Even in a growing city like Austin and on a large campus like the University of Texas, it is amazing how lonely people can be in the midst of so many people. Just because we see people all the time doesn’t mean we are known by anyone.
We were created for community, and for those of us who follow Christ, we are actually called to be the ones who are creating community.
Knowing Our Neighbors
In a survey conducted in Austin, our neighbors have said they would love to know their neighbors, but that doesn’t mean they will do anything about it. Wouldn’t it be amazing if our missional communities and ministries became known as places where people found and experienced community – a place where our neighbors and other students found a place to connect, grow, and serve.
So let’s say you have gotten to know some of your neighbors and fellow students, but only on a superficial level, how do we move from superficial relationships to significant ones? How can we move our conversations from superficial to spiritual conversations?
Paul gives us some insight:
Be wise in the way you act with people who are not believers, making the most of every opportunity. When you talk, you should always be kind and pleasant so you will be able to answer everyone in the way you should. Colossians 4:5-6 (New Century Version)
Who’s Around You?
Who are the people God has brought into your life that He wants you to love, serve, and even influence? Begin with praying for them. Allow God to show you ways to love them, moments to talk with them, opportunities to serve them. Who invested in you spiritually? Who helped you connect to God through following Jesus?
If God cared enough about you to bring that person into your life, isn’t it possible that He cares enough for the people around you to bring you into their lives? Ask meaningful questions. Get to know them – not as a project but as a person. We need to develop meaningful friendships with our neighbors and co-workers – not just because we want to help them connect to God personally, but because we are connected to God personally.
In other words, we are to be known by our love. Do we care enough to slow down to get to know the people around us? What is your co-workers family dynamics? What are their interests? What are their fears? What are their needs? Notice how the early Christ-followers treated the people from within their group and those around them:
42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43 Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. 44 All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45 They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. 46 Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, 47 praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved. – Acts 2:42-47
Developing a Servant Mentality
What are the needs you can meet? What are the ways your network can serve your friends? What are ways your friends would enjoy connecting with your network – a neighborhood bbq, a service project, the inspire service on a Sunday followed by lunch? See if you can find a way to meet the needs expressed by your friend through your network, through our church. Allow your missional community* or ministry to help you love, serve, and influence your friend.
As you get to know others, ask them about their spiritual journey. Once you’ve heard their story, they are always more open to hear your story. Share your story in a way that you identify with them where you have been through similar situations or had similar struggles. Help them see how you can identify with them and then how Jesus helped you through those struggles.
Who has God brought into your life to love, serve, and influence? Now, what are you going to do about it?
Dr. Eric Michael Bryant leads a cohort for earning a Doctorate of Ministry in Missional Effectiveness through Bethel Seminary and serves in Austin with Gateway Church, a church known for their mottos: “no perfect people allowed” and “come as you are, but don’t stay that way.” Prior to Gateway, Eric served as part of the leadership team at Mosaic in Los Angeles.
Eric’s book, Not Like Me: A Field Guide for Influencing a Diverse World, equips people to engage with others no matter what their differences.