Sunday, February 17, 2008

Confession

Starting next week, our church will begin a new sermon series and focus for the next month, and it's based on Bill Hybels' book Just Walk Across the Room. The main point of that book is to challenge Christians to be more bold in their interactions with others, being intentional in engaging in conversation with others so that we can build relationships with them and share Christ. I don't know all to expect from this journey, but it's an area in my life that I've been very challenged in ever since we came to this church. Our church leadership is passionate about this very thing...that church isn't so much about those of us there as it is those who aren't yet there. Our senior pastor came with a passion and energy and ability to lead in the area of evangelism, and it's one of the first times in my life I've been so confronted and heavily convicted with the issue of being used to bring people to Christ.

I say that...but then I must confess that I've seen little change in this area of my life over the last year and a half that God's been challenging me on it. I haven't grown like I should. Perhaps my desire for it has grown. I do want more to see people know Christ. But not enough. My desire for it is insufficient, and that insufficiency is revealed in the lack of personal relationships I currently have with nonbelievers. I just don't have that many. That's the reality. And I was struck by this reality again this morning in church when our worship pastor starting talking about hopelessness and suffering and how the Christian life isn't all rosy but how without Jesus Christ as our rock, we have nothing. Before we sang the next few songs, he was encouraging us to sing them with a prayerful heart for those we know who are in dire situations and are barely hanging on by a thread. He was referring to those people in our lives who are desperate to know this Rock and/or be healed by Him. And this made me sad to think about.

Here's why: it took me a few seconds to think of specific people in my life that fall into that category. I'm so embarrassed by that. I drew a blank at first. I realized that I tend to think of desperate-for-God people in general terms....people who think this, people who live like that, etc. Not real people with whom my path crosses in some way. After a few moments, there were some faces who came to mind. But at that point, I was already sad. Disappointed in the reality of my relational landscape right now. Why didn't those faces flood my mind immediately when our worship pastor said that? Why did it take me a few seconds to think about who those people he described would be? Why am I not so attuned to others' needs that I am so quick to think about them and their spiritual need? Why have I not made a point to surround myself with these kinds of people? Why do I spend so much energy in cultivating comfortable, fun-for-me, safe friendships at the expense of not growing relationships with those who really need to see someone reflecting Jesus so that they might want to know Him? I just hate my answers to those questions. If I were truly living a power-filled life and exhibiting such a passionate trust in my Lord, wouldn't I attract some of those people that need Him? I've seen that in small ways before....that when you really live a certain way, intentional about using seasoned speech (Colossians 4:6) and passionate for the Lord, then you usually attract more than just other passionate people....you attract people who need Him as well. It can be exhausting actually. You have to stay sitting at the feet of Jesus, breathing in His grace and love to be able to pour it out. That's because it's not natural to be drawn to needy people. It is more natural for us to resist the needy. But we are called to (and empowered for) much more than what's natural. And engaging in relationship with those who need Him is pleasing to God. It's why we're still here....more of His fame needs to be spread. More people need to be reached by His grace, and we get to be involved. Why don't I remember that it's a blessing to be used in that way? Why do I fail to look for the neediness around me?

The Lord is confronting me once again. And I have given good reasons as to why this isn't a reality in my life...."good" in that they might make sense to some. Some Christians would probably affirm my excuses and empathize with me that it's hard to do this when your husband works for a church, you're a stay-at-home-mom, etc. But I know better. I know that the truth is I'd have those relationships and opportunities if I were pursuing them. If I really wanted it, He'd give it to me. I know that. I know that about Him.

For now, I don't sense any specific direction, so....the only place I know to start is with prayer. A real and passionate expression of desire to see what God has for me in this area. Who does He have for me to reach in this way? My eyes have been closed for so long that He'll have to open them up to the people and the needs of people around me. I'm sharing these thoughts with the internet world before I get too scared. Before I come up with more excuses as to why this is hard right now. And before it's too easy for me to just forget and walk away from this conviction.

5 comments:

Becky said...

Don't be too hard on yourself - it is hard when you are in ministry because cultivating the relationships within the church is important, but I am not making excuses for you or for me. I struggled so much in this area when we were in Bartlesville. It was one of the cautions given to us when we went to our church planting assessment. Neither one of us had many relationships with non-believers. Their question was, "How are you going to change this?" My answer, "I don't know."
In Bartlesville the people around me were believers -my neighbors, the people at my kids' school, our family, our friends. We didn't branch out to meet people in different places. It's sad when I look back on it. Even when we moved here, it was a lot easier to try to cultivate relationships with the other pastor's families at our supporting churches than to reach out and meet others. It's just hard. Anyway, let me encourage you to go places you don't normally go and do things you don't normally do in order to form new relationships. Go to the same places regularly so you run into some of the same people. Once you start striking up those conversations and it is successful, you will want to do it again and again. I have met so many people from so many different backgrounds. I am so thankful that God forced me out of my comfort zone. I say all that but know that I often want to run back to that safe place again. Good luck meeting new people and stretching yourself!!!! God is using you for great things.

Marci H said...

Hannah,

That brought me to tears. I feel your pain! It was weird to me how I just blogged about almost the exact same thing this morning. Your blog again affirmed to me that our family is doing the right thing, however, it is STILL very hard for me.

I have just begun the process of reaching out to nonbelievers and it is great, but there are many times I would prefer to just be with my "like minded" friends! I want to run back into the arms of comfort and safety.

One thing that has helped me tremendously in this area is my husband. He has lead me into this area- - and completely OUT of my comfort zone. I would encourage your family to look at it as a "family mission" and see how Joel could lead your family in this way.

Marci H said...

I forgot to thank you for your honesty and transparency. It is a reflection of your pure desires to live like Christ!

Christa said...

I think God is challenging many of us and stretching us out of our comfort zones. I am so excited to see how He uses this series.

About girls dinner: I was just planning on taking the suggestions and rotating them. That way we will have plenty of variety and no one has to do anything but show up. I want it to be as simple as possible, but you did not get to make a suggestion so where would you like to go? And if it is a strong craving...we can push it closer so just let me know.

Courtney said...

Hey Hannah, I just read this one and I haven't read the one above yet. I think you are so right in that it is hard and so easy to come up with excuses. It is hard too because we live in an area where "believing" is more the norm than the abnormal thing...atleast I feel that way. YOu do have to be so intential with your actions and thoughts. I was convicted of that too just a few weeks ago and I can say that I have done nothing differently...how sad?! I love it that Marci and so many others at Grace are using what Rod has been talking about and really reaching those in Bartlesville that are non-believers and it is so great! I am hoping to be a part of the teen pregnancy thing that is starting up in March and that will be one way...but I KNOW that God is calling me to more than that...just in my daily actions and decisions and like at the park or the mall or whatever...I know I need to do better...thanks for the gentle reminder and you are right prayer is a GREAT place to start...love your heart friend!