by Jim Mueller
Christians can easily become isolated from our un-churched friends. One glance at my Palm Pilot tells me my world revolves around my church—ministry, retreats, meetings, small group, friends—with little time for non-church events and relationships.
Where would you be today without that initial conversation with a Christian friend? How would your life be different if that first invitation to church wasn’t extended to you?
What is your capacity and sensitivity to connecting with people outside the walls of your church? How could you more effectively impact the others within your circle of influence?
Here are my top three suggestions to improve your “Connection Capacity.”
Early in my Christian life I identified evangelism as a primary spiritual gift. I recognized a passion for un-churched people. I tried to be sensitive to opportunities where I could have spiritual conversations or invite a friend to church. In fact, often I created these “supernatural” opportunities myself, orchestrating conversations and meetings.
My effectiveness as an evangelist was limited—and frustrating. For years things just didn’t click.
A series of events caused me to question my place in ministry. I had served in a specific ministry role for several years and I was sure this was where God wanted me. A completely new opportunity presented itself and it seemed God was pushing me out of my comfort zone. I resisted the change.
The decision was clear after a long conversation with a Christian friend. The next morning I gave notice to ministry leadership and a month later, began volunteering in that new ministry. Almost immediately it was clear why I had to make the change and it was evident my decision was a “God thing”.
Not only did this new ministry provide many opportunities to engage in spiritual outreach, my effectiveness went off the map, leading dozens of people to faith in the first two years. God then opened the door to opportunities outside the church—neighbors, business associates, family…even strangers.
Have you made yourself available to God? God is more interested in your availability than your ability.
Could God be prompting you to make a decision that could strategically place you exactly where He wants you, into a situation or location where He can use you most effectively? Have you yielded to these invitations?
Be sensitive to what God might have in mind for you and pray something like this: “God, what would you have me do so you can accomplish your will in my life?” Be available.
Last summer, almost daily, I noticed a young mother with her son taking walks past our home. A few months later I remembered that mom and her little boy when they visited our house at Halloween. My wife, Sheri and I took a few minutes to talk and we discovered she was a new neighbor a few doors down.
Just before Christmas I felt a restlessness about the upcoming services at our church. I knew I needed to invite someone, but the only people who came to mind were our new neighbors. I made excuses: I didn’t know them well enough, I was afraid what they might think of me, I didn’t even have their phone number.
Days later, that family was still on my mind. I knew I needed to go to their door and invite them to church—way out of my comfort zone. As I walked down the street, I prayed, “Okay God, I’m walking. I’ll ring the doorbell and do the invite. The rest is up to you.”
The door opened and I asked the question. A big smile came to the mom’s face and she said, “We’ve been looking for a church!” Then I knew … God planned this. Since then, we have attended church together several times and we’re building a relationship.
Are you aware of opportunities around you? Are you sensitive to where God is leading you? If you want to really turn up the spiritual temperature in your life, start thinking in terms of partnering with God on a secret spiritual mission. Daily, ask God what He has in store for you. Who does he want you to engage with? Where are the spiritual opportunities? How can you work with Him to change lives?
Think of every phone call, every new acquaintance, each business meeting, the person serving you at Starbucks, the person next to you on the plane, every knock on your door—as a potential situation God has orchestrated. Regardless of how seemingly insignificant the event, be aware God can use you. And be ready to take action.
Recently, while teamed up with a colleague on a business project, we discussed his hobby, rebuilding fast cars. A while later he asked me what my outside interests were. I told him I have several hobbies, but my primary activity is ministry at my church.
Now, I could have taken the safe option. I didn’t have to mention the “c” word. I’ve learned that throwing out risky words like “church” or “Jesus” can launch a spiritual conversation. It makes things more interesting.
What was the risk? My friend asked the question and I answered honestly. Could he have terminated the conversation? Might he have thought less of me? Possibly. As it turned out, we had a thirty minute conversation about his church background and he even asked how I became a Christian! Our casual business relationship has gone to the next level.
Even in casual conversations, I find myself asking God, “Does this person have a church? Where is he spiritually? God, where do you want me to go with this?” If you sense a leading to ask a spiritual question or drop a risky word in to a conversation, go for it! More often than not you’ll find God has prepared the way.
What’s the downside? As you build confidence and learn to trust God and take small risks, you’ll see there really is no downside. Even if you don’t see immediate results, know that God has used you. At a minimum, you may be the first link that leads that person to Jesus Christ. And that individual may feel safe to engage in a follow-up conversation with you in the future.
Finally, to expand your spiritual reach you need to maintain friendships outside of your church. Don’t exclude your un-churched friends from social and family events. Stay in touch with old friends and be sensitive to how God might want to use you.
Sheri and I recently celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary. We held an event at our church where we recommitted our vows and enjoyed dinner afterwards. Our invite list was a mix of friends old and new, churched and un-churched, Christians and non-Christians. By design, the invitations and seating arrangements maximized the opportunity for friends to understand who we really are, and in some cases see our church for the first time.
We have already seen results from that strategic planning. God has opened new doors and initiated fresh conversations.
Availability. Awareness. Action. Tune in to God. Be bold. There’s nothing like partnering with God and watching Him accomplish His will through you!