by Adam Zamora
When God calls us into His service, He often calls us to a specific place. We call it our Jerusalem. How do we best go about reaching and ministering in our Jerusalem? Do we just put up a sign and expect that people will come to us when they have a need? When I think of someone having a heart for their community, I think of the Lord Jesus in Matthew 23:37. He said, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing!” Jesus obviously had a heart for his community. His community ultimately proved its rejection toward Him by nailing Him to the cross. We probably won’t be received by our community through crucifixion, but I guarantee if we minister long enough, we will be rejected.
Sometimes, when we have been rejected, we can become adversarial toward the community where God has placed us to minister. Several years ago when I was ministering in southern California, I decided that the Lord wanted me to try to meet every family in my community. Well, that was a tall task when you consider that over 40 thousand homes are in my community. I thought people would welcome me with open arms, invite me into their homes for cookies and milk, fall down and ask me, “What must I do to be saved?”
I realized very quickly that things weren’t going to happen that way. I knew that God wanted me to follow through on the task, but I was not enjoying what I was doing. I would sometimes drive all the way to the top of a street where you could look down and see the entire city, and on a particular day I did just that. During a moment of disdain for the place that God had called me to, I looked down at my Jerusalem, and the words and heart of the Lord Jesus in Matthew 23:37 convicted my soul. I needed a greater heart for my Jerusalem. My wife and I went on to have several more fruitful years of ministry in that place, but I was very close to moving to a new Jerusalem because I thought I was being rejected.
Fellow servants of God, I want to encourage you to have a heart for the place to which God has called you. Jesus’ heart for His community ultimately lead Him to dying on the cross for them. Most of us are not going to be called upon to die for Jesus Christ, but we, too, should have a heart for the place God has called us to minister. It’s difficult to have a heart for people we don’t know; we are not going to reach our Jerusalem from the confines of our offices. I am all for studying and rightly dividing truth, but it’s hard to relate to our congregation and community if we seldom reach out to them.
Allow me to give a few suggestions on ministering to your Jerusalem.
First, be visible. The community that my church currently ministers to has seven to eight thousand homes in tract communities. We decided to personally contact every one of those families to find out if we could minister to them. The approach we use is simple: We knock on the door and introduce ourselves. We let them know that we are trying to be a blessing to our community, and we ask for prayer requests. We then invite them to church and add them to a prayer list if they will allow us. Most people are pretty open, and sometimes this leads to an opportunity to share Christ with them. We have gone into local businesses and done the same thing. Someone well said, “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” I have found this to be true. Dozens of families have visited over the last few years simply from reaching out in this fashion. Our goal wasn’t necessarily to see our church built from these visits, but, more importantly, to show some love for our neighbors and let them know we had a heart for them.
Second, be relatable. I do not agree with the philosophy that promotes dumbing down our message in order to reach the masses, but I do believe we need to be able to relate. We need to be able to understand the problems, the culture, and the people we are trying to minister to. Jesus was accused of being a friend of publicans and sinners simply because He spent time with those who needed help. Why shouldn’t we do the same? If our community has heard anything about our church at all, they have already drawn conclusions as to what they think of us. We often allow others to position us, when we should be positioning ourselves in the community. People may have all kinds of views of our church (they are expositional, they are conservative, etc.), but I want to make sure I lead our congregation to reach out to the community in such a way that the community knows sincerely that we have a love for them—and for Christ.
Third, participate in your community. When our community has a special event (parades, cancer walks, community anniversaries, rodeos), it should be our desire to show a heart for those people by participating somehow in the event. We should also be willing to participate in the events that our members and prospects a part of.
It truly is a privilege serving the Lord in His ministry. I echo what the apostle Paul wrote in 1 Timothy 1:12—“And I thank Christ Jesus our Lord who has enabled me, because He counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry.” Every day we get to wake up and give our lives for the service of Jesus Christ. Nothing in the world is more important than that. We are called of the Lord, enabled by the Lord, and get to minister in His name. Truly, what a privilege!
Adam Zamora is a church planter at Desert Hills Baptist Church, Buckeye, Ariz.