By Martin Bennett
Everyday ministry was, for me, one of the reasons we planted our church.
I discovered in times past that I was doing all of my ministries “in a church,” not in my neighborhood, and decided that had to change.
But what does that look like? How do we incorporate evangelism into our everyday lives?
Love your neighbors
My first experience with intentional evangelism was connecting to my next-door neighbor. He happened to be the real estate agent for the seller and told me that “we’re going to be drinking and fishing buddies” after I moved in. It was obvious he didn’t know what I did for a living.
Eventually, he did discover my profession and we started connecting for bi-monthly meals. We were committed to “eating our way” through the county. I used our meals to ask questions about his spiritual journey and to clarify misunderstandings he had about faith.
He died of a sudden heart attack after our fourth meeting. I was devastated. To make matters worse, he had been my neighbor for almost four years before I finally started trying to reach him.
So, I became more intentional about reading books such as “Next Door As It Is In Heaven,” by Lance Ford and Brad Brisco, and knowing all of my neighbors by name — not just the father, but also the wife, the kids, and in-laws. I keep a diagram with people’s names on it beside my desk to pray for them.
Another simple next step I’ve done with my neighbors is to ask them how I can pray for them. It’s not difficult, and most people are fairly receptive. In turn, we are often able to have spiritual conversations.
What’s in your hand? Pancakes?
I’ve also been impacted by God’s Exodus 4:2 call to Moses of “what’s in your hand?” I have witnessed how God uses the simple things we have for His glory. One of the few things I can cook better than my wife (humble brag) is homemade buttermilk pancakes. I’ve perfected my ability through various outreaches in the local elementary school. But I’ve also cooked up large batches of pancakes and knocked on my neighbors’ doors on Saturday mornings with heaps of hot pancakes. I’ve probably given pancakes to 6 to 7 homes. My wife and I have been praying for a family with five little kids and one day invited them in for the entire breakfast. That day we learned the husband’s origin included interaction with Christian missionaries. After two years of our sharing with them and playing with their kids in the front yard, they made a decision to come to church. Unfortunately, it was the day we canceled gathering because of the pandemic. Recently, they asked what we were doing for Christmas Eve and asked if they could join our church’s Christmas Eve worship.
Gas station chats
Another idea that we’ve lived out came from the book “Outflow: Outward-Focused Living in a Self-focused World,” by Dave Ping and Steve Sjorgren. It helped me to live more sacrificially and look for opportunities to connect with people all around me. One example was my connection to the Mini-Mart manager at a local gas station. I started going inside the Mini-Mart instead of only paying at the pump. I learned the gentleman’s name and would go in when he wasn’t busy to learn about his growing-up life in Pakistan. It was extremely easy to talk to someone about common ideas like “holidays, family, and food.” Also I discovered, by going into the convenience store, that this man knew many of his inside customers by name. There was a “subculture” I new nothing about within a location merely one mile from my home.
He was friendly with his regulars, who purchased their cigarettes, lottery tickets, or energy drinks. After a while of my going into his store, he allowed our church to serve his customers who were coming to purchase about two gallons of gas. We added $5 to their purchases. We were even able to pray with some of the customers. I had honest discussions on the difference in works and grace in a non-threatening manner. My friend always asks about my family and offers me a free coffee when I come into the store. Ministry was 10 steps away from my “pay-at-the-pump” existence.
Stop the speed shopping
Another situation was one of our local grocery stores. I made friends with several of the workers. Over a period of a couple years, we had honest conversations about marriage, raising kids, and what the Bible stated about various topics. In order to be effective, I showed up during slow times of the day so we could talk. I often asked how I could pray for issues they raised and followed up with them about their issues.
I have also developed a relationship with some former managers at a home improvement store. One of the ladies called me their store pastor. I would have various spiritual conversations in the quieter aisles.
A single mother at another store I frequent was struggling and I took my wife to her house, which was in need of organization.
We had a couple of ladies from the church visit with her and three families took all the clothes to their homes and washed and folded the clothes for a family of four. We also sent a team to her house to cut her grass. Just this past Thanksgiving, a lady from our church took a box of food to this family. The mother has fellowshipped with us, but more importantly, she knows the Gospel message even though she has yet to confess faith in it. All of these relationships took years to grow and I had to learn to slow down and not just “speed shop” (it was my favorite way to shop) as I knew going into any of the stores was a chance at local missions.
Don’t let first impressions stop you
Lastly, I’d encourage everyone to not allow first impressions to stop you from trying. We have a neighbor who lives in our community. Because I’m friendly, I speak to everyone I see in our community. I was surprised when I met a woman who would not even acknowledge I existed. It stung. I asked her good friend, who lived between us, “what’s the deal with ______?” Her friend said to give this lady time. Whenever I saw her looking our way, I’d throw up a friendly wave, but for the first two years we lived here, I got nothing.
Then her good friend relocated and gradually she thawed. We slowly started having small talk and then one day, when I asked how she was doing, she shared that her father had died. Then she sobbed on my shoulder. She asked our kids to cut her grass (she’s a single woman) and my wife helped care for her after a surgery. And today when she travels, my daughter feeds her cats with the emergency key we keep for her in our home. She hasn’t come to faith, but we are prayerful and hopeful.
We know we’ve shared the Gospel with at least six people on our block. We’ve collaborated with neighbors to host two block parties. And during COVID-19, we set up a table and had people bring their own cups and shared a coffee time to check in on one another.
Plant, water, or gather
We believe the Bible and want to be found faithful knowing that whether we are planting a seed, watering it, or are gathering with believers, it is ultimately God that works in our lives as we seek to serve Him in everyday life.
God opens many doors in front of us. We just have to open our eyes and walk through.
Cover photo: Life Connection Church members delivered homemade cookies to the Severn Fire Company #4 and then followed it up with Chick-Fil-A lunches. Those serving included (l-r) Marty, Demetra, JiYoung, and her son, Shawn (photo submitted).
Martin Bennett serves as the lead pastor of Life Connection Church in Severn, Maryland.