Our life groups at Grace are a place where people can get to know others and be known by them. They’re small enough for discussion, prayer and encouragement. But our vision for the groups is to look for opportunities for neighbourhood-sized mission projects. Who can we serve in Jesus’ name? How can we reach out to people around us? How can we make Jesus known? They’re not easy questions to answer but they’re important ones to deal with if we’re going to be faithful to Jesus’ commission. Back in January, I contacted one of our missionaries, Darryl Dash, and asked if there were any ways that our life group might serve with them. That call led to our involvement in the Toronto Art Crawl in Liberty Village last Saturday. Let me share what I observed.
1. You get points for just showing up. Darryl and Charlene Dash moved to Liberty Village in downtown Toronto about six years ago. Since then they have worked at becoming a part of the community. If something’s going on in Liberty Village, they look for ways to participate in it. Just showing up shows you care. When Liberty Grace Church first began services, there were plenty of people who didn’t want the church there. Since then, they’ve shown that they’re committed to being a part of the community and the ice has thawed. When the Toronto Art Crawl planned to host an event in Liberty Village Park, Darryl reserved an area, and brainstormed ways that they might use the event to bless their community in Jesus’ name.
2. You can’t love neighbours you don’t know. On Saturday, we displayed three large panels with the Toronto Skyline painted on them. Passers by were invited to add to the mural with paints that we had on hand for them to use. Surprisingly, almost everyone was more than happy to contribute. As they did, we talked. Most of our conversations were short and simple. But we let them know that their ‘artwork’ would be on display at Liberty Grace Church and it gave us an opportunity to introduce the church to neighbours. You can’t love neighbours you don’t know and so the event was a great opportunity to get to know them better.
3. You minister to the many, to reach the few. The connections we had with people at the booth were warm and friendly. Almost all of the other booths were trying to sell artwork, so some people were looking for an angle for our booth. One person asked, “Are you guys selling something or just trying to make people happy?” Another person came up and asked whether we’d be doing another BBQ sometime soon. I was able to connect him with Darryl with the date of their next one. One person turned me down when I invited her to contribute to the mural. She explained that she wasn’t interested in the art but did want to know more about the church. She was recovering from a bad church experience but was looking for a community of faith. With any outreach ministry, you need to be prepared to minister to the many in order to reach the few. Too often, we can be impatient and want to rush a gospel conversation that the person isn’t ready for. I was impressed by Darryl’s patient, deliberate engagement.
4. If it feels like hard work, it’s because it is. I think that we want to fulfill the great commission as Christians, but we don’t want to interrupt our lives to do so. Serving with Liberty Grace on Saturday was a long day for everyone. We left at 9 am and didn’t get back until after 9 pm. At about 1:30 pm, I was excited about the opportunities and then looked at my watch – did we really have another 4 ½ hours left? The work of making Christ know has never been simple. It involves effort and planning. It’s hard work. But it’s the best kind of hard work. It’s work that glorifies God and draws people a step closer to the Saviour.
If you’re not a part of a life group, I’d encourage you to become a part of one. Life groups are the place where our faith gets worked out in real life. If you are in a life group, I’d encourage you to think about your neighbourhood mission. Where does your group need to ‘show up’ in the neighbourhood? How can you get to know people in the community? What are some ways that you could serve people in Jesus’ name?
In awe of Him,