Christian Growth

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Where You Walk

Using your everyday pathways to share the gospel

  • Author: By Heather Holleman
  • Credits: Illustration by Muti
  • Published: April 10, 2014

My husband taught me a great ministry principle six years ago: Do things with people, not always just for them. As a mother of two little girls and a Cru staff member with Faculty Commons, I wondered how God could use me—in my busyness and exhaustion—to reach faculty members of universities. Following my husband’s advice, I realized that I could invite all my neighbors (many of whom happened to be professors) to join me in what I was already doing with my family.

Since I was already walking my children to school every day, my family launched a “Walk to School” campaign that challenged the neighbors to walk the one mile to school and back every single day.

I simply called neighbors I didn’t know and encouraged them to walk and not drive to school. Before I knew it, I was spending an hour a day with up to 30 of my non-Christian neighbors. We made our walk to school a real neighborhood event; we even made T-shirts one year to celebrate our 100 miles on the 100th day of school. That year, the gym teacher honored these walkers in a special ceremony, and another year, the local newspaper featured our neighborhood for our commitment to physical fitness. I also have a letter from the White House—signed by the First Lady— acknowledging our walk-to-school campaign.

Pretending they were already christians

As we walked with families to school every day, I prayed about how I could effectively communicate the gospel to all these neighbors who didn’t know Jesus. Rather than come up with a sophisticated strategy of winsome, well-articulated theology, I prayed that God would just help me be myself that early in the morning. Plus, when you spend every morning with all your neighbors (before the coffee kicks in!), you can’t be “on” all the time. Therefore, I spoke to my neighbors as if they were already Christians. I shared what I learned in the Scriptures that morning. I shared about answered prayer. I shared about ongoing spiritual struggles, like how to really be thankful in all circumstances, or how to trust God when my children suffer.

Essentially, my speech made spiritual conversation normal.

As I shared from the Scriptures each morning, I often asked neighbors what they thought about certain Bible verses. Sometimes, I would ask them ways I could pray for their families.

One morning, I asked my Hindu neighbor if it bothered her that I talked so much about Jesus. I’ll never forget what she said: “No! I want to hear everything you have to say about Jesus.” When I realized that my neighbors wanted to hear about Jesus, my walk to school became an adventure. Each day, we’d talk more about Him.

Keeping in line with doing things with neighbors and not just for them, my husband suggested we invite the neighbors to study the Bible with us during Saturday morning breakfast. Our family makes pancakes every Saturday so, soon, we had an official “Saturday Morning Pancakes” event at our house. I was so nervous that we’d be rejected when we asked if neighbors wanted to study the Bible, but instead, one of the most hostile neighbors said, “I’ve been waiting for an invitation like this!”

This is offensive

Along the way, one neighbor claimed that she was so offended by Jesus’ claim in the Book of John that He is the only way to salvation. “This is so offensive!” she hollered at my husband. And then, without skipping a beat, she cried, “I want to hear more. Are we meeting next week?”

Likewise, my Hindu neighbor tearfully asked, “Can we still be friends if I worship my gods and you worship Jesus Christ?” At first, resistance was great when my neighbors truly understood the gospel. But God began to work in their hearts. Soon, families were joining us in church, finding Bibles to read and praying to receive Christ. That Hindu neighbor not only received Christ, but she presented the gospel to her family, baptized her children and now leads investigative Bible studies of her own on campus.

Lessons Learned

On my walking journey, I learned not to be deterred by objections to the gospel. They don’t scare me. I’ve learned that over time—and it might take six years— neighbors encounter the Living God through Christians who enter into their lives and talk about Jesus. I learned, too, that the needs of neighbors overwhelm me. I’m not a savior, and I’m not a trained therapist. I can sow deeply into their lives, present the gospel and even disciple new converts, but I need to release my neighbors into the local church and even other ministries that best meet their needs.

My husband and I both learned to settle the ownership issue over our neighborhood. We don’t need to control everything or lead everything. We don’t need to present ourselves as therapists. We are invited, however, to normalize spiritual conversations, devote ourselves in love to the people in our neighborhoods and pray for open doors for the gospel.

Now, six years later, God has brought new neighbors who need to hear about Jesus. I’ve already called them or knocked on their doors to invite them to walk that mile to and from school. So it all begins again.

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