If you are like me, you may be a bit sceptical of the tagline to this post. Often times, we like to use buzzwords as we talk about particular evangelical ideas, and these buzzwords can become cliché long before we ever attempt to incorporate them into our everyday lives. The real challenge comes as we attempt to intentionally apply them to situations we encounter everyday.
You and I don’t have to look far for opportunities to build relationships. We seem to effortlessly encounter other men and women from all different stages of life as we go to work, run errands, leisurely stroll the mall, and spend time with our families. We have gotten so used to seeing people that we have been desensitized. It is easier to sit quietly, avoid eye contact if possible, and go about our business without appearing weird to our neighbours. Don’t get me wrong, I do not wish to advocate that this is necessarily wrong. There are times for us to rest, to be alone, and to not feel pressure to always be ‘on’ when we are in public. My goal here is to remind us that God has placed us in a society, full of men and women from all walks of life, who make up one big community of people who frequent the same locals that we do everyday, and have more in common with us than we often realize.
My wife, Allison, and I are trying to frequent two specific coffee shops on our high street regularly throughout the week in hopes of becoming ‘locals’ and building a presence in our neighbourhood. Getting out and trying to meet new people is always tough. These encounters violate our comfort zones. They remind us that it is easy to feel out of place amongst strangers. But overall, they are necessary steps for us to meet new people and to plant tiny seeds of the gospel initiative growing in Wanstead.
During our first visit a local coffee shop called The Larder, I was waiting in line for the drinks while Allison secured us a table when a woman who was standing next to me began to tell me about a local publication in our community in which she is a contributor. I could not tell if she wanted me to purchase a copy, or just realized I was a foreigner and probably didn’t know that this magazine existed, but before I knew it she was sitting down at our table asking us about what brought us to London. After an explanation of Awaken and a brief vision of what our goal is in the community, our new friend began to tell us about a recurring article called “Wanstead Angels” that she writes every month. She asked if she could write a piece about what we are doing and include it in the Wansteadium later this summer! Now is the part of the post that I would like to say that we introduced our new friend to Jesus through an empowering gospel presentation that lead the entire coffee shop into revival! But that would be a lie.
What did happen is the planting of a seed about the work of the Kingdom. In a small way we were able to tell a stranger a big story, a story about God’s work in Wanstead. And although we wish we could have shared much more, we were able to invite her to come see our community in action and hopefully began a relationship in which we can share the gospel.
The point of this story is to share a hopeful experience we had by intentionally walking out of our comfort zone in hopes of building relationships with the people around us. We do not think this is easy, particularly when we see little fruit in terms of our American norm of success. But we remember that God definitely orchestrated that day at the Larder so that we could plant a seed in which we faithfully expect that God will provide the growth.
Let us remember that God places us in particular communities and situations where we just need to remember to love our neighbours while planting seeds of the gospel. Pray for boldness and strength as God continues to use you for the growth of his Kingdom.
Joel and Allison Peabody are new staff team members of the Awaken Movement UK. They just moved to Wanstead, London, England, and are working alongside Rob and Medea to plant a movement of kingdom disciples who live missionally as they engage their neighbours.