Do you hang lights at Christmas? I’m not talking about the decorative kind that we buy at Walmart and plug in to a timer switch outside, though this kind is festive to be sure. Jesus mentioned a different kind in Matthew 5:14-16.
Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven (Matthew 5:14-16).
The greatest opportunities in life often lie at our doorstep, yet we often overlook them. It is far too easy for American Christians to live concealed and busy lives that affect very few people in the world around us. We run regular, task-oriented routines that provide very little flexible time for everyday life and relationships to develop in the places where God has put us in the world – our homes. If we do not take up the responsibility to reach out to our neighbors with the gospel, then who else can we expect to expose them to gospel light? Radio preachers? That’s probably not a good answer.
When the Lord provided my wife and me with our first house in February 2008, He also provided us with one of the greatest opportunities of our Christian experience together. I am speaking about the opportunity to be a light for Christ in our neighborhood. There is no better time than the holiday season to make it your family mission to obey the Great Commission. Over the past nearly five years, we have asked the Lord to make us Great Commission Christians to our immediate neighbors, during the holidays and throughout the year. Here are some of the steps that we have taken towards this end (in no particular order):
- Take a plate of home-baked cookies with a tract to each house on our street, and even to our local police and fire stations
- Invite our neighbors to evangelistic meetings at our church
- Door-to-door evangelism
- Opening up conversations with neighbors during evening walks as a family
- Stopping by to talk with neighbors in their own yards
- Spending a Sunday afternoon in a neighbor’s home (by their invitation of course)
- Hosting in-home Bible studies
- Hosting a two-month backyard Bible club for elementary children
- Running a VBS bus route in our neighborhood
- Hosting a weekly elementary grade girl’s club (directed by my wife)
- Giving out free freeze pops and tracts to children and teens who ring our doorbell
- Playing pickup basketball with the neighborhood teens
- Volunteering help to neighbors (moving furniture, mowing, meals, etc.)
- Providing rides to our church services
- Making personal visits
- Taking a neighbor out to lunch to share my testimony
- Giving our children supervised opportunities to play with the neighbor children in our yard
- Surprising our neighbors by mowing their yard when they’re having a busy week
- Making hospital visits when a neighbor has been admitted (and letting our children color pictures to give to them)
This list of ideas represents a small slice of the many opportunities like this that should be explored. Your neighborhood and neighbors are different than mine. As you seek the Lord for guidance, He will give you the ideas you need to find open doors for the gospel in your own immediate neighborhood. This holiday season, would you be willing to prayerfully consider the following challenges?
- If you are a pastor, would you be willing to lead and equip your church families to explore some particular ways to reach out to their neighborhoods with the gospel? A Christmas Cantata is a great starting point, but perhaps there are some other ideas that can also be explored?
- If you are not a pastor, would you be willing to ask the Lord for opportunities to be a gospel witness in your neighborhood?
- If you are a parent, would you be willing to lead your family to pursue some form of outreach in your community that would involve your entire family, children included? There is something special about a Christian home allowing their house to become a mission station for the gospel.
In every opportunity, the key remains that we allow the Holy Spirit to open our eyes to the opportunities that abound before us in our local communities where we go to sleep every night. Our children need to see parents who allow their homes to be transformed from havens of holy family living to outposts of ministry in enemy territory. Our churches need members who utilize their homes in the same way that they expect their foreign missionaries to use their homes in foreign countries. As quaint and festive as Christmas lights may be hanging in your neighborhood at Christmas time, the greatest light of all will be our neighbors experiencing the gospel light shining from our lives as we find ways to reach out to them with the light of Christ.
Thomas Overmiller serves as a Bible professor at Baptist College of Ministry in Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin.