FIRST-PERSON: Taking Christ to the downtown condos
INDIANAPOLIS (BP)--We sold our sprawling suburban home, gave away most of our furniture, and moved into a small condo in downtown Indianapolis. Like hundreds of thousands of people across America, we've become urban, multi-housing dwellers.
It's astonishing to realize that well over half of all people living in North America reside in multi-housing, such as condos, apartments and high rises, and an estimated 95 percent of multi-housing residents are lost without Christ. Think of that as you drive past multi-housing in your area today. Downtown Indy has 20,000 residents in its one-mile square, and almost all live in multi-housing. So when I walk out my door, there are likely 19,000 people (95 percent) within a few blocks who need Jesus. What a mission field!
How can a Christian tiptoe through rules, privacy issues and cultural barriers to share Christ in urban condos or apartments? Here are five tips:
-- Check it out. Careful research helps focus your evangelism or church planting efforts. For example, condo dwellers, according to the U.S. Census, have higher than average incomes. Our condo houses government leaders, business professionals, retirees, medical students, professional athletes, and more. The census reveals that condos have much larger proportions of both young and elderly occupants. It's true. Instead of families, we primarily see singles, young couples, empty-nesters and retirees. Get research help at namb.net, census.gov and lifeway.com.
-- Get out. Casually initiate relationships in your apartment or condo with the intention of sharing Christ. Make yourself accessible. If your condo has a gym, exercise regularly. Rooftop barbecue? Grill. Walk your dog. Jog. Participate in local activities. Frequent the nearby coffee shop. Attend condo meetings and events. Keep a list of neighbors you meet, and pray for them. Systematically invite each person on your floor for tea or lunch.
-- Watch out. Sharing Christ in urban multi-housing areas comes with a whole different set of challenges. Don't unintentionally negate your influence. Knocking door-to-door is probably prohibited. When a pizza deliveryman recently hung flyers on condo doors, residents ranted for weeks and deluged the restaurant manager with irate calls. Meticulously follow condo or apartment policies. Park correctly. Don't let strangers in the building. Pick up after your pet. Use the proper community board or web-board for church ads.
-- Live it out. After living in our condo a while, we're amazed how often neighbors we barely know ask for advice or help because we're the only Christians they know. Carefully guard your words and reputation. Live joyfully. Loan a Christian book. Wear a Christian t-shirt. Welcome newcomers and invite them to your church. Offer to pray for someone. Begin a Bible study. Share a testimony about God's work in your life.
-- Help out. Respond quickly when God opens ministry doors. Jump a dead battery. Help carry groceries. Offer a lift to the airport. Sign for a package. Help in crisis situations. Share soup on a snowy day. Send a sympathy note. Deliver cookies to new residents and give tips about the area. Be a friend first. Opportunities to share Christ will follow.
America's multi-housing residences are bulging with evangelistic opportunities. The 20,000 residents within blocks of my door are projected to double in number by 2020. We may need a little help up here!
Father God, give me a compassionate heart to see my neighbors through your eyes. Please bring laborers for this harvest among urban dwellers.
"Jesus went about all the cities and villages ... but when he saw the multitudes, He was moved with compassion on them ... " (Matthew 9:35-36).
Diana Davis is author of "Fresh Ideas" (B&H Publishing) and wife of the North American Mission Board vice president for the Midwest region. Visit her website, www.keeponshining.com.