Monday, February 18, 2008

Follow-up to the Last Post....

I just wanted to continue from where the last post left off. I so appreciate the comments left so far by two women who are already putting this whole thing into practice....the call to build relationships with nonbelievers and get out of our comfort zones so we can impact their lives for the Lord. I am grateful for their example and wisdom on the subject, and I encourage you to check out Marci's recent post on the subject and Becky's blog as I know in the past she's written some about her journey with this.

I didn't think I had anything else to say on the subject since yesterday, but I decided to tell you that I think we could have ourselves a great online discussion about this! So, please join in! I'd love to hear your thoughts. I appreciate some of the practical advice and insight given to me as to where to start....it is encouraging that God is already giving some direction, even after just one day. But I'd love to hear more!

I'll share with you some of my questions and why I feel like I'm lacking in direction. Becky touched on the reality for people in "vocational ministry" (or in it by marriage)...that we just have fewer opportunities for relationships with nonbelievers and we can often be spread so thin relationally anyway because of responsibilities in the church. Now, it is my heart - and I know it is hers as well - to not want pity for that. It isn't an excuse. God doesn't ask us to do something and not make it possible for us to do, so I don't want to run from the task...or this conviction from the Holy Spirit (butt-kicking might be more like it!). Plus, so many people are asked to give up FAR more than what I'm being asked to right now. So please don't feel like I'm complaining about the position we're in. I happen to love that this is our calling! But it is something that I need God's guidance in because I don't have any particular people in mind for these kinds of relationships....it's not like I have co-workers or my husband's co-workers as an opportunity. It's just one of those things I need Him to figure out for me. And I also love Becky's advice to frequent the same places so that you have regular encounters with the same people and build little relationships that way. I want that. I've had that before in small ways. But here's where I have questions about that: Sometimes those opportunities take a certain amount of financial resources to maintain! What I mean is that I have definitely had opportunities like that before, but I've had to give them up in order to be a good steward. I'm not that happy about giving up my regular Starbucks visits, just so you know. But it has been something I've cut back on considerably in recent months (partly due to pregnancy nausea!). Same with the gym I used to go to. We felt like it was an area we could be wiser in saving money, so now I've switched and am now at a "church" gym. Once again, surrounded by more Christians. But I know God isn't asking me to go against those convictions in order to be around more people. I'd just be spending money I shouldn't be! A lady at my church that I'm friends with has talked to me before about she gets a monthly pedicure from this girl who doesn't know the Lord and she looks forward every month to getting to share with her. Well, yeah....I wish I could get monthly spa appointments too! But that isn't an opportunity that is afforded me right now. But just so we all know....I could really spread the name of Christ if someone was making my toes prettier every month! =) Also, I've thought about joining a Mom's Club, since that's not church-related and is open to anyone. Maybe there would be someone there I'm supposed to invest in. But again, I have conviction right now about not taking on another activity like that....to add a new regular thing to the schedule would mean that my family would really suffer. I'm pretty close to that line as it is. So, that's a possibility...just for a later time, I believe. I love the idea of starting a neighborhood playgroup....if only my neighborhood had anyone under the age of 80! Seriously, every time Jonah and I have gone on walks since we moved into this house, I'm on the lookout for kids. Haven't found any yet. I once saw a little tykes play thing in someone's backyard and I went to their house. An elderly couple lived there and had that available for periodic visits from their granddaughter. So, nothing there. I am so open to building relationships with my neighbors....and I know it will come in time because I know God has us on our street for a reason. I really do sense that something will happen there someday. But for now, I don't see anyone. No one is outside. There are either elderly people who stay in their homes, making it hard to interact with, or there are the middle-aged ones who work all day. Since I'm a stay-at-home mom, my time outside being available to meet people is during the day. When everyone is getting home from work, I'm inside getting dinner started. (Actually, truth be told...I'm probably just trying to think of something to cook or some way to get out of cooking that night!) But anyway, I'm sharing all of this to explain my lack of direction. Why all of my ideas have gotten a "no" or "not right now" answer from the Lord. But I know there will be some "yes" answers. I believe it with my whole heart. He wouldn't be convicting me of this heart issue if He didn't have an opportunity in mind! I'm just anxious to know what it is. And once I do, I'll be excited to share it with you!

SO....I'd love to hear your thoughts. Feel free to share your struggle. I also hope to hear what you have learned about or experienced in overcoming this struggle. I do not think for a second that you have to be "in ministry" to feel challenged in these ways. We probably all have different obstacles to overcome with this. You may be trying to do "evangelism on a budget" or you may have an entirely different challenge. I'd love to know how you are growing past some of these "limitations." This girl would appreciate hearing your story!

