Intensely Local Ministry is as Simple as a Garden Trowel

I heard a great story today. I was sitting with a pastor who is excited about loving his people yet challenged by the need to revitalize the congregation. It has not been easy. But his eyes brightened as he told the story of Diane (not her real name).

Diane is a married empty nester who read the local newspaper and saw that a neighbor five houses away had lost her husband. A moment of prayer for her neighbor’s loss led to an awakened heart to God’s purposes. Some days later, she saw her newly widowed neighbor outside in the garden. Diane picked up her own garden gloves and trowel and walked down the street and introduced herself to her previously unknown neighbor. Five houses away but unnamed for decades.

“I live right up the street (5 houses away),” she said pointing to her home over her shoulder.  Her ungloved hand was extended in friendship and the smile on her face broke the new loneliness of Esther (also not her real name). Near 80 and alone for the first time in more than half a century, the new voice of a long time neighbor brightened her eyes.

“I saw the notice of your husband’s death and wanted to pay my respects and then when I saw you in the garden, I thought I would just come and keep you company.” Esther welcomed her new friend into the presence of his flowers and the two began to dirty their hands in bringing life out of soil.

Some days later, Diane had a roast in the pot and a new thought. Moments later she knocked on Esther’s door. “I have a roast in the pot, and it’s just me and my husband. It’s always more fun to cook for three than it is for two, would you please come and join us.”

The summer passed and Diane and Esther became entwined in one another’s lives. One week, a flower, another week, a dinner, another day a trip to the grocery store together, and eventually, 80-year-old Esther, who hadn’t been to a church in years found herself becoming a regular attender at Diane’s church and a whole new group of friends. Friends who loved her and knew her loss but who told her the gospel and the gains won at a cross outside Jerusalem nearly 2000 years ago.

Intensely local ministry is being available and obedient to the Spirit to love your neighbor at the point of their need.

Excuse me: I have 19 inches of opportunity laying on my neighbor’s driveway and sidewalk to take advantage of. Please pray for my back.

Observations:

  • Great things happen when we are open to the Spirit’s leading.
  • God can use the simplest tools if our hearts are committed to being friendly.
  • Being intensely local involves serving others.
  • Look for opportunities to serve.

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