The Bottom Line
Conquering Your Neighborhood for Conquering Your Neighborhood for Christ Is a Process
For many years I held a women’s Bible study in my home. I felt comfortable sharing a vegetarian meal or snack, and then opening God’s Word using a prepared set of lessons. Most of the ladies attending had at one time or another sought me out for friendship. I had never experienced “knocking on doors” to invite some of my more intimidating neighbors to come and study the Bible with me. I often asked my friends from church to join the group, and at times there were eight or twelve of us fellowshipping together.
With joy I watched one young mother return to her roots—the Seventh-day Adventist Church—and followed her progress through the years as she put her children in church school and became a very active member in her local congregation.
Then something sad happened. Three of the ladies (two sisters and a mother) had a terrible family feud and would not come and study if one of the others was there. This problem broke up my neighborhood Bible study group, and my Tuesday evening witnessing endeavors came to a screeching halt!
The Lord impressed me that I should reach my neighborhood for Christ, and I began paying special attention to the other families living around us. I prayed that God would show me what to do, and impressions and thoughts came to my mind.
I began sharing my delicious homemade bread and received many compliments. Whenever we held any type of social gathering (we live on a lake), I would make sure to invite the neighbors. It soon became apparent that two specific families responded to almost every gesture of friendship.
One summer evening, Becky, the wife of one of the couples, stopped by for a little chat on our back porch. We talked about our families and our gardens, and eventually the subject of religion and God came up. I was very interested to learn that Becky had a deceased aunt who CONQUERING YOUR NEIGHBORHOOD FOR CHRIST IS A PROCESS THE BOTTOM LINE BY MADLYN HAMBLIN had been a Seventh-day Adventist. As we chatted, I noted that Becky had strong opinions on what to eat, the state of the dead, and why she felt it just was not important to belong to any church. Our conversation ended, and I filed away in my head some of the things she shared regarding her spiritual beliefs.
A few months later there was a death in Becky’s family. I took food to them and offered to have their lawn mowed. This was deeply appreciated. That same year, the husband in the other family lost his job and they became extremely worried about finances. Our family spoke with them often, prayed for them, and shared from our garden that summer. We also offered assistance with yard maintenance, as the husband had had surgery and was not able to keep up with things around the house. We felt a deepening bond of friendship during this time.
A couple of years later our church was promoting small groups in individual homes. My husband, Ray, and I signed up to host a group, thinking no one would probably come to our home because we lived quite a distance from the church. To our surprise, two families signed up. One friend of ours wanted to bring her husband, a non-church member. We were excited about that and decided to show the videos by Lee Venden on how to have a relationship with Jesus. Because we were encouraged to invite non-church members to this group, I gathered my courage and asked the two neighbor families to attend. To my surprise, they acted eager to come. I also invited another neighbor family, and they too accepted my invitation.
With much prayer we began to study the simple Bible truth of getting to know Jesus on a personal level. Soon Becky and her husband, Paul, wanted to include their close friends. Our group grew from six to twelve for a period of time. When our video presentations ended, we all decided to pick a book of the Bible and read through it verse by verse, commenting on the passages. This way we were not perceived as “pushing our religion on anyone.”
This group has continued now for three years, and we are enjoying a tremendous blessing. Week by week we watch spiritual growth in those who have made no commitment to Jesus and His church. When we study the Bible with secular people, it becomes easy to discern their spiritual walk and maturity. Some have previously given their lives to Jesus and others have not. Most have not yet come to know the full truth, but they are learning, step by step.
Becky asked us recently if she could invite another set of neighbors who live down the street to our weekly studies. The thought came to me that if we reach only one family initially in our neighborhoods, they in turn can reach others, including family members living in distant areas. In almost every community there are many people who won’t attend a preaching seminar or church service, but they will respond to a personal invitation to your home, or to an act of kindness.
So where does all this group study lead, you are thinking? I asked myself that same question this past winter when our pastor announced an evangelistic series at the church. I wondered whether any of our neighbors would respond, as they are very resistant to being involved with “one denomination.” However, we decided to give them a flyer anyway and encouraged them to look at the subjects and see if they saw anything they were interested in.
To our complete surprise, Becky and Paul attended nearly every meeting. We made sure to drop off to them a DVD of the meetings they missed and they watched them in their home. Just this past week they asked our pastor to come to their home and review “The State of the Dead.” You can imagine our delight as we see them moving closer to accepting the truths of the Bible.
Have they started attending church? Occasionally. Did they request baptism? No! However, we have had the privilege of watching them grow in Christ over the past three years. We know that conversion is a process, and we have had the privilege of watching this process grow in our friends’ lives. We are not discouraged over the fact that they have not yet accepted every doctrine. We will continue inviting them to church and other events that interest them. We have come to realize that God is in control, and in His own time He will convict. That is not our job. Our job is to sow the seed and pray for God’s Holy Spirit to nourish, grow, and bring to harvest.
We are learning as we continue our Bible study group that conquering our neighborhood for Christ involves witnessing training, sowing the seed, patience, and leaving the baptisms to God!