Connecting with neighbors to build authentic relationships and share the hope of Jesus is the core of Navigators Neighbors—and is actually the calling for all of us who follow Jesus. But how we connect with those in our sphere of influence can vary by community. In the tech-focused Bay Area of California, Matt Dorn (Navigators Neighbors) found that the NextDoor app was a great entry point for meeting people.
Someone posted on NextDoor looking for people to start playing ultimate Frisbee™ in a local park. Matt responded to the request and started playing with the men who came each Saturday morning. He shares about the natural connections that started through sports: “Since I played ultimate Frisbee competitively at the college level, I became the unofficial coach and taught some folks who have never played before. Many of the guys are from other countries. Real, natural friendships grew out of our shared time on Saturday mornings.”
Deeper opportunities to share life came as some of Matt’s new friends expressed needs and asked for his input. Matt has expertise in executive coaching, so two of his Indian friends sought him out for career advice. “We met over meals and talked about their work situations and career plans,” Matt says. “These conversations also developed into opportunities to talk more broadly about life and about God. I was able to share the gospel in natural ways.”
As additional opportunities and invitations were offered, Matt continued to say yes to next steps in relationships. Two Afghan friends from the ultimate Frisbee team asked Matt to join them on a hike up Mission Peak. As they climbed up the 2,100 foot peak, the conversation got more serious, sharing stories of relational pain from their past.
Soban* asked, “Hey coach, how have you and Grace managed to stay married for so long?”
Matt’s answer pointed them toward God’s love as the foundation for his marriage:
Over the years, a foundation has formed underneath our marriage that has kept it going. I don’t want to say any of this is a way that would offend you guys, or the traditions you have grown up in, but to answer your question I must tell you about our faith. Is that okay?
They said to go on, so I began to share my own story of learning to “get real” in my early 30’s. Getting real with people, getting real with Grace and others, and getting real with God—coming to know God in a personal way that showed me that He is all about a certain kind of love that goes far beyond anything I had known before. A love that goes way beyond religious systems and guilt. A love that is willing to love the other regardless of whether that love is reciprocated. The ancient word for this is “hesed.” A love that makes great sacrifices for the other. A love that is even willing to give one’s life for the other. I shared that this kind of love, that can only be truly found in God himself, is also the secret to a great marriage—one that lasts.
While Matt’s Afghan friends come from a different religious tradition, they consider themselves secular. Matt’s open and honest sharing on the hike led to more questions and deeper conversation. Saying yes to the hike, and to sharing about the foundation of his marriage, has planted seeds in the lives of Matt’s friends.
Matt is praying for his friends to come to know Jesus: “I long for them to become close friends of Jesus too. But for now, it seems that must start with me. Please pray that I will look like Jesus to them. Pray that their religious and cultural roots won’t close their hearts to hearing more about God and Jesus.”
This is a great reminder that evangelism can be natural, but that relational evangelism takes time! I find it’s also so easy to lose focus, and be way too caught up in the familiar dynamics of a friendship. It’s challenging!
This is an approach to sharing Christ that is desperately needed. Please keep this kind of stuff coming.
I love this! My brother is an athiest in Silicon Valley and I found myself relating to much of what the article talks about. It seems like a community that responds well to authenticity and commitment.
How wonderful, how natural is the love of Jesus!
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