Faithful readers, I apologize for the long delay in getting this blog up. Between summer vacation, official cross country practices starting, launching a child into Kindergarten, and all the ministry usuals, blogging has been on the back-burner.
So, let's dive back in!
We ended last time with a call for us to move from being in proximity with the people we would reach to becoming a presence. After establishing our proximity (remember, 7-10 hours/week in our mission context), our goal was to become a familiar face, to be available, and to be ready to start meeting people and having conversations. We were to do this for the purpose of establishing trust and building relationships. That was the long and short of it.
Today I want to underline the importance of this process. If you've been in an evangelism or outreach program before, what I've said might seem too slow and time consuming. After all, it could take several months or even longer for you to become a real presence in the place God has sent you to!
So why do I advocate this long-haul approach?
Because we're called to make disciples!
Our job is not just to get someone to say a "Sinner's Prayer," or to believe in God, or even to show up to church one time. We're called to make disciples, which means we're called to walk with people and lovingly show them the way of Jesus and the Kingdom and to integrate the gospel into the totality of their lives. You can't do that without a relationship founded on trust. If there's not trusting relationships, then there won't be new disciples!
Let's take that a step further, and give a preview of what's next for us. In order for someone to want to be a disciple of Jesus they will need to see Jesus in us. Not a superficial, "always-happy-smiling-Christian thing, but a legitimate, "you really live differently in a good way and you care about me" sort of thing. Again, that won't happen apart from a relationship!
So what about inviting people to church and letting the church disciple them? After all, that's a pretty common strategy for churches to reach people. In brief, taking someone to your church is usually not a bad strategy (but it could be... more on that later). But, you are still the one who has the relationship built on trust with the person considering discipleship! You are still the one in the best possible position to help this person become a disciple. Being a part of a church community of some sort is a necessary aspect of discipleship, but it is not sufficient. So if we take someone to church our job is not done; our relationship is still the primary link between that person and discipleship, and until that changes we are called to continue graciously leading them towards the King.
We often talk about the high cost of being a disciple of Christ. It is high indeed. And part of this cost is in making more disciples. There are no short-cuts here. It takes time and sacrifice to consistently be a presence, develop relationships, and lovingly help another both give and align their life to the King.