Do not despise these small beginnings, for the LORD rejoices to see the work begin.
As I reflect on our church’s recent efforts in evangelism, it’s these words from the Bible, in Zechariah 4:10, that come to mind.
Just a few months ago, a small group in our church began to meet to talk and pray about how we can share the good news of Jesus in our community in south-east London.
We decided to start small and focus on praying together, to begin with.
I can’t say we’ve developed any amazing strategies or a ten-point plan, or that we’re a large group compared to the size of our church. But we’ve started making small steps and thinking and praying about how we can be intentional in the place God has put us. And also how we can encourage each and every person in our church to be drawing people to Jesus where they are.
And since we’ve stepped out in this small, intentional way, we can truly say that God has been with us.
A new Christian couple joined our church just a few weeks ago, saying they instantly felt at home and that they belonged. Just two weeks into their time with us, this couple invited us to come and lead a Christmas Carol service at their sheltered housing scheme for over-60s.
So here we were, just a few weeks after stepping out and starting this team – unsure how God would lead us to connect more with our community and share God’s love – and we had an invitation right in front of us to go and share the good news with a group of people we had never connected with before.
“‘Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the LORD Almighty” reads another verse from the same chapter in Zechariah.
And that’s been our story so far.
That as we’ve stepped out and said “Lord, we’re not sure how, but please use us”, he has opened a door and given us an opportunity to share his good news in our neighbourhood.
And at this impromptu carol service, pulled together with a weeks’ notice, we were able to lead the elderly residents in Christmas carols. We shared with them how Jesus is the centre of the Christmas season and left them with a booklet sharing about the life, sacrifice and love of Jesus. Afterwards we got to chat with the elderly residents and get to know them, we even had the chance to pray with one of them right there in the communal lounge.
The joy on their faces as we listened and chatted with them was wonderful, and we left knowing God had brought us to that place at that time for a reason.
We didn’t get it all right – I only realised as we arrived that we didn’t have any large print song words or booklets to give out – but we were there, and God showed up.
As one lady left to return to her flat at the end of the evening, she told me she couldn’t read the booklet we’d given her, but that she was going to ask her care worker to read it to her the next day. Who knows what impact those words from the Bible will have in both those people’s lives?
So how do we feel looking ahead into 2017?
Humbled, that God saw our small step of faith, and chose to encourage and bless us with an open door so quickly.
Excited, at the opportunities that lie before us and the lives that could be impacted if we step out of our comfort zones and focus in on God’s heart for our neighbourhood.
Scared – if we’re honest – at the discomfort we may need to encounter, and the uncomfortable conversations we may face.
Nervous, that we might not follow through on the commitments we make, that we might count the cost and find it too costly, and that we’ll give up and go home and stop making the effort.
But trusting, that the God who called us will remain with us, and in the promise that we never do this alone:
“‘Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the LORD Almighty.”
Lucy Olofinjana is part of the church family at Woolwich Central Baptist Church in south-east London, and also heads up the Great Commission team at the Evangelical Alliance.