Often in our Christian walk we buy into the idea that people need to believe first before they can belong. In fact, sometimes we have taught – subtly or openly – that people must not only believe but also behave before they belong.
Instead we must find ways to make people know they belong so they can be brought to a place of belief. Only later do we find their behaviour changes. If you think of your own life, you’ll probably agree it was more or less the same process. Even now, as you read this, think of ways where you can include people into your life and church who are not yet Christ-followers.
Note how Jesus did this. Zaccheus came to believe only after Jesus befriended him (Luke 19). In fact, even the disciples took a while before they began to understand Jesus was the Son of God. Jesus was ridiculed for socialising with ‘sinners’ (Matthew 9:11) as the religious groups of the day thought people should first behave before they can belong. But this is not the order we see when we look at Jesus in the New Testament. It is often messier and reflects that people belonged before they believed. Jesus told us in John 13:34 that it would be the quality of our relationships with each other that would convince people that Jesus is real.
More and more people will not commit their lives to Christ until they have been exposed to a community which seems to embody and reflect him. The church has two astonishing gifts to offer to people: 1) The astonishing gift of the Gospel and 2) The astonishing gift of community.
And community is an astonishing gift, because it is so lacking in our world. Life Groups, where we meet regularly in homes, play a part in this. We open our homes to help community to flourish. We form community through our Life Groups. That’s why we believe Life Groups are an integral key to the life of a church. Think of your own Life Group or how or where you could lead a Life Group that would be a place for those who don’t know Jesus to belong. These aren’t “big-church” environments, which can honestly be scary of people who aren’t used to it, but are small, home environments where many people feel much more comfortable, and provide an opportunity for us to practice hospitality.
Romans 12:13 NLT
“Always be eager to practice hospitality.”
Your home is an amazing and effective tool for bringing people to Christ. Invite people to your home for dinner, or to a Life Group hosted at your home. Then host them well. There is nothing like a warm, loving home to make people realise that there is something different about you and that you serve a warm, generous Father in heaven. This is because so many people live, or come from, broken homes.
At a Life Group, whether it’s your home or not, when someone arrives, either on their own or with someone, make them feel welcome. Just be you and start up friendly, non-threatening conversations. You are looking to invite people into your life. Introduce them to other people. Ask them if you can help them in any way. Maybe invite them to a meal in your home some time soon.
There are other opportunities we create as well, such as “cafe evenings” at church or evenings where someone shares their life story, and how Jesus rescued them. People feel they belong through relationships. Your behaviour often changes because of the group of people you’re belonging to. This is a journey, not an instant change.
Invite people to your Life Group. Invite people to Sunday meetings. Invite people to weekends away. Invite people to a series that will help answer tough questions. Invite people to braais and parties. Let them see that your life is full of community and, well, life! God’s life!
Evangelism – sharing your faith – is a lifestyle, not a programme. You don’t need to hype yourself up for it. It’s not calendar-driven, it’s relationship driven. People are more ready for the gospel than you realise, and you are more ready than you realise to share it.
But we need to actually know the gospel, and know how key our friendships with others are in presenting the gospel. In our Love Joburg course, we cover these subjects, learning how to practically and naturally be on God’s mission in our world.