8.12.2009

Evangelism and the Single Girl

I stink at evangelism. Really. I can't remember the last time I shared the Gospel, or even had a spiritual conversation, with an unbeliever who wasn't a) related to me and under age ten or b) my student. No, I can, it was probably with one of my neighbors in the apartment complex I lived in two and a half years ago. The only reason I knew my downstairs neighbor, Jasmine, is because she liked to listen to hip-hop while studying at 1 a.m., and the only reason I knew my across-the-hall neighbor is because he was completely insane, not unlike several of the other people who lived there. I don't think I ever told you about the time that one of the downstairs residents kidnapped (catnapped?) my next-door neighbor's cat and refused to return it.

Anyway, I digress.

I live by myself in my condo, which I totally love about 75% of the time, particularly when I don't feel like cleaning. The other 25% of the time, I feel either like a cloistered nun (who, uh, is on Facebook) or a weird recluse. Good thing I don't have any cats. I've met a few of my neighbors, and they're nice people, but I haven't felt comfortable going door-to-door and introducing myself or trying to form relationships with them. And herein lies my problem.

I totally believe that God has put me in this place for this time. It's not an accident that I live here, or that I have the neighbors I have. But what's a single girl to do? This is a pretty good-size metropolitan area I live in, and while it's quite a safe neighborhood, you just never know. I honestly don't feel right about going out by myself to knock on doors -- apart from the safety issues, what do you do with the propriety issues that arise, like finding yourself on the front steps of a house full of college-age boys? But how else besides meeting my neighbors am I supposed to even be in contact with adult non-Christians?

It's a very angsty issue for me, really. I want to be wise and safe, but I must be obedient.

I don't have any concluding thoughts, because I haven't concluded my thinking on this subject. If anyone has any suggestions, insights, or practical considerations, I'm all ears. Or whatever the online equivalent of ears is.

8 comments:

Britany Rowe said...

Laura,
I very much struggle with the same thing. I do not live in a safe neighborhood. At all. I have my safety (and my child's) to worry about. Where I have met my neighbors (in my building and one of the buildings next to me) I do not feel comfortable seeking them out to talk about these things.
What's a girl to do?
The more you think about this, I'd like some insight too. :)
Sorry I can't be much help, but you're not alone :D

fional said...

Well for one thing, I'd just like to say that you *are* doing stuff. Kids and students totally count. Maybe you should go all out there, or continue your faithful plod. Not that I'm trying to give you an 'out' of being obedient and bold . . .

. . . for what it's worth, I'm no better than you. I just get shy around strangers, even if they live next door and I say hi to them daily. But I've got lots of non-Christian friends from before I was a Christian and from salsa dancing so I'm okay at keeping up those friendships and at being bold when it's appropriate . . .

Laura said...

Britany, girl, your primary evangelistic task is raising that kiddo of yours! But you're right, your 'hood is not safe for you to go running around knocking on doors. Maybe we're just too baptist, and thing "evangelism = knocking on strangers' doors." :)

Fi, thanks. In my head I know my students count, but they all come from Christian homes so the Gospel-telling I get to do with them is an addendum to what they get at home and in church. Which I guess is still important, but it feels like an add-on, you know?

I have some more plans kind of forming in my head... for instance, there's a beer club that meets at a local gourmet store, and I was thinking of joining it for fun, but why not join it with an evangelistic purpose too? And I live next door to an assisted living facility for elderly people, so why not get some people together and go over there and visit with some older people? And the nursing staff?

Anyway, thanks gals for your insights.

Jacob said...

We've been doing a "theology of evangelism" class on wednesday nights at church and you may find two points particularly edifying:

1. Pray for opportunities.

2. Be available.

I was trying to get to know someone and so I prayed for opportunities to do things together, and the Lord provided. I also realized in college that if I wasn't available to my friends for inconsequential things like Wal-Mart runs, then would they think of me as being available when they had serious issues they needed help with?

Food for thought!

fional said...

Awesome, simple points Jacob. Thanks from me!

I didn't realise your students come from Christian homes Laura and I get what you say, but even here I have some more encouragement for you :-). Y'see I came from a Christian home but I don't think I ever really got what Christianity was about, and I'm pretty sure I would've benefitted enormously from having someone younger in my life who could explain and model stuff to me, and encourage me. As it was I really only became a Christian when I was 28 after a lot of mess. So keep up the good work - you might be doing a lot more than you realise.

Laura said...

Jacob, thanks. It's a good reminder to keep it simple.

I had no idea you became a Christian later in life, Fiona! Not that 28 is "late" but you know what I mean. :) Thanks for that encouragement and reminder that there are no guarantees that my students are going to understand the Gospel hearing it at home. I really appreciate that!

Laura's Dad said...

Um, two words: "TOTAL CHURCH."
by
Tim Chester and Steve Timmis.

Read it again.

A couple of excerpts to remind and/or whet your appetite -
#1 on the biblical context for discipleship/evangelism: G. K. Chesterton said, “The man who lives in a small community lives in a much larger world. . . . The reason is obvious. In a large community we can choose our companions. In a small community
our companions are chosen for us.” Community has been insightfully defined as the place where the person you least want to
live with always lives! Responding to this, Philip Yancey says, “We often surround ourselves with the people we most want to live with, thus forming a club or clique, not a community. Anyone can form a club; it takes grace, shared vision, and hard work to form a community.” We might also add that it takes a miracle that only God himself can perform. But it is in such a community that disciples are
made. To be a community of light from which the light of Christ will
emanate we need to be intentional in our relationships — to love the unlovely, forgive the unforgivable, embrace the repulsive, include the awkward, accept the weird. It is in contexts such as these that sinners are transformed into disciples who obey everything King
Jesus has commanded.

#2 on the relationship between Gospel and community:
There are two key principles that should shape the way we ‘do church’: gospel and community. Christians are called to a dual fidelity: fidelity to the core content of the gospel and fidelity to the primary context of a believing community. Whether we are thinking about evangelism, social involvement, pastoral care, apologetics, discipleship or teaching, the content is consistently the Christian gospel and the context is consistently the Christian community. What we do is always defined by the gospel and the context is always our belonging in the church. Our identity as Christians is defined by the gospel and the community.

You and Sojourn do a great job at evangelism because you do a great job at living the Gospel in community. Lone wolfing it is the call of only a few. Living the Gospel in community is the call of all who are truly Christian.

. . . which just happens to be what I'm preaching on for the next two or three Sundays, based on Philippians 2:17-24.

Laura's Dad

Anonymous said...

Greetings Laura!
I am so glad to see you working out these issues. Your friends have some great advice.
I also have a suggestion. Get your hair cut! Not that you need a haircut, but I have found that the women and men who cut hair are fairly talkative, even to strangers, and in the context of being a stranger, they tend to reveal things they might not even reveal to their friends. Then you can add a comment, if true, like "I used to think that too!" or maybe "I have a friend with a situation like that!" or "I think I understand!"--and then go into "This is how my life used to be, and this is the way it is now." Just two people talking about life--really natural, and you can get a good feel pretty quickly about whether he or she is open to the gospel or not!
When I started noticing this opportunity, then the Lord started showing me other opportunities. It's kind of a "trick" to yourself to not think of evangelism as a responsibility or duty, but rather just sharing life in the course of living it.
Oh, and it kind of helps to read those "trashy" magazines that they sometimes have at the stylist's shop--the Hollywood news type of trash. There are always some great jumping-off points in those stories!
This works even for shy people!
(from Christine's mom in Germany)