10 comments:

Becky said...

I also have the limited budget that you have. I have chosen to spend some money on my kids' activities, but my kids are older than yours. Those days will come for you all too soon! So, I have built some relationships in that way. However, the big way that I have built new relationships here is through meetup.com. You should check out that site; I checked and there are groups in Tyler. In Bakersfield, there is a group for stay at home mom's, though there are working moms in the group, too. I joined as they plan play dates and stuff at parks - completely free other than gas money. Now we probably have more months out of the year available for parks, but once you got to know the moms in the warmer months, you can start meeting at different homes in the winter months. The other cool thing about that has been that there are always a lot of other moms, not affiliated with the group at the park, but I don't necessarily know who is who, so it gives me a good reason to go up and ask. Also, I then can tell them about the group, and frequently they end up joining, so I get to see them again in the future! It has really been a cool deal. Even if there is not a meetup group you are interested in, just try going to a park. Strike up a conversation with someone and plan to meet back the next week. Parks are a huge deal here; maybe it's not as common of an activity there.

The other thing, which has been hugely out of my comfort zone is that I have worked really hard to open my home to people as often as I can. We have had people over or met them out somewhere who I would never have never dreamed I would be hanging out with. We are looking for friendships, so are others, and they are usually so excited that someone is reaching out to them. I have tried to start a Dinner for 8 group, but this hasn't happened yet. However, I am really excited about the potential. I have been at churches where they had this ministry. I just want to do it with random people that we meet or with moms through the meetup group.

When Jonah's in school or if he is in preschool, that opens a whole new set of doors. Even if it is private or homeschooled, you will run into people in both who are not believers. If you do homeschool and join a homeschool group, I think you can probably join more than one, so I would encourage you to join one that is not a Christian one, as well as one that is. Some parent volunteers at Jason's school started a Bunco group so I do that. It only costs $10.00 a month, and it is actually a lot of fun. I have more thoughts but I have rambled on enough. I'm excited to read other people's comments because I am sure I have a lot to gain from this discussion. Great idea!!!

Courtney said...

I didnt read becky's comment yet to know if I am saying the same things...but here is something:

because of where God has you and you feel this calling so deeply but yet you haven't found an outlet for it or your "yes" areas, what if he's calling you to those "believers" who might be the ones that God said he'll have to say "I never knew you" to...what if there are those opps where you are right now. I know they are at grace in teh youth group. that is the kind of ministry Jeff is most passionate about right now...those kids that have grown up in the church but look NO different than those who haven't...they aren't different on the inside they just claim to be...just a thought on that note

but another way is to go to starbucks and get water or go to the mall and just walk it and resist the urge (self-control) to buy anything.

:) love ya

Marci H said...

I agree with a lot of what Becky says- - -she has a lot of good advice and wisdom.

I was in the spot you were about 3 years ago- - feeling like I had NO friends that weren't believers. It REALLY bothered me! I knew I wasn't doing what I was supposed to be doing. That's when I started reading books about servant evangelism. This has been HUGE for us. There are LOTS of good books out there about how we gain favor and trust from the people we SERVE! It has worked beautifully for us. There are lots of good books by Steve Sjogren and I know Brent and Becky could recommend some as well. You can use your small group or Sunday school group and find a way to serve a family (non believing) which allows opportunities for evangelism.

Our first Vision Onward group came from simply going to the Douglas Park on the west side every Wednesday night and letting the kids play for a bit, then having a little devotional time with popsicles. Other kids would come over for the popsicles and would stick around for the devotion. They started coming back every Wednesday, we built relationships with them and the parents and it has worked out GREAT!

Also, realize that part of your ministry in this time of your life is your family- -your children and your husband. They need you as well. It is a tough balance! This is where I am struggling right now. I have PLENTY of unbelievers to spend time with now, but unfortunately my time is so limited. I just do what I feel like I can do and pray and believe that God will fill in the gaps.

I would LOVE to have coffee with you the next time you are in town so we can "chat".

Thanks for opening this discussion- - -I think it's great!

Becky said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Becky said...

Thanks, Marci! I don't know how wise I am, but God is and that is where it comes from!!!

I am so glad Marci mentioned the stuff about your family - she is so right!!! If we reach thousands of people but lose our family in the midst of it, that is NO GOOD! So often people in ministry do this! And it is easy to do without realizing it. I have to stop and look back at my week or my day and make sure my kids and husband have gotten my best, and sometimes I have to admit, they haven't and then readjust. It's terrible, but they are the easiest to leave out, and it is wrong! You are a good mom and wife so this may not be an issue right now, but is is one that creeps in so quietly!

