Jesus said, you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you and you WILL BE MY WITNESSES.

We confess what Scripture says in Acts 2:38, that in our baptism into Christ and his church we receive the Holy Spirit.  We also confess what Scripture says in Acts 1:8 that one of the things the Holy Spirit does is give us the power to be witnesses.  Looking at the church today do we see the power of the Holy Spirit in the witness of his people?

Tomorrow Christians around the world will be celebrating Holy Trinity Sunday, the one special Sunday each year that we celebrate and contemplate the mystery of the Holy Trinity, Father, Son, Holy Spirit, three persons - one God.  We confess with the whole church that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son.  The Father has given the gift of the Holy Spirit to the church to multiply the mission of Jesus through every baptized follower of Christ.

Proceeding from the Father and the Son, the Holy Spirit empowers every baptized follower of Jesus to be witnesses.  To be witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.  


I look at it this way: 
Jerusalem is your congregation.   
Judea is your neighborhood, it's your territory outside of the walls of your church building.   
Samaria are those who are near your neighborhood, but people you don't have much contact with.  
Ends of the earth are just that, all of the world that is outside the territory where you live. 

Lets look at each one in a little more detail

Jerusalem is your congregation: Jerusalem, your congregation, is where God gathers his people around Word and sacraments.  Jerusalem is where our God, Father, Son, Holy Spirit, is freely worshiped by his followers. Jerusalem is where the holy things are, where we feel safe and secure, where we find "sanctuary".  Jerusalem is where things are familiar and predictable, where everyone believes, teaches and confesses the same things we believe, teach and confess and we are all happy and blessed.  Jerusalem is our Mighty Fortress.  We feel comfortable being "witnesses" in our Jerusalem, especially when it's the pastors job to witness from the pulpit.  But our missionary God doesn't want us to stop and stay in Jerusalem.

Judea is your neighborhood: It's your territory outside of the walls of your church building.  This is where you live, where you work, and where you spend most of your time.  In Judea there may be other Christians, but it is here that you are surrounded with a lot of people with whom you share a lot in common, but where many do not know Jesus.  Judea is your mission field.  

Judea is where a lot of Christ followers start to get uncomfortable. In your neighborhood, where you live, work and play, being a witness can be unpredictable. In Judea, in YOUR neighborhood, you are no longer in the comfortable domain of Jerusalem where the pastor does the proclaiming of the Gospel from the pulpit. No, Judea is where God has placed you to be a witness to your family, friends, co-workers, and neighbors.

How can YOU be a witness in your Judea?  It can be scary and awkward to "witness" to your neighbors and friends, so I'm going to teach you a simple way to be a witness that is neither scary or awkward - simply be a good neighbor.  Be the neighbor that other people like.  Go out of your way to develop a good reputation in the neighborhood.  Put the garbage cans out for the elderly lady down the street.  Help the single mom with yard work.  Prepare a meal when you know someone is sick.  Smile and wave at people in your neighborhood. Say Hi to people.  Stop and ask people about their day.  Ask questions about them, and listen.  Simply develop good relationships and God will do his work in and through you.  It's that simple!

After you have developed a good reputation in your neighborhood, stretch out a little bit and begin inviting neighbors over for a summer BBQ, or dinner.  Throw a BBQ for the entire neighborhood.  Sponsor a 4th of July block party. Become known as the party place where neighbors can meet and develop relationships with you and each other.  You don't have to force Jesus down peoples throats, you don't have to memorize a "witnessing dialog" you don't have to do anything more than be the person Jesus wants you to be in your neighborhood.  Just be a good neighbor.  Simply love your neighbors and watch what God does.  Witnessing in your neighborhood, your Judea, is that simple.  As you develop a good reputation in your neighborhood, and as you begin to invite people over, pray that God would do his work in their lives through you.

God is at work in every human heart.  Everyone in your Judea, your neighborhood, is being pursued by God.  God is actively pushing their buttons and pursuing them in relationship.  Your job is to make yourself available for God to use you in whatever next step a person needs with God.  As you get to know your neighbors and intentionally develop a good reputation with them, God will open natural opportunities for you to encourage people, pray for people, and if you are really blessed you will get the chance to lead someone to faith, baptism and discipleship in Christ!

Being a witness the way I've laid out is not hard, and you have the Holy Spirit on your side empowering you with the power of God Almighty who is already at work in their lives!  Contact me, I'd love to help you take baby steps in being a witness to your neighborhood.

Samaria: Are those who are near your neighborhood, but people you don't have much contact with.  These are people who probably live on the "wrong sides of the track" who need Jesus but you don't see them very often.  After you have mastered being a witness in your Judea, you can move on to Samaria.  Being a witness in Samaria requires a little more work than it does in Judea.  Samaria is full of the "wrong" kind of people.  These are people who are broken in addiction to drugs, alcohol, sex.  They are people who have been abused, forgotten and discarded.  They are lower income people who don't live by the same morals you do.  They are people who wouldn't darken the door of your church building, but who desperately need Jesus.  The best way to reach Samaria is through Missional Communities.  If you Contact me, we can talk about Missional Communities and I can help you get started with baby steps to help you get out into the harvest!

The ends of the earth are just that, all of the world that is outside the territory of your immediate space.  Ends of the earth could be foreign missions, but it could also be mission close to home to people who come here from foreign lands.

If you want more I'm here to serve.  I would be happy to help you learn how to step out in simple, easy ways to engage your neighborhood with the love of Jesus.  Contact me I'd love to talk mission with you.
James The Elder
5/25/2013 14:22:37

Thank you, again, Eric. What if every Christian actually tried to love their neighbor as themselves? At the Lutheran church I attend, it seems that because we confess that we have not loved our neighbor as ourselves, that we are off the hook to try. Sounds crazy but it's true. So thank you for the practical how to's, and thank you for encouraging one old Lutheran to realize, yet again, that while I am forgiven for not loving my neighbor as myself, I am not free to stop trying.

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Zack
5/26/2013 13:18:05

I really like the practical side to what Eric has to say. This is not just theory but he sounds like he knows what he's talking about from personal experience. It is the personal experience that is so lacking sometimes from people who are trying to tell us to reach more people. I'm a Lutheran pastor who was trained by the seminary to do Word and sacrament ministry to the gathered people of God. I was never trained or equipped to lead evangelism. Really, it seems evangelism isn't important to our seminaries. But what happens when our churches keep declining and our people keep getting older? No one told me how to deal with this. So I like Eric's approach. What I've read in his blogs seems doable, I really like the idea of baby steps and doing things that are low risk and high grace. My congregation is small and we don't have the money for a consultant, but I've contacted Eric and he is helping us for free. The man has a heart for lost people and it shows.

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