This past year, I wanted to make a difference in my neighborhood. So I called every neighbor with children who lived within walking distance to my house and left this message:
"Hello, you don't know me, but this is Heather Holleman. I want to invite you and your children to join me in my front yard after dinner. I'll have jump ropes, bikes, a stopwatch for races, and some basketballs. I'd love to meet you. If you can't come tonight—don't worry—I'm going to be on my front doorstep every night after dinner for one hour for anybody who wants to come and play."
That night, 11 children came with their parents. We now have 14 families who meet regularly not only to keep fit, but to explore spiritual things. This calling to change the world from my doorstep has taught me three lessons that have revolutionized my approach to ministry and life purpose.
Lesson One: Love by Faith Those in Your Pathway
It wasn't natural for me to love the neighbors who live and act so differently from me. I didn't know how to respond when I saw the New Age altar in one woman's house where she prays and chants to her gods. I didn't know how to love my neighbors who grew up in poverty and struggle to keep a home, or what to say when my Buddhist friend talked about his meditation retreats. But I do know how to pray and let Jesus work through me to love these neighbors, get involved in their lives, and let God's love radiate from me.
I used to think I had to go somewhere to have a vibrant ministry. But I'm like the man Jesus healed in Mark 5 who wanted to follow him to the ends of the earth, and Jesus told him instead to go back to his village and share the good news. Staying put in my village means I deliberately invest in the people on my path—those who walk to school with me, put the garbage out when I do, and ride bikes on my street. I'm conserving enormous amounts of energy and having a ministry as I go about the natural rhythm of my days. I used to think that ministry meant going far away, exhausting both me and my family. We used to fill our nights with church activities that took so much energy to orchestrate and execute. Now nobody is exhausted. We invite the neighbors into what we're already doing.
Lesson Two: Learn What the Neighbors Need
My doorstep revolution began because I saw a need. Nobody was exercising. When I launched the fitness group, everybody responded because it was a legitimate need. That need then mushroomed into a vibrant neighborhood ministry.
Some neighborhoods might need a woman to organize a book club for empty-nesters. Some might need a game night, a coffee night, an ice cream social, a cooking group, a walking group, a homework club. Maybe a wealthier neighborhood needs to start a donation drive to resource local shelters. Or a disadvantaged neighborhood needs to gather for weekly potlucks or breakfasts before school. What if a parent passed out bagels and cartons of milk for kids before school? Just imagine what you can do right on your street!
Lesson Three: People Want to Hear about Jesus
If I'm praying about a situation or read something cool in Scripture, I tell my neighbors. If I'm struggling with doubt, I talk about it. I no longer look at evangelism as just a booklet. I see it as a lifestyle of authentically sharing the gospel as I go about my day. Just last week, I shared with my New Age neighbor how much I love Jesus.
I said, "Becky, does it bother you that I talk about Jesus so much?"
She said, "No! Don't stop talking about Jesus. I love hearing about him. Tell me everything you know about Jesus!"
I also talk to the children on the street about Jesus. I walk seven children to school each morning so their parents can make it to work on time. As we walk, I tell everyone how much God loves them. I talk about how he can protect and comfort them. I talk about how God wants us to be good students and what a great future he has in mind for them. I talk about how Jesus wants us to love one another. Not once has a child said, "Mrs. Holleman, please stop talking about Jesus." Instead, I get hugs, letters, drawings, and phone calls from the neighborhood kids.
I used to think that nobody wanted to hear about Jesus. I used to think I was bothering people, acting like some judgmental salesperson, or just being weird. But guess what? Jesus is good news, and my neighborhood wants to hear it. As one man put it at a potluck one night, "We have to talk about God. It won't be good if we don't talk about God."
So look out your doorstep and ask God how he wants to use you to change your world.