Marci is so right about servanthood too. It gives us credibility. Brent always says, (he probably got it from a book, but I don't know anyone else to credit) "People don't care what you know until they know that you care!"

Marci H said...

Another good quote is: . “It seems people don’t necessarily remember what they are told of God’s love, but they never forget what they have experienced of God’s love.” (Steve Sjogren, Conspiracy of Kindness)

Hannah E. said...

Love this, girls! Y'all are so right. I love the encouragement to remember to serve. Maybe the question I really need to be asking is, "Lord, is there a new way or place you want me to start serving?" That is so important to let these relationships stem from service. And Courtney, I appreciate what you said about remembering the place I'm in now (church ministry) and I certainly don't want to lose passion for discipleship either. Cause I love that place of ministry! I want to have open eyes to nonbelievers there as well.

Ok, per Becky's advice, I've been looking at all the meetup.com groups here, and there are definitely some options there. There's a playgroup called Hot Mamas With Cool Kids. What do you think??? =) HAHA! I need to decide if I would want to join one or start a new one. There's a scrapbooking one that appeals as well. I don't know though...isn't scrapbooking the typical "church girl" hobby anyway? =)

Another thing that has struck me today is that it's probably getting time to reevaluate the budget. I think Joel and I have been sensing that it's about time for that anyway...you know how you just have to sit down every once in a while, re-prioritize and see where God may want you to make changes in the budget. So, maybe that is where my husband can also lead us in this (like Marci suggested)...in helping determine where we should give things up so that we can be available for some of these activities that would bring us into more relationships with nonbelievers. And honestly, I recognize that with the place God has me in right now, I don't need 50,000 nonbelieving friends to invest in. For now, I am just praying for ONE. I wonder who it is....

Christa said...

I read this last night and have yet to respond, because I have so many thoughts in my head and that is a good thing because these other ladies have had lots of insight to share. I will share two things that keep coming to my head...one is a repeat of what has been said.
First, I absolutely agree that you cannot forget about the fact that you are pouring into your family, especially Jonah. I was in the place you are about 6 months ago and it hit me that God has given me 3 people who have not made the lifechanging decision to follow Jesus and they live in my home. I was hoping and praying for just one relationship that with a true seeker that I could invest in and then it hit me I already have 3. Also, this may not be the case for you, but Trace and I have family that may or may not "know" Jesus. I forget that every phone call, every conversation, visit to their house is a ministry opp. with a nonbeliever. I forget that because it takes such small amounts of effort most of the time since they are family and I love them. Don't forget that God can use you and you not even know you are being used. Also, Satan loves to attack us and bring us down. He was attacking me by making the important relationships I already have not feel like they are ministry or God's will, but they are and I am getting to see some fruit from the time invested in both our extended family and my kids.
Second, I encourage you to read Just Walk Across the Room if you havn't. I am reading it for the second time with our community group. He does talk in their about being intentional and building relationships with non-believers but he also talks about being open to the spirit promtings in our daily life. Being open to a conversation, sayign what He asks you to say, etc. even if it is someone you may never see again. Just be open and listen to the prompting from the Holy Spirit. For example, when you take Jonah to get a hair cut or you get a hair cut, just be open and follow if He leads you. God can totally use those simple times of obedience to point people to Christ and you may never even know it.
Last, this may not be possible, but use Joel's job to your advantage. He likely becomes aware of people who were recently unchurched before coming to Grace or who are new believers. You guys can totally come alongsinde them and encourage them. Those people are still very likely in fairly close relationship with unchurched people. That may provide opportunities for play groups or hosting a coffee and desert party where they can invite their unchurched/nonbelieving friends. I heard a speaker talk about the fact that we encourage new believers to throw themselves into church world which helps them grow, but do we ever challenge them to make an effort to share Christ with those around them who do not know Him. They are in the best position to do that and maybe you guys could come alongside of them. May not evne be apossibiltiy, but it was thought I have had more than once.
Fun Discussion. Let me know about your possible playgroup adventure.

Christa said...

I have to go between 4-4:30. What about you? Have you talked to Ame and Kate? Do you know when they are coming? I am looking forward to it!

Jeanine said...

I found that, once my kids got old enough to be in activities, my opportunities increased by leaps and bounds. Dance lessons, soccer practice, gymnastics...all of those things get you in the "real world" and give you a chance to be a light. It is a great feeling after living in what felt like a "bubble" for a few years. If I ask God to use me, He always does.