The Stay-at-Home Evangelist
By Afton Rorvik
Evangelism. The word has always made my stomach quiver and my heart pound. I am, after all, a certified introvert. I’ve taken the tests.
I love God and have spent decades trying to know Him better, but I like to keep my faith to myself, thank you.
So when my new neighbor, a woman I’d met at church, approached me about starting a Bible study for other women in our neighborhood, I panicked and quickly said, “No. Not right now.” After all, I had just moved in.
But my neighbor didn’t give up. At every block party she mentioned the idea. I finally told her, “I’ll pray about it.”
And I did – on my own and with my neighbor. Once a week for about six weeks Becky and I met to pray by name for the women in our neighborhood. At first I remained detached. I can do this, I’d think. I can pray names. But then I began to consider the souls attached to the names. Praying for souls seemed weightier.
Finally I discovered a verse I had never really digested, right in the middle of my favorite psalm:
I do not hide your righteousness in my heart; I speak of your faithfulness and salvation. I do not conceal your love and your truth from the great assembly. Psalm 40:10
I came to the terrifying conclusion that I did indeed need to help Becky start a Bible study for our neighborhood.
To help us get started, Becky and I attended a workshop that Neighborhood Bible Studies sponsored at our church. We came away with materials we could use to launch a study. We also came away inspired by stories of others who had taken the challenge – and lived to tell about it.
Becky and I followed the suggestions offered at the workshop. We designed a flyer announcing an evening dessert followed by a brief discussion about having a Bible study. We delivered the flyers to the neighbors on both of our streets. And we kept praying.
The night of the dessert arrived. I pulled some dining-room chairs into my living room so we would have lots of seating. Then I pulled them out again. I checked and rechecked the coffeepot. Becky showed up, and we sat nervously in the living room, wondering if the doorbell would ring.
About 10 minutes later, it did. And then it rang again. And again. Soon my living room was filled with neighbors, including those women we had prayed for by name. I raced to the dining room for more chairs.
We talked and laughed and ate together. After a while, Becky explained our idea for a Bible study: we would meet for two hours every other week and use a study guide to help us discuss the book of Mark. She emphasized that this group was not intended for experts. We were all there to learn from the Bible and each other.
Next I asked if the women would like to do a sample study. They agreed, so I passed out Neighborhood Bible Study guides and Bibles with bookmarks in Mark. I read the first few verses of Mark 2 aloud. Then I took a deep breath and asked the first study question. Someone answered.
We discussed two more questions before I asked, “Well, what do you think? Would you like to do this together?” I wanted to bolt for the door before anyone had time to answer.
“Yes,” said one neighbor. “I would like to do this.”
Another neighbor nodded. “I would too. Let’s start next week.”
We picked a day for our next meeting, and everyone went home. I sat stunned and shaking. Had I really just invited my neighbors to study the Bible with me? And had they really agreed?
And so, every other Tuesday evening, five or six of us met and explored the book of Mark. We had coffee and usually something chocolate. Most weeks, we chatted for a half hour before starting discussion. Becky and I took turns asking the study questions. We also took turns hosting the studies until other members of the group offered to open their homes.
During our study we met the Pharisees and discovered they were not the “good guys” we expect church leaders to be. We met Jesus and observed His life and ministry. We read about people who chose to follow Him and others who rejected Him.
It took us two years to finish the book, with breaks for holidays and summers. Much to my surprise, everyone who started the study wanted to keep going. At block parties, I even heard women in our study tell other neighbors about the group: “You should come. It’s fun.”
In those two years, we got to know each other. We talked about our joys and sorrows, neighborhood construction projects, and kids. We laughed together. I began to call these women friends. But more important, they got to know Jesus.
Our group continues to meet twice a month. Recently one of the women explained, “I’m not quite sure when it happened, but I think I became born again during our study of Mark.” Before our study, she had never read the Bible on her own.
“I guess it’s about relationship, isn’t it?” another woman said one night in response to a discussion question. “I never knew God wanted a relationship with me.”
On the nights after Bible study, I often lie awake marveling at the way God has worked in our neighborhood. I entered the experience with fear, thinking I would have to know and be able to explain everything in the Bible to women who knew little about it. Instead I discovered that God speaks clearly through Scripture. It’s His Word, not mine, that changes hearts.
David expresses my feelings so well:
Many, O Lord my God, are the wonders you have done. The things you planned for us no one can recount to you; were I to speak and tell of them, they would be too many to declare. Psalm 40:5
And to think I almost missed this wonder!
This article “The Stay-At-Home Evangelist” written by Afton Rorvik is excerpted from www.neighborhoodbiblestudy.org the December 2005 newsletter.