by Julie Davenport
Much of life has to do with our perspective or point of view. I am so thankful for God's word often making me aware of my point of view. Many times, during worship or a sermon, the Lord has spoken to me about my perspective.
Although I was raised on the King James Version of the Bible and now mainly read the New International Version, sometimes I get another perspective from paraphrases such as The Message:
“The Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighborhood.” John 1:14 MSG
When Jesus came to earth, He moved into our neighborhood.
A few years ago, I resigned a staff position at church because of needs in my family. I walked my neighborhood feeling a little sorry for myself and thinking, "I wish I could go to an unreached people group!"
I had recently done a 30-day LIVE DEAD devotional. LIVE DEAD focuses on the unreached people in our world today. I have a few friends who are missionaries to these unreached peoples, and I greatly admire them. They are heroes to me.
I know it is not all glorious and glamorous to minister to unreached people. It is hard. It is a sacrifice. However, I got to thinking about what my missionary friends often do to reach these people.
They move into the neighborhood.
I was convicted as I felt the Lord speak to me that if I wanted to reach the unreached, all I needed to do was to look around me at my own neighborhood. Many of my neighbors living within walking distance do not know the Lord.
I began to pray for the Lord to use me to reach my neighborhood. That very day on my walk, I saw a young mother strapping her baby in a car seat. I could see that she was crying. I walked up to her and started a conversation. She was going through a very difficult situation in her marriage very similar to what I had gone through years ago in my own first marriage. I began a relationship with her that continues today, some seven years later. I invited her to my house. I sat with her kids when she went to court. We talked and stayed in touch. She got a job as a real estate agent and was our realtor when we sold our house. She recently visited my church and is doing well.
I began to invite other neighbors over to my house for coffee or tea. In the winter, I made a pot of chili and invited a few close neighbors over. In the summer, we had a barbecue and invited a few more close neighbors. I helped organize a block party. We lived in that neighborhood for five years. By the time we moved, I knew over fifty of my neighbors by name.
One of the neighbors who had some hurts from church and was only watching online is now a dear friend and involved in our church. Three other neighbors have visited our church. My next-door neighbor became a dear friend and is walking with the Lord. When our other next-door neighbor had a tragedy in their family, I went with her to the hospital to visit her son and walked through it with them. The husband of the couple who bought our house when we moved a year ago passed away from COVID-19 within months after moving. I invited her to our new house for coffee. She now attends our church and is in our life group.
When we moved to a new neighborhood, I was excited for a new mission field. However, it was in the middle of the pandemic, so I didn't meet as many neighbors at first. Nevertheless, in the summer when they opened the neighborhood pool, I met several women in my new neighborhood. (I guess you could say that I have been called to "pool ministry"). I am looking forward to my walks this spring and summer hoping to meet more neighbors.
For many years, I was so busy attending committee meetings and ministering to those already saved, my focus was not on those right in my neighborhood who needed relationship and needed Jesus. I am thankful for those who are called to minister and disciple those already in a relationship with the Lord. We all have different callings and seasons, but maybe you are in a season where you have more time? Maybe you are looking for more purpose?
I am sharing this not to bring attention to what I have done. I am sharing it in hopes that whether you are in a position or you are retired: Don't forget about your neighborhood! There are unreached people in your path. Jesus came to seek and to save the lost. We are called to do the same.
Just like those overseas, you don't always get converts immediately. Sometimes it takes months and years of building a relationship. Sometimes it involves simply listening to someone's story before you are able to share the full story of Jesus.
There are people all around us who are hurting and who don't know the Lord. You may not be able to walk your neighborhood, but what about the people who come across your path at the gym or the grocery store or the restaurant or the hair salon? May the Lord help each of us to reach those who are in our path and in our neighborhoods.
Jesus heard about it and spoke up, “Who needs a doctor: the healthy or the sick? I’m here inviting outsiders, not insiders—an invitation to a changed life, changed inside and out.” Luke 5:31-32 MSG
If one word could depict a life, Julie Davenport’s would be “redemption.” As a child, Julie’s character was forged within a legacy of faith, godliness, and ministry, so when she married a charismatic young pastor on the fast-track to prominence, life was everything she’d dreamed it would be...on the outside. But inside, alone and hidden from view, Julie endured abuse, betrayal, and infidelities that spiraled to include miscarriage, cancer, divorce, mental illness, and eventually suicide. Julie is now an ordained AG minister who through speaking engagements and two daughters continues the legacy of ministry, God is using Julie’s life-story to validate His immeasurable grace and prove His power to redeem what Satan tried so hard to destroy.
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