
I had the privilege and joy to present at the recent WELS Staff Ministers Conference held at St. Matthew’s Lutheran Church in Niles, IL (April 25-27). After the presentation, it was fun to lead over thirty WELS staff ministers canvassing to verbally proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ in the surrounding neighborhoods. Even though teams were only given a window of forty-five minutes to an hour, we rejoice that the Lord opened enough doors for us to plant the seeds of the gospel 75 times. We pray that the training may serve to enhance the gospel ministries of these faithful servants who are serving in various capacities through the U.S.
On April 10th, I had the privilege to lead training at E-Day Action Day at Martin Luther College in New Ulm, MN. It was impressive to see the number of students arrive even though the canvassing component of the training had to be cancelled due to the severe winter weather. (see link “The New Ulm Adventure“) Even though the weather forecasted another winter storm, the Lord allowed the rescheduled canvassing to take place on Saturday, April 28th. Twenty-five MLC students went out and knocked on over seven hundred doors in New Ulm and verbally proclaimed the gospel to 157 souls. During the debriefing time, the students were grateful for the experience and energized by the number of positive responses they received at the door. May the Lord bless this experience and enhance the student’s training to be future called servants.
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