TRAINING MEN AND WOMEN TO LIVE AS MISSIONARIES IN THEIR NEIGHBORHOODS
Joe and Sarah here again!
Last week we promised we’d share a story with you to give a tangible picture of the heart of Forge Sacramento. So here’s a quick snapshot of the relationship that has developed between us and our neighbor, Dan.
If you’ve read our book, Bless Like Jesus: Stop Trying to Convert and Simply Show People They Matter, then you already know part of this story.
Dan describes himself as an agnostic Jew. He grew up keeping kosher (his parents still do), but he is only Jewish by heritage.
When we first moved into the neighborhood, word got out pretty quickly that we were “church planters,” and this concerned Dan (as well as some other neighbors). The neighbors were worried that this new family would be pushy with our faith and judgmental about everything.
Dan shared this concern with us after we’d been living in the neighborhood for a little over a year, and we were a bit surprised. But, that wasn’t all he had to say about the subject as we sipped wine and all the neighbor kids roasted marshmallows over the firepit in our front yard. He followed up by ensuring us that we were nothing like they expected. He described some ways the neighborhood had improved as a result of us moving in, and told us he was really glad we had moved in. This comforted us, but it opened our eyes to the way Christians are often viewed by those in their neighborhoods.
A few months later, on our way home from a wedding, we said hello to Dan and his wife as we walked past their open front door, and they invited us in. As we sat talking into the evening, the topic of religion came up. And, after they asked us a handful of questions about our beliefs and some advice about things going on in their lives, Dan said this:
He continued to tell us about how all the other Christians he had met only hung around long enough to determine if they were going to be able to convert him or get him to go to church with them. And once they realized that wasn’t going to happen, he never heard from them again. He told us how much it meant to him that we continued to have a close relationship with them, regardless of our different beliefs.
Dan is now one of our closest friends, and his daughter is like a sister to our sons. And we know the Holy Spirit is working in their lives.
The reason we decided to share this story with you is because it’s not like the stories we usually hear from missionaries and church planters.
The stories we normally hear are those of miraculous conversion and immediate repentance. But that’s not always how God chooses to work in our different contexts. Sometimes, God uses us to help people move incrementally closer to him...slowly.
Dan has not broken down and confessed faith in Jesus Christ. But, we’ve only known him for a few years, and we’ve seen him move dramatically closer to God. When we first met him, he didn’t want anything to do with Christians or the church. Now, he asks questions about how our “church stuff” is going, and he has gotten to know many of our Christian friends who come to visit. He is monumentally closer to Jesus now than he was when we first met, even though he still wouldn’t even make the list in most evangelism statistics.
That’s what makes Forge Sacramento different. We recognize the value in all the little baby steps that might eventually lead to faith in Jesus Christ. And we listen carefully to the Holy Spirit to find where he is already at work around us so we can join him.
We hope this story is encouraging to you. We hope it can serve as a reminder that we are serving and working alongside God every time we engage with those in our neighborhoods. And we hope you will take some time this week to embrace a neighbor who does not yet know Jesus. Not so you can convert them. But so you can be a light in their life. And so Jesus can shine through you to them.
Would you do us a favor? If you have a story similar to ours, would you please share it with us? You can respond to this email, or you can share it on our Facebook page. But, either way, we would love to be encouraged by you!
Thanks again for being here!
Joe and Sarah (and the whole Forge Sacramento Team)