When Harry and Sally came to me two years ago, they asked for help to carry the message of Christ into the city of Richmond, VA. They both said that they have no idea how to connect with those outside the faith. All their friends were “church people” and they were stuck in a Christian bubble. They kept asking “how” to live the incarnational life, so I invited them to come and see how we were having meals with our friends. But Harry and Sally had an increasing amount of angst and guilt that they were building up inside themselves about reaching our city, and they became impatient.
I recommended that they begin getting to know new people in the city and inviting them over for meals, but surely that was “too simple!” I recommended some books but they were too busy to read. I recommended that they get some coaching but they were also too busy for that. I had no idea how to help this couple who indicated need for help, but didn’t seem to connect with any of my proposed solutions!
After some prayer, it appears that something just “clicked” for Harry and Sally. They finally stepped out and started a social gathering in a brewery downtown. Initially they had a good response and they poured themselves into it and it kept growing and meeting with more and more frequency until Harry and Sally burned out. But this was vital for them to learn how to slow down a bit more and trust the Lord with His work. Later, I met up with them in the same brewery and the owner came up and expressed, with utter sincerity, how much it meant to him that they were hosting those gatherings in his brewery and how much he missed them! In that moment, Harry and Sally realized the value and impact of just loving people in a simple way. This sparked a renewed interest and vigor within Harry and Sally, so they returned to the brewery (with a bit more wisdom about how to rest and slow down and just be with people).
Suddenly, the gathering grew again and multiplied and new members came in and started new table gatherings. People started hanging out at each other's houses and in cafes and breweries and restaurants across the city. Harry and Sally just began slowly and intentionally loving people where they were at, and as a result, many people were introduced to Jesus. It all started with Jesus, a table, and a slower pace.
I recently sat down with Harry and Sally and asked them the exact question that they asked me years ago: how do you do this incarnational ministry thing? This time, it was I who was learning from them. They expressed how to live deeply in community around the table with friends. The insights and depth of wisdom that they had gained from simply being doers of the Word (not merely hearers) was incredible. They spoke of love with a tone of knowing. They spoke of patience as one who knows the beauty of slowness. They spoke of people as beautifully made in the image of God. They spoke of Jesus being there at the table with them all along. It just took a bit of slowness to see His presence and to realize His movement!
(details have been changed for confidentiality as this story is still unfolding)