By Dennis Turner, Director of Leadership Development
As a pastor-with-no-church, this is the first December in 20 years that I will not be preaching a series of messages on the incarnation or on the stories of angels, shepherds, Magi, or the unlikely parents setting out for Bethlehem. I won’t be leading Christmas pageants, cantatas, or candlelight services. However, what I do get to look forward to is visiting churches and simply worshiping the newborn King.
This Advent season I want to follow in Jesus’ footsteps. Our Master has modeled for us how to live like Him to reach spiritually lost people. Some call this incarnational ministry. There are thoughtful reasons why that term is probably not the most useful. In the Central District, we speak of ‘missional living.’ I challenge you to engage in missional living THIS Christmas.
As I look back on my pastoral ministry, I was preoccupied with Christmas “for-the-church.” Although I invited many unsaved neighbors and friends to our services, most never came. Those who did, I was not able to interact with because I was too busy leading the services and events. I didn’t practice what I wanted our people to practice. Will you? Pray that the Lord would open doors for you and your congregation to introduce people to the Savior this Christmas! Jesus modeled this for us.
First: “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us…” (John 1:14). For you and me, our homes and everyday lives are the best place to show and share Christ.
Missional Idea #1: “Christmas Gatherings” Years ago, this was a district-wide strategy of using our homes to share Christ with unbelievers. How it works: Christians invite non-Christian friends to their homes for refreshments. The host has everyone share personal Christmas/holiday traditions as a mixer. The host then reads part of the biblical Christmas story and gives a brief reflection about its meaning. Pick a date and time, and send invitations to your lost neighbors and friends, making sure the invitation outlines what will happen (no bait and switch allowed).
Second: “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sake He became poor, so that you through His poverty might become rich.” (2 Corinthians 8:9). Many of us struggle with spending (wasting?) money on more stuff that we don’t need. Some non-Christians feel the same way.
Missional Idea #2: “Simple Christmas” Invite non-Christian friends to join you in financially supporting a worthy cause and buying less stuff for yourselves. Consider serving somewhere together on or around Christmas Day. Make sure to share your motive from this lesser-known Christmas verse, 2 Corinthians 8:9.
For ideas on supporting a worthy cause, consider places that are taking care of “the least of these” - the abused or the displaced. Make sure the charity is not simply a place for handouts, but places that are making a deeper impact. This requires some research. Many in the Alliance have significant contacts for this.
Third: “Therefore, since the children share in flesh and blood, He Himself likewise also partook of the same, that through death He might render powerless him who had the power of death, that is, the devil.” (Hebrews 2:14). Jesus came not only to save us from sin, but to free us from the effects of the enemy. Only Jesus can render Satan powerless, but we can pray that Jesus would do so for others.
Missional Idea #3: “The Gift of Prayer” Instead of caroling, go praying. Pick a neighborhood, a street, or apartment complex, etc. Prepare a simple, usable gift (hot chocolate packs, wrapping paper, etc.; not just a gospel tract). Gather your family or a few Christian friends, knock on doors, wish people a “Merry Christmas,” offer the gift, share that you are a church group and simply want to know how you could pray for them. They may close the door in your face. If so, go in peace. If they share something, ask if ONE of you could pray right then. If they give you permission, do so briefly. This could lead to deeper conversations or ongoing relationship.
These are the kinds of things ‘healthy churches’ do at Christmas. Because I am not actively pastoring in a church, God is giving me perspective I’ve never had before. I look back on my ministry and realize how much of Christmas I spent on myself, my family, and my church.
My challenge to myself and to you is to actually introduce people to the Savior more than we invite them to our services.