In today’s culture, there is constant pressure to look out for yourself. Political aisles, socioeconomic differences, religious divides—all of them can make us feel isolated, and force us inward. Because differences are so heightened and tense, the things that distinguish us from our neighbors can also make us feel threatened. Already-existent tensions were heightened during the events of 2020. Our doors were shut, and for the most part, fostering any kind of community was impossible. As a result, many people both inside and outside the Church turned inward out of self-preservation. To the world, this reaction seems natural, and it’s the reaction chosen by the majority.
As a result of this, though, modern Americans are some of the loneliest people in the world. It is estimated that in the past few years, over 40% of Americans have come to have between 0 and 1 confidants*—meaning almost half of the adult American population have no meaningful friendships, no one to invest in, and no one speaking into their lives. It makes sense, then, to assume that the Church deals with the same issues of loneliness, disconnection, and isolation. Everyone is in survival mode, everyone feels the pressure to look out only for themselves, and everyone is looking for connection.
This is a problem—not just because humans have a basic need for connection, but because this way of life is in contradiction with the life of Jesus. We, as people of God, have a different assignment. The call on our lives is not self-preservation, but self-sacrifice. Jesus set the example of sacrificial living. He embraced the sinful, the messy, the prideful, and the Pharisee without regard for their sin. Jesus spent all day healing and providing for the peoples’ needs, only to be chased the next day by crowds begging for more. But none of their needs, and none of their mess, could make him turn away. And Jesus commanded his followers to love people like he did—this is undoubtedly a call to sacrificial love for our neighbor.
Jesus gave his followers one final command before he returned to the Father: “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey all that I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:19-20). For many believers, this is an intimidating call, especially in a cultural climate that is increasingly isolated. But what if we saw this command from Jesus as an opportunity for the Church to set itself apart from the culture? If the call of Jesus on our lives is to reach out to people—to engage our neighbors, to pray for and pursue the lost, to share the hope that we have in Jesus—then what if this widespread loneliness and need for connection is the perfect foundation for a new kind of evangelism and discipleship?
Evangelism doesn’t have to be street preaching or door-knocking. In fact, that may be less practical now than it’s ever been before. Evangelism, and the life-lived-together relationships that naturally form out of it, might look a lot more like having your neighbors over for dinner. It could be opening up your home for the new couple you meet at church, or taking a walk with your classmate who doesn’t believe the same things you do. If the need is connection, why not meet that need with the Gospel? And when those neighbors, friends, and classmates hear the Gospel, and by his grace choose to follow him, discipleship naturally follows through the relationship you have already been building.
Here are some tactical tips to consider as your open your door and engage in evangelism:
- Consider yourself the “RA” of your neighborhood: Come up with creative ways to get to know your neighbors.
- Invite people into community: It has been said that people are often won to the Christian community before they’re won to the Christian God. And we believe that’s so true. Evangelism can mean inviting people into your rhythms and family and exhibiting the joy of the Lord, endurance through trials, and trusting God’s provision.
- Seek to understand before being understood: Too often we speak before listening, or as Proverbs says, we “listen only to respond.” We must become students of our neighbors.
- Authenticity is the apologetic of our day: People are exhausted with hearing people talk about truth and then not living it out. We have to be the real thing.
- Use the 3 Circles Tool: This is a simple framework for sharing your faith. It’s a circle that starts with God’s design. God has created us in a certain way to experience him in fullness and live life abundantly. But because of sin, instead of experiencing God’s original design for us, we experience brokenness. The only way that we can repair that brokenness is by repenting and believing in the person and work of Jesus. Then we can recover and pursue God’s design.
In a world divided by isolation and constantly forcing people into self-preservation, the best evangelism strategy might be an open door. And just like Jesus did, meeting them with the love, care, and message of the Gospel that gives hope and healing to all people. This might be the way, in our day, to push back the darkness of division and isolation to see His Kingdom come— in neighborhoods, homes, and kitchen tables.
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