Our pastor has been doing an incredible sermon series at church. It’s called Outside and it’s a call to get “outside” – outside of our own self-centeredness, outside of our comfort zones, and outside of the walls of our church where we like to hang out with other church folks and warm the pews.
You know those pastors that like to preach those watered-down, feel-good messages that don’t hurt anyone’s feelings or call you to change anything about your warm comfortable lives? Yeah, we don’t have one of those. Our pastor has been challenging us to make radical changes and to really have Jesus’ heart for people.
That’s hard for me for many reasons. For one thing, I’ve often been heard to say that I don’t like people. That’s not exactly an accurate statement. I do like people. I like a lot of people. I just often don’t have a lot a patience with people, which can become really obvious in places like Wal-Mart and traffic. It’s not that I don’t like people, but rather that I often have an impatient attitude toward many of them.
Another thing that makes it hard to have Jesus’ heart for people is the fact that I can be very reserved – not in situations in which I am comfortable, but definitely in situations in which I might have to put myself out there a bit and face the possibility of being rejected. I guess that’s probably fairly common.
My last favorite excuse for living inside my own little comfort bubble is my limited circle of influence. I mean, I regularly share my faith with my kids, the main people I’m with every day. Of course, I feel that they are my most important mission field and I don’t belittle that at all.
Then, there is my extended family. I like to think that I played a role in my step-dad accepting Christ before he died in 2001. And my sister has become a Christian and is active in her church. I think my prayers for her probably played a role in that.
Beyond that, though, who can I really influence? I don’t go to work or school daily. My friends are nearly all fellow Christians from church or my homeschool group. So, I’ve been sitting there, in my safe little bubble.
Then, my pastor said, “What about when you go to Wal-Mart? Are you going in just trying to hurry up and get your stuff? Find the shortest line? The closest parking space?”
Ouch. Yes, that exactly what I’m usually doing when I’m there.
The fact is, we are called to go.
“He said to them, ‘Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.’”
– Mark 16:15
Do I think that means that we should be standing on street corners, shouting Bible verses at people? Not at all. I think that’s an extremely ineffective means of sharing Christ with others. I do, however, think it means that we do what Peter said:
“Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect…” – 1 Peter 3:15
I think that means that maybe we pray before we head out to Wal-Mart and ask God to make us receptive to any encounters that we may have while we’re there. Maybe we hang up our cell phones and talk to the cashier a bit. Maybe we cut the people who stop in the middle of the aisle, seemingly oblivious to their surrounds, a little slack. Maybe we go out of our way to look for simple little, unexpected ways to bless those around us instead of being so caught up in ourselves.
Maybe preaching the gospel to all creation as we go about our way looks something like a guy at church suggested recently: we step out of our comfort zones a bit and tell our waitress, “Hey, we’re going to be praying over our meal in just a minute. Is there anything we can pray about for you?”
He said you’d be amazed at some of the responses that you get. People are hurting in ways that we often can’t even imagine and they want to know that someone – even a stranger – cares. How do you know that God didn’t place you at your particular space in time, at any given moment, for such a time as this? (Esther 4:14)
I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but I have a blog. A few people read it every day. I have a circle of influence right at my fingertips. While I’m not really an in-your-face-preaching-the-gospel kind of person, I hope you see Jesus in me sometimes. And, I hope that I will remember that it’s okay for me to let you see Him a little more often.
What about you? What’s your circle of influence? It’s probably bigger than you think. If you – or I – could use some ideas for ways to bless people, check out this fantastic list of ideas for making community service a part of your homeschool because teaching your kids to step out of their comfort zones and minister to others is a great way get you out of your own.
How can I pray for you today? Really. That’s not just a cutesy question with which to end this post. I want to use the platform that God has given me to share His love with you. I’ll write down every prayer request mentioned and be praying for them this week.
Who will you let see Jesus in you this week?