One change I’ve noticed in the midst of these unprecedented and, frankly, weird times is the increased temptation to focus on myself. And I think it’s a bigger deal than I originally thought. Here’s what I mean…
When I focus on the fear, anger, or uncertainty in our world, I can turn inward and forget that Jesus calls me to turn outward and to be a light to those around me.
It’s a simple thought, but here’s a question to ask yourself…
As I experience the emotions of uncertainty, frustration, or discouragement that can swirl around me in today’s world, am I turning inward or outward toward the ones who need the hope of Jesus most?
Two years from now, what if our culture looks back on this dark time and remembers how Christians went into “self-preservation mode”? Or worse, will they remember us for what we are against, instead of who we are for?
But here’s the good news …
Unknowns and dark times are God’s specialty. It’s when His people show up as the light He’s called them to be. Peace, courage, and hope are earmarks of the Christian life. In the midst of darkness, we have eternal hope and we are the light!
If people are going to know that Jesus is for them, they first need to know that we are for them.
But what does that look like in a pandemic? How can you get in the corner of the people who you know need the hope of Jesus?
In the interest of helping you be a light to those around you, here are five simple ways to get in the corner of those around you who don’t have the hope you have.
1. Give them the gift everyone needs.
Here’s the thing…
No one you know is over encouraged.
As I hit 20 years in ministry, I can firmly attest to this. Most days, people walk around discouraged–or neutral, at best.
In fact, if you took on this one challenge and spent your life encouraging everyone you know, you would have a line up of people at your funeral one day.
In these days of difficulty, people need encouragement like never before. They want to know people are for them! Call or text someone, and pump their tires with encouragement. Do it. In fact, do it right now. You’ll be amazed at what it will do for them.
2. Leverage the secret ministry tool
One of the things I love about doing ministry in this era is the ability to pray for people in all kinds of ways.
Sometimes I’ll pray with them over the phone, leave a prayer voicemail, email or text a personal prayer, or even pray for someone privately and text them in the middle of the prayer to let them know “I’m praying for you right now.”
Often I remind our staff team about the power of offering prayer. It’s not uncommon to find someone on our team praying over the phone for someone at any given moment.
The vast majority of people want prayer but have never experienced it. I’ve seen people be moved to tears when someone prays for them for the first time.
Just reach out and let someone who is far from God know that you’re praying for them. Most Christ-followers take prayer for granted, but most people who aren’t Christ-followers would love to experience it.
3. Put the food back in your friendship
Okay, I recognize that many of us are putting on the COVID-19 pounds, but there’s something about food that bridges a relational gap and communicates care. I think we all know that.
Invite a colleague or neighbour over for a physically-distanced dinner, or drop off a meal or a coffee. Make the conversation about them.
Don’t think of it as a project; think of it as changing the posture of your heart to show someone that you care. I promise you that doing this one act will change your heart. It will remind you that Jesus wants to share His love with others through you.
4. Ask them the five-word question
“How are you doing…really?”
I think when we interact with the people around us, we often ask this question, but we stop one word short. We want to be courteous, but do we really want to listen? The people around you need someone to talk to who will listen. Someone who genuinely cares.
Pre-COVID, my wife, Leslie, and I have often talked about how isolated people are who don’t have a church community. Before COVID, so many people were already living lonely lives, and now that’s increased exponentially.
In fact, there are so many people around us who don’t have family close by and don’t have many friends outside of work. If you do have family around you, I’d guess that you are in the minority in Simcoe County. Most of my kids’ friends are growing up without any family here. Why is this important?
People need you in their corner because they are alone, and that’s something Jesus would definitely do.
I dare you to try this experiment. Next time you’re near a mom at the bus stop or outside the school, or next time you bump into someone you know at the grocery store, ask them this five-word question: “How are you doing…really?”
Do it a few times, and you will find someone who needs you in their corner just to listen.
5. Share what’s at your fingertips
One of the things that have become clearer during the last number of months is, people are leveraging the content that Connexus is producing for their friends. They are sharing past sermon series, directing them to the family ministry content, and telling them about our current teaching.
Want to hear something fun?
I’m hearing from people who find out months later that their friend watches regularly on Sundays after an invite, but they just didn’t tell them at first.
It’s amazing how one small share can make a huge difference for someone. Find something spiritually helpful? Maybe someone you know doesn’t follow Jesus but is looking.
It’s a different kind of time, so we have to be creative in getting in the corner of those who don’t know Jesus. At the same time, let’s not use that as an excuse to turn inward when the people around us need us most. Let’s be the Church.