“…be ready in season and out of season.” – 2 Timothy 4:2
In that quote, Paul is encouraging the young Timothy to always be prepared to communicate the good news of Jesus no matter what the situation. It doesn’t take much to admit that a long, hard, cold Minnesota winter puts a damper on our mission to our neighborhoods. It’s tough to catch up with the neighbors through a scarf, while your appendages freeze. There’s something about ice scrapers and snow blowers that kills small talk, not to mention the persistent lingering unspeakable question, “Why do I live here?”
My fellow Minnesotans, the grass is green, the temperatures are warm (enough), and the barriers are down. It’s neighborhood missionary season! So, let’s take Paul’s advice to Timothy. The time is now to be ready for neighborhood missionary season. So, here’s my best shot at some preparatory suggestions.
Pray. No joking, this is absolutely the most important piece of advice on this list. For years, I doubted the power of prayer, that is, until I did it. I started praying for my neighborhood while the snow was still flying (ok, so it was only 3 weeks ago…) and I’m amazed at the sheer number of neighbors that I’ve had the chance to meet for the first time and even get to know better. I just feel more bold to step up and strike up a conversation with the neighbors. When you pray for someone, God carves place in your heart for them. When the opportunity comes to befriend that person and potentially share the Gospel with them, inhibitions melt away.
WARNING: The following suggestions are dramatically less effective without prayer.
Look for the natural opportunities already present to build relationships. There’s something about walking dogs that opens up conversation. Children who play together lead to parents that talk together. Yes, even the windstorm that brought down the neighbor’s tree is a chance to build a relationship that would never otherwise happen. The opportunities are already there. Use the chances that already exist to show your neighbor that you care.
Create opportunities to build relationships. Chances are, if you don’t know the neighbors, then the neighbors don’t know the neighbors. Be the neighbor who introduces one neighbor to another. Be the neighbor who hosts the neighborhood gathering. Open up your yard as a safe place for kids to play. Work on projects outside where others can see you and ask questions. Don’t just wait for the opportunity, create one!
Ask for help. Guys, I know this one rubs you the wrong way, but just do it! Most of our neighbors are more than willing to lend a hand when we are in need. There’s a special bond that develops when someone helps someone else. Often the person who helped is also more likely to ask you for help someday too. Working on a project together is a great way to share your faith. Just like you can’t do the project alone, we can’t be saved without Jesus.
So, there are my suggestions for neighborhood missionary season. Oh, and don’t forget to pray for the words to say when the opportunity comes to talk about Jesus. God is faithful! Trust him, open your mouth and let the love of Jesus come out. If you’ve been praying for it, the Holy Spirit will give you the words. Now, if only God would reconsider all our prayers about winter…