The rhythms of Jesus in a city fascinate me. Jesus always seemed to have conversations with the most unlikely people. We read of Jesus having a conversation outside the city gates and healing a man of leprosy in Mark 1:40–45. He stopped by to see Zacchaeus, the notorious tax collector in Luke 19:1–10. He chose to take the longest route in order to meet with the Samaritan woman in John 4. Jesus always seemed to have traveled paths that were less traveled and had the conversations that were most needed. He engaged in his community.
Many of our cities and communities are evolving, and our own neighborhoods no longer look the same. Some changes are due to an economic boost and revitalization; at the same time, we are seeing the needs of many communities growing greater. Where would Jesus go if He had to visit your community today? I think He would travel the roads less travelled.
So how should this inform the way we engage our own communities, as well as the nations?
Engagement in Your Community
The church has a responsibility to make disciples of its neighbors and the nations, and the opportunities may be greater than ever before. With our communities ever changing, we need to carefully observe them in order to learn how the church can best respond with the Good News. At the same time, the needs are alarming when you consider the social, economic, physical, and spiritual climates right around us. Therefore, we need to think carefully and strategically about how to engage those around us.
Have you ever considered “riding public?” By this, I mean parking your personal vehicle and taking an Uber––or some form of public transportation––to work, or perhaps grocery shopping with your family. At the same time, pray, “Lord, can you please open my eyes and my heart, and help me fall in love with my community all over again?” It will be a road less travelled! Praying this prayer will move your heart from a daily routine to a healthy rhythm for gospel impact.
Proclamation points are also healthy rhythms. A proclamation point is meeting people where they are, at the same times, at the same places, and sharing the same gospel message. My wife and I decided to do laundry every Friday night for six months at a laundromat on our church’s street. We noticed that many internationals do their laundry on Friday evenings. One Friday, we took our laundry basket, extra detergent, and some extra quarters we had saved, and made our way to the laundromat. It was a cold evening, so grabbing a dozen Dunkin Donuts and a box of joe sounded like the perfect combination.
Conversations began to happen. In just a couple of weeks, we were already talking about the need for English as a Second Language (ESL) classes in our community. Those conversations started English classes in the laundromat, and those classes led us to the homes of our new Tibetan friends. The need grew even further, and we soon began to teach naturalization classes for our new friends.
For the internationals we’ve interacted with, receptivity to the gospel is not lower, but it is slower. It requires a deep investment that leads to meaningful relationships. Holidays and evenings around our dinner table at the Pillay household became very diverse, meaningful, and full of so much love and laughter.
Our prayer lives began to change too. The burden for our new Tibetan friends grew, and a deep passion for Tibet was birthed. Could it be that we are so accustomed to our normal, daily routines that we’ve unknowingly forgotten the heart of Jesus for our neighbors and the nations?
The idea of proclamation points became a great model to multiply at our church plant. Families were being discipled, and as a result, the gospel was travelling new paths throughout our city. Meaningful relationships were being developed, gospel conversations were happening, and the gift of hospitality was on display. We celebrate what God continues to do. The ground is hard, but our God is greater! Saturate your neighborhoods and nations with the gospel message.
Having our hearts recaptured by the gospel and having our ever-changing communities saturated with it will grow in us a global burden. After all, the rest of the world starts with our neighbor and our community. Or, as my good friend Jon Huff would say, “People who won’t go locally won’t send globally.”
Travel new paths. View your community as a doorway to reaching globally. Jesus did it.