*This post was originally submitted for a writing contest based on the prompt "I wish my local church knew_______." Although I wasn't selected as the winner, I still felt like this had relevant information for my own blog! There isn't much 'I wish my church knew', but I wanted to share something I thought they did a good job of, that other churches might benefit from. I hope some of you can relate!
When you're mostly at home - can you be missional?
As a stay-at-home mom to three kids under three, opportunities for community involvement can be hard to come by. It's not that I don't desire to have weekly interactions with local women at library story time, or to make connections as a frequent visitor to the splash park, but simply that our season of life doesn't afford such activities. To go out with my children (which includes a set of twin toddlers) requires all manner of strollers, bags, confidence and extra helpers. During this unique time, when I'm largely bound to home or well-known environments, I've wondered how I can spread the gospel and be a meaningful voice for Jesus among unbelievers. When my most-frequent outings are to the Pediatrician's office and the grocery store pickup lane, who can I witness to?
Recently, our church distributed a helpful resource which listed practical ways to engage people with the gospel. When I think of 'evangelism', it often conjures up images of awkward street corner conversations, overseas missionaries and long-term relationships with unbelievers in a work environment. Traditional images of evangelism seem to exclude people who aren't able to get out into the world much; the elderly, young moms, people in rural areas, those with chronic pain or illness and so-on. So I was thankful when our local church offered such a tangible reminder that we all have ways of being missional in every season. It gave ideas like:
"Grow a garden and give extra produce to neighbors."
"Walk your dog around the neighborhood regularly, during the same time of day."
"Be a regular (at coffee shops, stores and more)."
For the first time in a long time, some of the suggestions had me thinking, "Hey, I can do that! I can live missionally!" It was encouraging for me to consider opportunities to reach out in love right where I'm at, even if it doesn't look like my grand stereotypes.
As I evaluated my lifestyle, I quickly identified everyday situations where I can be more intentional, even in this more challenging and isolating season. For instance, I estimate that I've been to see my OBGYN forty times or more over the last four years and three pregnancies. We go to the Pediatrician's office an average of one time per month. I see the same hairstylist every twelve weeks, and interact with people from my husband's work. Despite the limitations, we do take family walks in our neighborhood and have reason to stop and talk to those who live near us. During nap time, I'm able to write and add my voice to the blogosphere, hopefully encouraging women in Christ between diaper changes and laundry loads. And most of all, I minister to three little unbelievers everyday, living out the gospel in front of them, teaching them who God is and what he is like. A small practical resource passed along by my local church opened up a whole world of thoughtful possibilities; ways that I do engage with unbelievers, even though it might look different than someone who can be more active in the community.
How churches can help moms make the connection
With the help of my local church leaders, I was able to make the connection between evangelism and my own daily life; something that's been difficult for me in the past. Many times, churches unintentionally elevate some types of evangelism over others, and make it seem out of reach for people with a more limiting lifestyle. I've often wondered if being a witness for Christ is something I'll just 'do later' when my children are in school or when I have more natural connections with unbelievers. But the time to make disciples is now!
Churches can come alongside women like me, and others who might feel isolated, living in a padded bubble of Christians. We are wanting to do more but might feel like 'sharing the gospel in the community' adds a lot of stressful pressures to our lifestyle. Just as our church distributed and promoted some helpful resources to get the ball rolling, church leaders can help their congregations by translating the mission of the local church into practical steps for missional living.
Does the church hope to reach an inner city group? They can explain how to invest in relationships in the context of daily life. Does the church emphasize inviting new friends on Sunday morning? Give ideas for how this conversation or invitation might take place. Be straightforward, and don't assume people are already equipped or know how to forge these relationships.
True followers of Christ have the desire to share Jesus with others in every season of life, but sometimes, our mental stereotypes don't help us, so we need tangible examples - even for women buried in laundry who can barely find time to frequent the local Target. Because God has sovereignly placed each of us in our sphere of influence for a reason, we can look around our normal life and find everyday ways to share the love of Christ.