You’re going through another busy day. Maybe you’re running to the grocery store after work, taking the kids to soccer practice, or eating a quick lunch in the break-room. Stop and consider, do you know how many of the people around you—in the check-out line, in the break-room, on the bleachers, walking that dog past your house—are living apart from the Source of Life?
Many of us are surrounded by people who don’t know God. That's even true of many who call themselves Christians. The vast majority of people we interact with on a daily basis don’t expect God to show up in their lives in powerful, transformational ways.
But that doesn’t mean they’re not longing for spiritual truth. Interest in spirituality is on the rise in Western society. Even atheists are increasingly expressing a sense of awe and wonder at the world God has made (though they don’t believe in that God), and more than half of all Americans claim they pray daily. Chances are high that there are many people in your life like this.
What if we could actively find and connect with those people who are searching? What if each of us, no matter our occupation, could be part of revealing God’s goodness and power to people who need his hope for life?
One of our staff members in Northern California, Alastair, has a story to share that demonstrates how this “what if” can become a reality. By incorporating strategies from the Disciple Making Movements ministry model, Alastair is seeing opportunities pop up in unexpected places in his daily life—like in front of his kids’ school. Alastair’s experience outlines four “building blocks” for engaging people outside the Church that anyone can try. As bonus food for thought, each building block is tied to the ministry strategy Jesus gave to the 72 “average Joe” disciples he sent out to minister in Luke 10.
BUILDING BLOCK 1: Find a Partner
Jesus sent them out two by two ahead of him into every town and place where he was about to go (Luke 10:1).
Two by two = Team.
My friend Will and I have become a local disciple-making team. This partnership makes us stronger and more effective. We meet once a week at a coffee shop to listen to God, to plan, and to encourage one another as we make disciples in Redding. As we listen in prayer, we often receive specific direction for what God wants us to focus on in our city.
Last week we sensed God’s direction to start Bible studies with people outside of the church and to launch new teams (like us) in our city. In future we’ll be praying over the city where we live, asking the Lord where and with whom we should serve in order to meet the people he’s prepared to hear about him. Praying together—making requests and listening for God’s instructions—is the foundational way we both partner with God. This is really about what God wants to do here. Our prayers together make us more aware of what God is up to as we go through our daily lives.
As a result of these prayers, when an opportunity opened up in a surprising place the next week, I was ready for it.
BUILDING BLOCK 2: Look for the Person of Peace
If someone who promotes peace is there, your peace will rest on them...stay there...do not move around (Luke 10:6-7).
Someone who promotes peace, a person of peace, is someone who is open to us joining with them in spiritual conversation. Ideally this person is not a follower of Jesus yet. These are the people Will and I are always on the look-out for.
The best way we’ve found to recognize them is by being open to conversation, and open to the Holy Spirit. As I talk to people, if they are willing to move from a superficial conversation to a meaningful conversation, and then move from a meaningful conversation into a spiritual conversation, they are probably a person of peace! Sometimes the Holy Spirit works supernaturally, and a door to spiritual conversation opens up immediately.
However it happens, once we encounter a person of peace, we open up the scriptures with them and allow them to discover who God is for themselves. Identifying these people of peace opens doors to engage both them and their communities in Bible studies.
I now have a filter that’s always “on” when I’m talking to people—my "people of peace awareness filter.” This filter gives me the grace to be able to stop when I find someone like this, and take the time to engage them in a sincere conversation—all the while listening to the Lord for where he’s taking the conversation.This is really about being available to the Lord, holding my personal agenda for the day loosely, and allowing him to modify it as he chooses.
BUILDING BLOCK 3: Receive What God Sends (Even When It’s Unexpected)
When you enter a town and are welcomed, eat what is set before you (Luke 10:8).
Last Tuesday morning I dropped the kids off at school. Though I had clear tasks for the day, the sun was coming up, so I got out of the car to appreciate it. A man was watching it, too, at the other end of the parking lot. He approached me and said, “Hey man, can we read the Bible together?” It was completely out of left-field (but that’s the kind of thing that happens when we pray). He told me his name was Jason and he was in a hard place, dealing with a broken relationship with his girlfriend and struggling to stay sober. It’d been 90 days since his last drink, and he was living in the Rescue Mission. We opened the Bible right then, reading a story of hope (Mark 2:1-17), and using simple questions about God, man and obedience from the Discovery Bible Study method. Jason left encouraged, eager to meet again. And I was encouraged too. God brought a person of peace to me!
Though Jesus’s instruction to his disciples in Luke 10 about eating what was set before them was first and foremost practical (they were launched without money and without food), I can recognize my encounter with Jason as a sign of God’s welcome. He granted me the attentiveness to see it and the grace to surrender my morning’s agenda to what was set before me—his son Jason and the opportunity to feast on his word together.
BUILDING BLOCK 4: Display the Power of God’s Kingdom
Heal the sick who are there and tell them, “The kingdom of God is near you” (Luke 10:9).
Though my first time with Jason did not include prayer for physical healing, Jason had seen the power of God displayed on previous occasions when his girlfriend was healed of back pain and his best friend received relief from multiple sclerosis. These displays were part of what led Jason to ask to study the Bible.
Since that Tuesday when I first met Jason, we have met two more times, both positive interactions. Jason looks like a different man. He’s much more stable, has been able to move out of the Rescue Mission, and has some resolution with his girlfriend. I think the LORD set it up that we’d see each other that first day so Jason could make it out of the pit he was in.
This disciple making process is rooted in prayer and rooted in relationship. It is a privilege to give our lives to it—and to him who sustains it with his love.
Blessed are the eyes that see what you see. For I tell you that many prophets and kings wanted to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it (Luke 10:23-24).
This is the first in a series of posts designed to give “average people” tools to effectively share Jesus with friends, neighbors, coworkers and family members. These “building block” posts will be a primer on intercessory (movemental) prayer, starting spiritual conversations, leading a Bible study with non-believers, and catalyzing a movement of God among the unreached in your own city. Prepare to be equipped and encouraged. God is at work, and you’re invited to get involved.
Stay tuned for the next installment from Alastair, Evangelism for Normal People: The Art of Spiritual Conversations.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Alastair Rundle and his wife, Catherine, spent their last six years living and serving among the poor in downtown Los Angeles with their two children. They recently moved to Redding, California, where they are working to bridge strategic discipleship with the power of the Holy Spirit, in order to see a movement of God sustained and cities transformed.