Proximity

23 01 2014

proximity

There is an old story told of a farmer who had gone inside his house just prior to sunset to avoid a large storm that was brewing in the vicinity. As he was preparing for dinner, he looked out his window and saw a tiny sparrow perched on the electric line that ran down from his house. He knew that if that bird stayed there as the storm hit, it would be killed. He felt sorry for the bird and got an idea. He went out to the barn and opened the door. His thinking was that the sparrow would see the open door, fly into the barn, and find safety from the coming storm. But, the bird just sat there too scared to move. Next the farmer started up an old kerosene lantern and placed it inside the barn. Maybe the bird will see the light and fly in, but, again, the bird just sat on his perch. The man then ran inside and found some bread. He put pieces under the electric wire in a line that led to the door of the barn, but every time the little bird got close to the door, he flew back to his perch. Slowly, the man shook his head and said to himself, “I wish that I could become a sparrow and fly to the little bird and tell him of the danger so that he would be safe from the storm.”

What we could never do, God did through the person of Jesus in that miraculous event that we call the Incarnation. In a sense, God became a sparrow to save all the other birds from certain death. Through, Jesus, God drew close to us and invites us to an abundant, eternal life. Now Jesus calls us to do the same. In John 20:21 he says, “As the Father has sent Me, I also send you.” We are called in this commission statement to do as Jesus did and draw close to men and women who need to hear the life-saving gospel. In order to get this message to people that need to hear it, we must first be in close proximity to them. It is easy to think of this in terms of international missions. If you wanted to share the gospel with an unreached people group in a particular country, you would need to fly there. In the case of local missions, the simplicity of the concept of proximity sometimes eludes the best of Christians. Locally, we have our churches along with our fellowships and activities that we do with other believers. We have Bible studies during the week. We have our Christian bookstores. We have our Christian schools. There is certainly nothing wrong with any of this, except when we completely surround ourselves with such a solid wall of Christian “stuff” that we can not get out or others can not get in to us. To fulfill the command of Jesus to make disciples, we must first place ourselves in close proximity to those who have not accepted Jesus.

To place yourself in close proximity to others that need to hear the gospel locally, is not difficult; it just takes intentionality. We will not naturally do this. Our natural way is to find the path of least resistance, so instead of inviting friends over to watch the game with you, you curl up in your recliner by yourself. Instead of putting the headphones on during your workout at the gym, take them off and engage in conversations. Instead of hiking by yourself, join a hiking club. There are a thousand different ways that we can put ourselves in places that might give us the opportunity to share the gospel. Obviously, there is more to seeing people saved, than just being close, but this is a start.

This concept of proximity can be explored further in a great book by Brad Brisco & Lance Ford called Missional Essentials: A Guide for Experiencing God’s Mission in Your Life.


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