My wife and I just moved to the Greater Washington DC area. Sweet Moses is this place expensive. And heavy-laden with traffic. While driving the U-Haul up here, I was in stand still traffic…at 2:30 in the afternoon… on a weekday. Think about that. This past Saturday afternoon while on the way to a church service, I drove up on a car wreck scene that was very fresh–30 seconds sooner and we would have witnessed it. I got out of my car and checked on the drivers, and waited for the ambulance to arrive. When I walked back to my car, traffic was backed up for miles. A lady rolled down her window, and asked, not about the people in the wreck, but if the firefighters and police would let her by!
If I am honest, I am still trying to shirk the seminary bubble. I’m used to having neighbors that put others first. I’m used to people that are focused on loving Jesus. I’m used to my encounters being with Christians; I’m not used to drivers caring more about their agenda than a person bleeding from their head from a car wreck.
Everything in me desires to hide away in my office and apartment. But God desires to see disciples made in Washington DC. I am convinced of this. I am convinced God wants to see disciples made in every place, in all nations. So as we unpack our boxes, here are 4 disciplines my wife and I are going to use for reaching our neighbors. Hold me accountable to these! If you have other ideas, throw them in the comments!
Pray for God-appointed encounters. One way we can pray God encounters our neighbors is through the hospitality your family extends to them. Make your apartment a place of peace for all who enter, and ask God to steer your neighbors through the front door. This influence will only come through prayer.
-God, you are a good Father. You have shown immense hospitality in making us citizens of your Kingdom. You truly have gone before us, and prepared a place for us. I ask you, Jesus, to extend your hand of salvation upon my apartment building. You are mighty to do this, and much more. Give my wife and me a person of peace to connect with in the building. Father, if it would please you, raise up a leader to start a church in the very apartment complex itself!
Invite every neighbor over for dinner. Even if no one comes, every neighbor in your building needs to know your apartment is available to them. My context is a work-driven city. Everything in a weekday revolves around the workplace; people live just far enough away to afford the rent, but close enough to get to work. We know, in every context, God did not create mankind to be work-centric, but rather God-centric. When that nagging feeling of “what am I doing with my life” hits, we want our neighbors to knock on the door of a follower of Christ.
–Father, I acknowledge the apartment and possessions I have are not my own. They are gifts to be stewarded for your kingdom. I pray that every time someone in our building has a need or a burden they would be drawn to our door. Help us to love with a God-sized love, and be masterful at leading people to your throne.
Live a public life. I could make a list of negatives that would double the positives of having a dog, but I am happy to have our pooch for this reason: he’s friendly and insists on strangers petting him. So when we are taking Bo out to the bathroom, I hope to capitalize on his curiosity, and strike up a conversation with the people that give him attention that wouldn’t have spoke to me otherwise. So whether it is your dog, the gym, attending public get-togethers, or just choosing to eat most of your meals out on a patio, live life where people can see you, and give yourself an opportunity to engage neighbors you wouldn’t be able to otherwise.
–God, would you make us influential in our building for your glory? We ask that as we converse with our neighbors, you would give us the words to say that makes them wonder what is different about us. I pray that they figure out that what is different about us is the God that is in us. Would you make this prayer a reality? Help us to glorify you in this way.
Frequent the same local spots. This is a discipline my wife and I began while in Wake Forest, and plan to continue in DC. People here use bars, pubs, and restaurants as their living rooms. Cold-call-door-knocking may not draw people into conversation; on the other hand, in your context people may go out to restaurants for peace and quiet. This is what we can know for certain, God did not create people for sustainable isolation. Somewhere, somehow people will open up. We need to be there when it happens.
–Lord Jesus, I pray that as Macey and I go out to eat, pump our gas, and pick up groceries you would cause people to be compelled to meet us. Help us to carry ourselves in such a way that people want to chat with us. I pray that you would cause people to open up their lives to us, and through us you would lead many to your throne. I pray all of these things in your Son’s precious name. Amen.