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FIRST-PERSON: Too close to care?

PENSACOLA, Fla. (BP) — Playing in her yard, little Paula loved hearing the music at the church next door. She often peeked through the fence to watch happy people going inside.

One day, a woman noticed her behind the fence and asked, “Do you want to go to church with us?” It was the happiest day of her childhood! Paula’s entire family came to know Jesus as Savior because of that invitation.

Is it possible for someone to live within walking distance but never be influenced by your church for Christ? Look outside. Is there a neighborhood, apartment complex, school or business? Do homeless people or professionals or school kids pass by?

Here’s a challenge for your small group, ministry team or church. Choose a block of homes or apartments near your church, then make a plan to know and invite each person who lives there. Try a few of these simple ideas to get started:

— Chart your chosen block. Your group could blitz your block one Sunday to deliver a Bible or plant to each home. Meet them. Learn names. Be a friend. Pray for them.

— See needs. Meet needs. Mow an overgrown lot. Paint a decaying home. Build a ramp for an elderly neighbor. Show God’s love tangibly.

— Personally invite neighbors to come inside your church. Examples: attend worship, Wednesday dinner, Easter celebration, kids’ event, youth camp, church picnic, Bible study, etc. Meet them there.

— Use outdoor banners, signs and even sidewalk chalk art to remind neighbors they’re welcome to God’s church.

— Consider needs of those you’ve met, and plan a class or event with them in mind — exercise group, benevolence, community garden, GED, class or event for young professionals, parents, immigrants, singles, kids and married couples. Invite them.

— Share your church gym, playground, library, basketball goals or walking track.

— Host a neighborhood coffee in the church. Personally deliver invitations, serve snacks, provide nametags and get to know guests. Invite them to worship.

— Participate. If there’s a neighborhood event, go. If there’s a neighborhood newsletter, advertise in it. If there’s a neighborhood crisis, be the first to serve. Show God’s love.

In our small group recently, Suzie was excitedly telling about the senior care center being constructed next to our church property. “Some folks there won’t know Jesus,” she exclaimed. “We’ve got to do something!” There’s our mission field. Will we just smile and wave as we drive to church or will we invite them to know Jesus?

That child who peeked through the fence grew up to be an awesome servant of God and a friend of mine. I’m so glad someone walked next door and invited her to meet Jesus.

As you exit your church on Sunday, look all around. Ask God to open your eyes to see people who need Him.

“He said to His disciples, ‘The harvest is great, but the workers are few'” (Matthew 9:37).

    About the Author

  • Diana Davis