In one of my previous ministry settings our youth group was primarily made up of kids with no previous church connection. They had enthusiasm. They were hungry to know God. They passionately desired their friends to know Jesus. But they had no knowledge or experience when it came to ordinary church life.
We taught them that prayer was an essential part of the Christian life. The prayer life we taught them was not limited to quiet moments alone, but was a struggling with God for people. We started taking them out to pray for others. We’d go door to door through the community. When someone came to the door, one of the kids would say, “We’re the youth group from First Untied Methodist Church. We’re out praying for people. Is there anything we can pray with you about?” As I recollect, not once were the kids turned away. They were received warmly and had many opportunities to pray with people.
We never told the kids that most church folks would never do what they did. Being from a non-church background they just assumed that what we did must be ordinary Christian behavior. What would happen if we long term church folk re-assessed what we take to be ordinary Christian behavior?
We know that ordinary Christians go to church on Sunday. We know that ordinary Christians are fine moral people, upstanding citizens in their communities. We know that ordinary Christians pray, read their bibles and try to be nice to others. But too often we also know that ordinary Christians mind their own business. We know that Christianity – our relationship with God – is too intensely personal to share with outsiders.
In the past I’ve suggested various ways you can be a part of sharing the good news of Jesus. Some of these ways are as simple as inviting (or bringing) someone to church. I’d like to give you another idea this time. Pray for people. I’m not talking just about having a prayer list. That’s a good thing. But what I’m talking about here is doing what those unchurched kids did. Ask someone if there’s something you can pray about with them. If they say yes (and they often will), then do it – then and there, in their presence. Out loud. Why do it out loud? If you do it out loud they will know what you’re doing. You’ll also discover that as you begin praying, especially if you are uncomfortable with the idea, that God will help you. Discomfort on your part – an acknowledged sense of weakness – gives God room to work in your life. That’s what the other folks need to see. It’s ok for them to see that you’re a nice person, that you’re spiritual and that you care for them. Even more important is them seeing God in you.