I have recently accepted a few friend requests … and I am not talking about facebook and a digital friendship. I am talking about real person-to-person friendship. These friends have challenged me because they come from a completely different background than I. It has been great getting to know them and growing with them. Since befriending them, I have had this thought run through my mind: the pastor of my church, or quite possibly of any church, would never have met my friends if I did not introduce them to each other.
This thought has taught me a few things. The first is that the pastor of my church – his name is Emy – cannot be everywhere winning each soul for Christ. There are people out there who he simply will never meet. That means I cannot leave the soul-winning in my city to Emy. Emy is busy discipling people, preparing messages, organizing the structure of the church, meeting with people who are in need, casting vision with other leaders, planning how the church can impact the region, doing normal daily activities, and oh yeah, he also has a family for which he must care. Emy is certainly winning souls in our city, but the vast majority of these people never met the pastor outside of the church.
That leads me to the second thing I learned: I am going to meet a number of the people who the pastor would never meet. If Emy will never meet these people, but I will, then it means that it is my job to help love these people to Christ. Christ said we are to love our neighbor. Of course Christ did not mean the people who reside in the house or apartment next to us, but he meant anybody with whom we come into contact. Some of our closest neighbors are those who live in another city but we have daily interaction with them through work or some other means. Emy cannot love my neighbor because he will never meet my neighbor. Or at least he never would meet my neighbor unless I introduced them.
I do not believe I have the gift of evangelism. That of course does not mean that I cannot be used by God to lead someone to Christ, but I do know someone who has the gift of evangelism. That dude would be the pastor of my church.
I would love to introduce every one of my neighbors to Emy. Obviously I have neighbors who simply are not interested. But no one can reach the person who is not interested. I do have neighbors who are interested. Those people can be reached. I cannot overly concern myself with my neighbors who are not interested, I just have to keep loving them until they become interested; after all, I may be the only light of Christ they ever see. However, those neighbors who are interested had better be receiving an invite to church from me.
The third thing I learned is that the pastor needs my help. I am working with Emy toward the same goal. The pastor is not the only one God uses to reveal Himself to others, but sometimes the laity can think that. Instead of viewing myself as just a dude in the church, I need to see myself as Emy’s coworker. We are in this together and I do not want to be the coworker who simply leeches off of everybody else’s hard work.
The fourth thing I learned is that I have to find my neighbor. That is right, I need to be actively searching for people I can call neighbors/friends. The few friends I recently came into contact with are people who I would not have found if I were not looking to befriend someone. Make that an activity of yours: find people to befriend.
By the way, the best place to find a neighbor may mean we have to go some place we would rather not go. Remember Christ came to save the spiritually sick. We may have to leave our Christian neighbors for a little while to find some spiritually sick neighbors in need of a Savior. Check that, we should leave our Christian neighbors at least for a little while to find the sick neighbors. That sick neighbor may be the homeless guy with the cardboard sign. We should invite him (and his family) to dinner (Luke 14:12-14). Or it may just be a person you know who is going through a tough time, but at any rate, we should be out there finding the people who need help.
The pastor of my church cannot love my neighbor because he will never meet him. I will meet him though. I will even go out of my way to find my neighbor. Many times the people who can be reached are already asking, “Won’t you be my neighbor?” Once they hear from us that we will, it is usually only a matter of time before they come to the Shepherd of their souls.