Our Wednesday vespers group has been examining the instructions Jesus gave his Disciples when he gave them "The Great Commission".
The great commission is "Go and make Disciples of all nations." These words are found in the final two verse of Matthew as Jesus is leaving behind his purpose for his followers. In the book of Mark his final instructions to them are slightly different as he states, "Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation." So with these instructions comes the task of leaving the comfortable surroundings of the inner circle and going to the outer community - the outer circle. The going part is easily understood. We cannot remain in the same location to do this. The making Disciples part and preaching the Good News part is where we might get a bit troubled with the how. The who, where, what, and why is apparent. Simply put everyone, everywhere, introducing Gods Amazing Grace, because Jesus said so!
So back to the how and back to the vespers group. I was asked to lead the group on how we go about doing this. How we go about sharing the love and life of Jesus to others. Possibly sharing our faith journey, our personal relationship with Jesus, our own personal introduction to God's amazing grace, with our neighbor or a stranger. First, we discussed how to greet our neighbors. Getting out and about is the starting point. We must first greet them and meet them before any other information is exchanged. Smiling and small talk is the first step. We talked about finding common ground or a joint interest and keeping the initial contact casual and friendly.
The scriptural example for bible based greetings that I chose that night was that of when the angel first met Mary, (Luke 1:28-29) And he came to her and said, "Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you." But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. What I like about this greeting is that it is highly complimentary. It is soothing and yet surprising. Mary was not expecting this interaction at all. Mary was thrown off guard. We must be mindful that our greetings to our neighbors may catch them off guard as well, and allow for the greeting to sink in before continuing further with a conversation. To me this means we may need to have several greetings before we ever have a meaningful talk. We must get to know one another, make a connection to one another, be present as Pastor Fay explained. Pastor Israel remarked we need to be "In the spirit" and be aware that we are "sent by God" when making connections, and bonding with others.
There were several exchanges of how we ourselves have been approached and greeted by believers only to be offended and discouraged that the conversation was not endearing. For numerous reasons the greeting, motivation, and content from some believers was invasive and rote. Leading us to feel the messenger was impersonal. We also had a time of one on one conversation to ask and answer the questions like "How do we like to be greeted at church? What was our first visit like and were we okay with the greeting we received?" Trying to remember what it was like for us to be the new person is necessary when approaching the visitor or the stranger in our daily activities.
Other insights and tips were to use quick openers based on non judgmental observations of interests, i.e. pets, children, hobbies, etc. Share who you are before asking about them. Introduce yourself! Let the introduction progress naturally. Allow the neighbor to extend the conversation. If they are interested in continuing the conversation leave it in their hands.
Just because we have opportunities to meet new neighbors doesn't make it easy to do. We find out that some of us are shy, while others are concerned about privacy-both our neighbors and ourselves.
It appears we have just opened the can on this topic and need more conversations and practical experience to achieve a confidence in going out and making friends in the name of Jesus as we introduce Gods Amazing Grace to the Nations.
Come join us for our next vespers meeting every Wednesday evening, it will allow us to practice our hospitality and greetings as well as our faith sharing with others. God bless!