Making Space for the Unexpected: A Lesson in Evangelism

09 May

paintbrush_staining_floor.jpg

When God led us to this house, we knew there was some kind of anointing on it, and that it would be the hub of ministry as we formed missional community. We used the house for hospitality so much that we knew we needed to expand, increase the flow, rearrange the walls.

When the contractor came over to look at doing those things, he told us we needed to fix the house’s foundations. So we broke ground in the coldest part of winter. They cut ten giant holes in our floors and dug all the way down to the bedrock fifteen feet below the house, putting in concrete and rebar pillars and literally getting the house on a firm foundation. In the process, we discovered that there was black mold underneath everything. We ended up ripping out every square inch of the floor.

This had become a much bigger project than we had ever anticipated.

 What we thought would be three months turned into six to seven. We knew all of this was preparing for hospitality, but it was frustrating living in the constant inconvenience and hardship of a torn-up house. We actually say the core of our ministry is, “radical hospitality and radical transformation,” and we were now living that out in a concrete sense, in the tension of a house being torn up and slowly transformed.

I was frustrated, thinking that I wasn’t doing the ministry I was supposed to be doing. I couldn’t offer the kind of hospitality I wanted in a house without floors. Plus, I had to be in the house all the time working on projects, staying present with the contractor.

It took two or three months for me to realize that God was actually calling me to minister to those contractors.

I had forgotten what I’d learned about ministry: to simply make space for people. For months, when it came to those contractors all I could think about was, “You guys gotta hurry up! You gotta get out of the way so I can make space for people.” I totally missed that God had created this space, with these people! These guys were part of our family, in my house, for three or four months! They were in my house when I was in my boxers making coffee in the morning, and when I was trying to make dinner on the portable stove at night. That led to a lot of life together.

After I started paying attention to what God had put before me, I intentionally gave myself more. My gut reaction when these guys would talk to me was still, “Bro, get back to your job! This stuff is taking forever. Y’all are killing me!” But then I’d realize, “This guy is sharing deeply with me about his heart and his struggles to find Jesus. What’s my job again? Oh yeah, I’m a missionary. I help people discover their heart for Jesus who don’t know him. OK, Lord. I see what you did there!” And I’d engage.

Our contractor, Quentin, knew that we were Jesus people, and why we were working on the house. He was both suspicious and open at the same time. He’d bring up random spiritual questions like, “Hey, what do you think about this whole gay marriage thing? What do you think about the Masons?” And by around month two he was saying things like, “You know, I’ve been thinking about checking out the church. My life is kinda crazy.”

Quentin had a pretty rough background, previously living on the streets and in some gang activity. For example, one time when he got in trouble with some of these guys, they drove by and fire-bombed his car. He was living with his dad at the time, and his dad walked out of the house, saw the burning car, and told him, “We might need to reconsider our living conditions; you might need to move out.”

One day, out of the blue, Quentin asked me, “Hey, can you do baptisms?”

“Yeah, why?” I asked. “Who?”

“My daughter.”

“Really? So tell me why you wanna do that?”

So we talked about what baptism means. “We’re not making your kid a Christian. We’re blessing her. And people who come to this thing need to be ready to promise to walk with your daughter in Christian faith, in some form or another. Is that what you’re asking me to do?”

“Yeah.”

Even though he didn’t go to church, Quentin had a community of people around him who did know Jesus at some level, and he wanted to participate with God in that way.

There were 35 or 40 people, all friends and family, who came to the baptism, including some who flew up from Mexico. We did a very simple but meaningful service, in the living room of his aunt’s house, and it was a time of blessing over the people. His mother, who is kind of the matriarch over our neighborhood, had tears in her eyes, saying, “Keith, that’s the most beautiful baptism I’ve ever seen. You have no idea what it means to our family for you to unify us like this.” Several of the family members were saying, “I’ve never seen a baptism like this before. This is unbelievable—the Spirit of God is in this place!” The Kingdom of God had come into the home, and they’d never experienced that. With a somewhat catholic and religious background, it was earth-shaking for them to see that Church could happen right at the pool at their house.

So what looked like a pain in the butt for me, just hanging out with this one guy in my house for three months of renovations, ended up being a Holy Spirit encounter for 35–40 people. And many told me, “I will never forget this.”

Quentin’s mom and dad are devout Baptists, and they take their granddaughter who got baptized to church with them every week. The last time I saw Quentin he hold me, “You know what? The whole family went to church with my mom and dad last week. We actually liked it! I think we’re gonna keep going!” He’s been introduced to Jesus. He’s taking another step in his faith journey, becoming part of a faith community that he didn’t think he wanted to go to, and felt he didn’t have a place in. The way our lives crossed through my house renovation was a significant part of getting his whole family to consider getting involved in the family of God.

During that season my expected ministry was interrupted by something else God had in mind. There were many ways that God opened up ministry space with the workers in our house throughout that frustrating renovation. It was significant Kingdom work, work that really was “radical hospitality and radical transformation.” I just needed to recognize it.



ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Keith Peeler and his wife, Megan, live in Dallas, TX with their three kids. They have been with CRM since 2010 and serve to create movements of committed followers of Jesus with the Accelerate Team.


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