Just recently I joined the YMCA in North Canton. I did for a couple of reasons. One is that I was tired of driving down past Belden to go to the gym. Often I try to workout right after work before I have something that evening, but with the time driving down there and back it wasn’t really working to cram a workout in anymore. The second is that I want to do what I can to be present in the community in which I live.
As a church we are going through a year-long initiative called Life Changer. It’s a challenge to personal evangelism, investing in people, sharing our stories, and ultimately bringing people to Jesus. Whenever we hear the words “initiative” or “year-long” it can feel very hard to tackle, hard to get involved. Where do I even start? And when we hear words like “evangelism” and “bringing people to Jesus” it can often be scary and intimidating. So I’ve been thinking about ways for me personally to start being a Life Changer, and I hope some of these simple things will encourage you to action as well.
Evangelism seems so overwhelming. I have to just go up to people and start talking to them about Jesus? No, you don’t. And actually that’s probably not a very effective way to reach people for Jesus. We believe that most people come to find Jesus through relationships. So we came up with three easy steps, just as a launching point. (1) Pray: pray for the person or people that you want to share Jesus with. If you don’t know who that is, pray that God would lead you to that individual. (2) Invest: build relationships, invest in someone, seek out deep friendships. (3) Share Your Story: once you build a relationship with someone, one of the best things you can do to tell them about Jesus, is to tell them what He has done in your life. The most powerful tool you have in pointing others to Jesus is your story of transformation.
So one way that I have determined that will help me invest in others is to be intentional about being present in my community.
One of the reasons I love to run is because it’s a stress reliever, I’m alone and can just get away from everything for awhile. Since I joined the Y, I have met or talked to someone from FCC every time I’ve been there. I’m not an outgoing person, and I don’t like being talked to while I’m working out, but I know that it’s so worth it because I am engaging my community. The YMCA is way more expensive than where I was working out before, but it’s worth it. Sometimes being intentional in your community might actually be a sacrifice, but I promise it will be worth it.
So I just want to invite you, as a start, to be more intentional in your community, right where you live. It may sound simple to you, or it may sound daunting, but either way I know if you do you will have the chance to help change someone’s life. Living intentionally to build relationships in your community doesn’t even have to be that hard. Here’s a few ideas:
| Join your local YMCA or gym, or join a sports league. Anyone want to play softball?
| If your job allows you to go out for lunch, eat lunch at the same restaurant once a week. Or if there’s a restaurant you go to a lot, try to get the same waiter every time.
| Show up at the same places as much as you can: your grocery store, your dry cleaners, Starbucks (no doubt you could find me at the Washington Square Starbucks later today, I’ll be talking to the baristas about “Making a Murderer”), your barber or hairdresser, your local farmers market, or your local bar.
| Go out of your way to walk past that certain person’s office everyday. Just say hi. Just be friendly. Ask your coworkers to go out after work.
| Attend community events: block parties, festivals, fairs, wine tastings.
| Actually talk to your neighbors! Say hi. Ask them how they are doing; how their kids are. Make them cookies. Rake their leaves.
| Volunteer somewhere.
I hope you’re seeing how simple some of these things are. And you can even have somewhat selfish motives and God will use you. I want to work out, play on a sports team, drink Starbucks, and eat lunch somewhere good, but it’s making an intentional choice to meet those people that makes all the difference. Being intentional in your community can be really simple, but can make a huge impact. Just imagine when a guy on your sports team, or the barista at your local coffee shop, or your neighbor meets Jesus. It will be incredible! You can change a life because you showed up at Panera once a week.
So let’s dive into our communities together. A world without Jesus needs us to. Who’s with me?