Houston, TX (ANS) – After more than a decade of cultivating a relationship with one of our neighbors, I finally got around to having a conversation with him about spiritual matters. I’ve been thinking, “why didn’t I do this sooner?” It’s so easy to get in to a perpetual cultivation strategy and procrastinate about addressing spiritual issues. Sometimes the timing is just not right, but when we pray and trust the Holy Spirit’s leadership, the time will come. When we pray and trust Him, He often gives us unique and creative ways we might not think about.
Finding Common Ground
These particular neighbors (a couple from a Middle Eastern country) recently received a diagnosis that the wife had terminal cancer. When my wife and I learned of the cancer, we started praying for them. However, it was just this past week that I took the opportunity to pray with the husband. He was very open as I shared with him the power of praying in Jesus’ name. I asked him if there were any of his family members who were followers of Jesus. He said, “No they are all Muslim.” Then I was able to share how many people throughout the Middle East and North Africa were experiencing healing, deliverance and salvation through a relationship with Jesus of Nazareth. The door was then open to share about what the Quran says about Isa Al-Misah and about the Injil. Of course, that led to sharing more about what the Injil says about Isa. Finding common ground is so important to gaining trust and building relationships.
Reaching out in Difficult Times
So often it’s the difficult times or crisis situations that provide the most fruitful witness and ministry opportunities. However, we don’t have to wait until bad things happen to find common ground and bring Jesus into our conversations. The Lord is faithful to do so as we pray and trust Him for wisdom and direction. If we consistently sow the Seed of His Word and share our God stories and testimonies, we can have confidence that occasionally we’ll connect with fertile soil. It’s really about the spontaneous outworking of the indwelling Christ.
Relational Disciple Making
It is encouraging to receive feedback and reports of the work of God in people’s lives we’ve shared with. I recently reconnected with a man I lead to the Lord more than 30 years ago. He was a next door neighbor for only one year. During that time we had multiple conversations about the Lord and spiritual matters. You could call it a mentoring or discipling relationship. Since those days, this former neighbor has been instrumental in many family members and friends coming to the Lord. In fact, some became actively involved in ministry. It is an example of the reproducing life of the Lord Jesus in and through each of us who follow and trust Him.
Our Mandate as Christ-Followers
When we think of our mandate to communicate the Good News of Jesus and make disciples, it’s encouraging to know that the Lord will use each of us in that effort. It’s ultimately the reproducing life of the Lord Jesus in and through us that produces lasting fruit. The normal Christian life is the realization that it’s “not I, but Christ” that produces much fruit for the Kingdom of God. (See Gal. 2:20)
I received an email from a man who experienced Living Water International’s Orality Training a few years ago. He also participated in our advanced Orality Training for Trainers (OT4T). He reported how those he had trained were now training others. They were experiencing a reproducing and multiplying impact. We often hear how the training is being reproduced to four or five or more generations. It’s having a ripple effect around the world. The concepts and methods of orality are effective with our neighbors, our networks and to the nations, because they are biblical, understandable and reproducible.
More Than Prayer, and More Than Walking
Something as ordinary at going for a walk in the neighborhood can connect us with people who need the Lord, or could use some encouragement. We often refer to this as Prayer-Walking, which is more than prayer and more than walking. Simple gestures of kindness are often all it takes to open up conversations that lead to opportunities of sharing our life in Christ. We’ve found that on average, one out of four people will usually be open to spiritual conversations. It’s not complicated and something everyone can do.
The Nations Among Us
It is quite remarkable the opportunities we have in in reaching our neighbors, that can impact the nations. In a place like Houston (the most ethnically diverse city in the USA) we have the nations among us. In fact, just on the street where we live we have neighbors from Afghanistan, El Salvador, the Philippines, Turkey and Africa. All of them, of course, have relational networks of family, work associates and others, locally, as well as back in their home countries. So, reaching and discipling one person can open up a whole new cluster of witness and ministry possibilities.
Neighborhood Houses of Prayer
One of strategies that has been effective for reaching neighborhoods is the concept of houses of prayer. The idea of one model is identifying the people who live in the two houses on either side of your home and the five houses across the street. Praying for them by name and reaching out to ask if they have needs you can pray for. God is especially interested in answering the prayers of lost people, so they realize He is real and cares for them. We have also found it fruitful to invite our neighbors into our home for prayer time, if they are believers, and discussion groups if they’re not. Discovery Bible Studies, Discussion Groups, Story Groups or other variations can be effective approaches.
There are many creative and innovative ways of establishing a neighborhood house of prayer. The important thing is to connect and cultivate relationships with our neighbors. The Holy Spirit is faithful to give wisdom and direction as we step out in faith and take action.