She was a new mom who stayed home with her baby boy. A woman in the neighborhood was home with her growing family as well. She, along with a few other ladies from the neighborhood, led a Bible study and invited the new mom to join them. The good news was on their tongues and expressed in their deeds towards her. They told her about a God who offered forgiveness of sins through his own death and resurrection. She was accepted and loved by these women, and so she believed God could accept and love her through Jesus. God used these neighborhood women to shine his light into this new mom’s heart; she believed by faith in the son of God and accepted his words as true. Her husband could see the change in her and began to ask questions. After meeting up with the husband of the woman who led the Bible study, he came to faith as well.
This couple grew in their passion for the gospel as their family grew in size. They desired to tell others the same message they were told and began cultivating relationships in their surrounding neighborhood and workplace. Many years later, as this couple and their youngest daughter were gathered in their family room discussing the Bible, this father led his little girl to Christ and she was forever changed. That little girl was me.
Because of this, my parent’s heart for evangelism spread to me. I spent much of my high school and college years intentionally building relationships with unbelievers, sharing the gospel with strangers, and passing out tracts. I even wanted to bring this message to other nations as a missionary. But God was leading me to a different season than I imagined for myself. A season that didn’t look like typical missions work or much of an evangelistic opportunity. I was to become a wife and mother.
My husband and I decided I would stay home with the kids, so my interactions with the outside world were mainly the cashier at the grocery store, the children’s librarian, and people at the park. My limited interactions were fraught with countless interruptions, distractions, and little moments of crises. Sometimes I just wanted to get back home quickly. I didn’t understand how this desire to evangelize matched up with motherhood, especially the part of motherhood that involved changing diapers and cleaning spit up. And I would feel guilty for not actively sharing the gospel with someone else.
But I was thinking about motherhood and evangelism wrong. I’m in a new season now, and evangelism will naturally look different for me. There is nothing wrong with that. My mom’s neighborhood friend was being faithful right where God had her—in her neighborhood and family life. She invited my mom to be a part of her life by cultivating a relationship with her. She shared her life and the good news. There were concrete actions and clear words. All she did was extend an invitation to my mom, and be her friend, then the Spirit of God did the rest. He opened the eyes of my mom’s heart. Her friend didn’t have to bear the burden of salvation, she just had to be faithful with her words and actions that would testify of the gospel in her life.
I’ve learned that evangelism can be making friends with another mom at the park or story time. It’s about intentionality and following up with getting a phone number, and texting about getting together for a playdate with an unbelieving neighbor on my block. And yet I feel evangelism in this season doesn’t end here.
When Jesus walked this earth he made disciples. He called them to come and follow him. He didn’t share a brief three point sermon, knock on a door, pass out a tract, and then walk away. Jesus went the distance. He walked the same roads as his followers and traveled in their shoes. Jesus was a spiritual parent to his wayward children—patiently instructing, rebuking, and caring for them amidst their setbacks and struggles. Making a disciple takes time. Jesus was continually showing his followers who he was and what he was about before they professed he was the Messiah, and even after their profession, Jesus stayed by their sides in their failures and weaknesses. But when he ascended to heaven, leaving behind the Holy Spirit, he said this:
“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28:18-20).
Making disciples doesn’t just pertain to my unbelieving neighbor, it pertains to my children. Disciple making should be a feet of endurance and long suffering, not a quick sprint to be passed off to the next runner. What best exemplifies this type of discipleship than motherhood? We’re inviting our children to come and follow Jesus with us. As Jesus parented his disciples, so we are patiently and daily pointing our children to the gospel message with our words and actions. Like Jesus, we’re in this for the long haul with our children as they come to know the God who made them and the Savior who died for them.
With this perspective of evangelism and motherhood, I can change the baby’s diaper as an expression of a type of sacrificial love that reflects Jesus. I can teach both my boys that the gospel is their only hope for change and right living, while I reach out to the mom next door. I can love my children and the mom from story time. They are both my neighbor. When I offer my children grace, love, and acceptance in their failures I’m pointing them to a greater version of these things in Christ. Just the same, when I extend an invitation for a playdate with an unbeliever I’m reflecting a greater invitation from the Savior. I’m being faithful where God has me. The fruit of this faithfulness will spring up in future generations, like the young mom learning about Jesus from the neighborhood women, to the dad in the family room with his daughter. I’m reaping the harvest and sharing it today. I can trust God with the new seeds I plant now.
Liz Wann is a freelance writer who lives in Philadelphia with her husband, two sons, and a daughter on the way. She is Editor in Chief at Morning by Morning and regularly contributes to Desiring God, Think Christian, Christ and Pop Culture, and the ERLC. You can find more of her writing at lizwann.com and follow her on Twitter @liz_wann.