Oftentimes when I read the New Testament, I find myself wishing I could be
walking in the dust-covered sandals of Jesus day. Why?
Because I am amazed at the explosive growth of the early church in bridging
relational gaps, crossing ethnic barriers, shattering walls and changing lives
at breakneck speed. And I find myself wondering,
can that still happen today? What about me, right where I live?
My answer came through two friends, Thomas and Kerrie, who live on a
neighborhood cul-de-sac. As they looked around at their neighbors, they found
few who attended church or claimed to be Christian. They began to pray to know
Gods way for reaching them.
Quietly, Thomas and Kerrie began to pray for their neighbors by name. By
simply listening, they discovered issues in the families lives for which they
could pray. When a new home was being built, Thomas would go there while it was
still under construction and pray for the salvation of the people God would
bring to live there. Every chance they got, they mentioned to their neighbors
that God had answered prayer in their familys life or how something at their
church was making a positive difference in their home.
The breakthroughs began when a neighbor, who was a Mormon, said, "Ive been
watching the two of you and whatever it is you have, I need." It wasnt long
before she prayed to receive Christ, and she and her husband became outreach
leaders in the church. That was the first domino that began a chain reaction.
Some months later, almost 80 percent of those living on the cul-de-sac had
accepted Christ and had become involved in an evangelical church.
As I evaluate the impact Ive watched my friends have, I ask the question,
"How did it
happen?" I think Ive arrived at some answers:
Thomas and Kerrie valued their neighbors enough to do everything they could
to get to know them. They learned their names and, when they saw them outside,
they valued the potential relationship more than they valued watching TV or
reading the paper.
They valued the interests of their neighbors enough to do more listening
than talking. It was in the "listening" that they often picked up prayer
requests that led to open doors for evangelism.
Thomas and Kerrie allowed their Christianity to show through their daily
living. It is how we live our Christian life that affords us the power of an
authentic gospel presentation. And the neighbors grew to value the difference
they observed in Thomas and Kerries family.
They were always ready to give away the greatest value of their life when
the door opened with a neighbor. This was Peters idea when he told us to always
be ready (1 Peter 3:15).
So, many barriers that hinder non-believers are overcome by modeling the
difference Christ can make in a persons life and a familys life and then by
valuing other people enough to discover their interests and concerns. I call
this value-added evangelism, and I owe a lot to my special friends who taught
me by living it out before me.
By the way, after almost every neighbor on their cul-de-sac came to know
Christ, my friends moved to another part of the metropolitan area and a new
cul-de-sac, where nowtwo years laterthey have earned the right once again to be
heard. And just as before, they are watching Christ make an amazing inroad into
another group of neighbors previously too busy for church and too occupied for
Bob Reccord is president of the North American Mission Board,
A Southern Baptist Convention entity supported by the Cooperative Program and theAnnie Armstrong Easter Offering® ©Copyright 2013 North American Mission Board, SBC