I recently read a story about a man who lost one of his dearest friends. Their relationship was not your typical friendship, primarily because of how they met and became closer through the years. One of the men worked in an airport at a busy security checkpoint. He was an older, smaller gentleman that stood out in many ways. One such way was that he smiled all the time… to every person… even at the airport terminals!
Well, this always intrigued the other friend, who traveled almost weekly for business and ministry. He would see this airport employee always greeting people with a smile, so one day he went up and introduced himself. He told him his name and shared that he had admired his smile and countenance for some time as he traveled in and out of that airport.
The older gentleman stopped, with tears welled up in his eyes, and he simply embraced the man. His kind words had blessed the older gentleman, and from that moment, these two began a friendship that would last until the dear airport employee passed some years later.
Each week, they would talk to each other for just a few minutes at a time while groups of people shuffled through security and to their terminals. With each short but meaningful conversation, they learned about their spouses, their kids, grandkids, and so many other joys and pains in their lives. There is much more to the story of their friendship that I won’t go into, but I couldn’t help but get stuck on this one thought: one encounter and many baby steps lead to a beautiful relationship and friendship.
I can’t help but think about this exact thing as it relates to what the church does during an Inasmuch Day. The church sets up projects all around a local community in hopes of meeting people, serving them, and just possibly having some sort of encounter where we can get to know a neighbor in a more intimate way. To build a relationship with someone that ultimately might just point them to Jesus.
It’s baby steps. It’s people stepping out of their comfort zones to lead a project for the first time. It’s people who have been scared or hesitant to serve, signing up and showing up for a project. It’s people who feel really comfortable swinging a hammer all of a sudden striking up conversations with the people they are serving and realizing it’s not too scary to share. All of these potential eternal encounters with the local community can happen when a church is willing and excited about getting out of the church building to look for ways to engage people. Compassion ministry very often leads to spiritual conversations and evangelism.
In Mark 8, there is a passage where Jesus asks his disciples, “Who do you people say that I am?” There were several remarks around the room, and finally, Peter said, “You are the Christ.” Jesus then told them all not to tell anyone who He was. Confusing, right? I do not think Jesus was trying to hide out or keep any secrets. Actually, just the opposite is true. I’m convinced that Jesus wants us to show people who He is by what we do, not just by telling them what we think. Loving the people around us is vital in how the world sees Jesus and what they come to know of him. People do not need more information; they need examples of people living their lives just as Jesus did.
So what baby steps are you taking that might lead to a Jesus encounter with a neighbor, a co-worker, or even a stranger? If none come to mind, what can you begin doing to see and meet the needs around us? Our mission statement talks about loving the unloved, serving the unserved, and reaching out to the unchurched. God wants to use people like us, THE CHURCH, to make HIM known. And it just might be your baby steps that light a fire of compassion in your community!