Be More Than a Good Neighbor.

((from Kate))

I was mortified the other day when someone asked for my last name. If they knew my last name they might find out who my father is. Martin, as in Dr. Martin. It was really really embarrassing, so I said nothing.
I changed the subject with some sort of small talk about how names don’t matter and I think I used the word ‘patriarchy’ and blah blah blah, so then they asked about my ancestry. Damn it! I didn’t know how I was going to get out of this one, but I absolutely was not willing to have a conversation in a public coffee house where other people could hear that I was Swedish.

There was sweat dripping down my back and beading on my upper lip and all I could do was pray that my pal wouldn’t notice as I re-routed to topics like gardening and gluten-free snickerdoodles.

Yup. That’s exactly how I feel when people are afraid to talk about their faith. Confused.

We’ll wear sweatshirts and slap on bumper stickers emblazoned with our alma mater and yet many tip-toe around our true identity – we’re CHRISTIANS!
We gave our lives to Jesus Christ! The Holy Spirit lives in our very insides and the God of the whole universe holds us in His palm.

The conversation I’ve had the most (and that disheartens me the most) is that “Evangelism isn’t everyone’s gift.” Instead, what’s touted from the pulpit and the pew and the small group meeting in the living room is, lemme guess, how we need to “LOVE” … “be a better neighbor” … “meet people where they’re at” … ?
Am I getting warm?

And here’s the thing. I agree. With all of it. BUT (and this is a big but {insert Kardashian joke here.}) Is it really enough? Is it really love to provide for temporal needs but ignore eternal ones?

When one of my beautiful girl friends is wrestling with her string of bad dates and what that must mean about her beauty / humor / success / or lack thereof, is it in her best interest for me to edit her profile or is it in her best interest to look her in the eye and tell her of her real worth, her value, of how much God loves her?

I think both.

We send out ‘good vibes’ but we’re afraid to pray with their hands in ours. We’ll meet them for brunch after church, but we’re too afraid to ask them to go with us to worship.

Why are we afraid? Is it because there’s a brushstroke of social awkwardness? Is it because the word “evangelical” has become vilified to a point that seems past redemption? Is it because relativism has curled under the front door like it was being pumped from a fog machine?

Or is it because there isn’t an emphasis on salvation in our prayers and our devotions and our sermons? Are we nervous that someone might ask a question we don’t have the answer to and so we avoid talking about religion at all?

I’m not asking with snark, I’m asking with sincerity.

If you hadn’t even thought of the word evangelism in awhile, or it’s part in your every day life – you are not alone. Let’s look to the scripture to see God’s heartbeat on His kids talking about Him with His other kids:

 …but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence…” I Peter 3:15 NASB

 Jesus, undeterred, went right ahead and gave his charge: “God authorized and commanded me to commission you: Go out and train everyone you meet, far and near, in this way of life, marking them by baptism in the threefold name: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Then instruct them in the practice of all I have commanded you. I’ll be with you as you do this, day after day after day, right up to the end of the age.” Matthew 18:19-20 The Message 

“I urge you, first of all, to pray for all people. Ask God to help them; intercede on their behalf, and give thanks for them. This is good and pleases God our Savior, who wants everyone to be saved and to understand the truth. For, there is one God and one Mediator who can reconcile God and humanity—the man Christ Jesus. He gave his life to purchase freedom for everyone.” I Timothy 2:1 & 3-6 NLT

Easter wasn’t all that long ago, who did your heart ache for when you grieved on Good Friday and celebrated on Sunday? If no one comes to mind, that’s a problem. Our hearts should break for the hearts that are living without Him and might live without Him for all of eternity. Hearts that are content to stay stuck in a spot of blame, doubt, and disbelief.

We should tread oh-so carefully! Many people cling as tightly to their faiths as we do. We should never enter a conversation with the goal to argue or with even the slightest tinge of disrespect. We should take seriously the charge to be prepared to have an answer. What is more worth studying than the truth? Take it seriously.

And take sharing it seriously.
I promise you, I promise you from the bottom of my heart and the tips of my toes, every time I’ve asked God to use me to tell of Him to someone who needed to hear of His love, HE HAS ALWAYS ANSWERED.

Maybe that scares you.
My friends, don’t be afraid! Remember Who lives inside of you!
If you have prayed to speak out of love, if you are entering into conversations and relationship with grace and respect, if you have studied the truth you claim to believe and mostly if you trust the One who desires that all should come to know Him – live in freedom! Intentional, beautiful freedom.

And watch what happens.

If you don’t know where to start, here’s a practical tip I picked up over a decade ago and have used ever since: pray for your waiter.

Every single meal I have, I know the server will see me pray. I know that we’ll banter back and forth and create a little relationship in 45 minutes. So why would I not ask if there’s anything they’d like me to pray about for them?

In thirteen years of doing this, only ONE gentleman rebuffed my gentle request in anger. And ya know what…?

A week or two later I was at the same restaurant with a different group of friends and a different server. The man walked by my table and slipped a folded piece of white receipt paper under my plate. When he’d walked away, I opened it. “The other day you asked me if you could pray for me. I’m sorry I got angry but that was a really bad day. I am HIV positive and found out my health insurance was being canceled and I would not be able to pay for my medicine anymore. I was so mad that I didn’t know how to answer you. Will you please pray now? My name is Greg.”

For years after that I was able to build a relationship with Greg.
Because I asked him if I could pray for anything when he brought me a cheeseburger.

Start small if you must, go big because you can, do it all with the same heartbeat as your God’s… the same love that wrapped you up and calls you daughter or son. Not only because you should want to but because He commands us to!

Just remember, He doesn’t just call us to be a ‘nice person’ … and people will walk around aching and lost because we were so afraid to really love them that all we did was talk about gardening. And gluten-free snickerdoodles.

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