I’ve never really been much for cats. Dogs? Yes. But cats? Well, that’s a whole other story.
Now if you ever chance to meet my roommate Jill, then one thing you’ll quickly learn about her is her dream of becoming a crazy cat lady (I’m still trying to understand why this is a good idea). Anyway, as you might have guessed, this means her moving in also resulted in a certain feline creature sharing our living space. Enter Friday.
With her bright yellow eyes and fluffy tortoiseshell coat, Friday’s appearance usually elicits choruses of “ohhh, how cute!” from visitors to our house, usually girls. However, with her haughty “look but don’t touch” demeanor and a certain disdain for most, if not all human beings, she is, as you can imagine, not a cat who longs for company. In fact, cross her too much, and you’re liable to end up getting swiped by her claws.
Our first few months were spent living in indifferent tolerance, until about three weeks ago, when something changed. Coming home from a long day, I lay on the couch relishing a quiet moment of solitude. Instead of ignoring me like she usually does, Friday jumped up, rubbed her head against my face, before settling on my chest purring softly. We were now friends.
Now while I’m sure you’re excited to hear that I’m in the good graces of a cat, there is actually a point to all this. See, somehow, in my wandering mind, this all relates to missional communities and how we reach out to people.
This is going to take time
If someone announced that they were going to complete college in a month, or build a car in a day, most of us would laugh. Why? Because we understand that these things take time. What’s funny though, is that our sense of time seems to go out the window when it comes to mission. It’s like we expect that the moment we start intentionally reaching out, that new Christians will start popping out of our communities like jackrabbits bouncing in a field (Wallace and Gromit anyone?)
The reality is, relationships take time to build. Trust needs to emerge, and out of that, people will begin to open up. Just like Friday needed time to trust me, people need to know that you care about them as a person before they’ll ever consider talking to you about God.
Presence is Persistence
I think the reason Friday eventually warmed up to me is simply because I was around. The very term community implies living life together with a group of people, which is exactly what Jesus did when He was on earth. He went to those in need of God, and ate and drank with them… or in modern day terms – they all hung out together. (Mark 2:13-17)
If we want to have any impact at all, then we must be willing to leave the comforts of the “Christian bubble” and spend time with those who don’t know Christ. By simply offering our presence, we send the message that “your company is important, you are worth spending time with.”
Walk the talk
Beyond words, we must be most conscious of our actions. I believe it is our behaviour that betrays our hearts and true motives. The fact is, whether you like it or not, people are watching you. Christians after all, were designed to be seen. It is why we are called to be salt and light, that beacon on a hill. (Matthew 5:13-16)
So my point? Don’t just talk about Jesus. BE Jesus. Be Him who was loved and came to love others. Be the person who is there to listen, to help with homework, to hang out on weekends, to talk and laugh, cry with, or simply just sit in silence. And never, never give up on the people God has placed you around to reach out to.
Being missional takes time, effort, and quiet perseverance. Some days it seems like nothing’s working, and you’re not having an impact. But if you do it for Christ, nothing ever goes to waste, and we know that those who persevere will eventually the promises of God. (Hebrews 10:36)
So keep going. And maybe one day, in the same way a little cat decided to call me friend, those in your community group will also approach you and ask to share in the gift that is Jesus Christ.