Reaching Our Neighbors with the Gospel


It was a dark and stormy night—no, really, it was. Our neighborhood was having a big cookout, and we had invited some neighbors in hopes of having spiritual conversations. But due to the bad weather, they decided to cancel. I was discouraged and seriously considered staying home where I’d be dry and comfortable. 

I pulled on my rain jacket and went anyway. 

In God’s providence, I ended up having a good spiritual conversation with another neighbor whom I then invited to church—all because I showed up with evangelistic intent at a place where my neighbors were gathered. 

I don’t consider myself the world’s greatest evangelist. But I’ve tried to be faithful, and I’ve learned a few things over the years about reaching our neighbors with the gospel. Let me begin by sharing some thoughts on how we won’t reach them. 

How We Won’t Reach Our Neighbors 

We Won’t Reach Our Neighbors with Wishful Thinking 

“If you build it, they will come.” That was true for Kevin Costner in Field of Dreams, and it may have been true for many generations of Christians in the West. If you built a shiny new church building, people would come. 

But that’s not true anymore. Tim Keller wrote, “For 1,000 years, the Western church’s basic ministry model was premised on the social reality that people would be coming, prepared, and positive, and we would simply preach our sound biblical sermons to them. Increasingly, this is not the case.”[1]

In the post-COVID Western world, people no longer feel obligated to attend church to keep up appearances. The truth is that if you build it, they still probably won’t come. Wishful thinking won’t reach our neighbors. 

We Won’t Reach Our Neighbors with Special Programs 

Not usually, at least. There is nothing inherently wrong with Christmas plays and Easter pageants. Some people (perhaps even you!) came to faith in Christ through those kinds of events. 

But historically, special programs have a meager return on investment. Few people report coming to faith through them, despite the high cost. Many non-Christians are understandably leery of anything that looks like a bait-and-switch tactic. Local church special programs (usually) won’t reach our neighbors. 

We Won’t Reach Our Neighbors with a Fortress Mentality 

Think about the features of many modern homes: privacy fences, monitored alarm systems, cameras pointed at every door. While there’s nothing wrong with wanting to keep our families safe, perhaps these security measures reflect something we’ve come to believe. To use Rosaria Butterfield’s language, we’ve come to view our homes as fortresses designed to keep people out, not as missional outposts designed to invite people in. A fortress mentality won’t reach our neighbors. 

If we won’t reach our neighbors with wishful thinking, special programs, or a fortress mentality, what should we be doing? 

How We’ll Reach Our Neighbors 

We Will Reach Our Neighbors with Repentance 

We know that Jesus commanded us to make disciples, and that making disciples requires sharing the gospel with non-Christians. The problem is that many Christians aren’t doing that. 

Don Whitney argues that evangelism is a spiritual discipline. He wrote, “You’ll have to discipline yourself to ask your neighbors how you can pray for them or when you can share a meal with them. You’ll have to discipline yourself to get with your coworkers during off-hours. Many such opportunities for evangelism will never take place if you wait for them to occur spontaneously.”[2]

Evangelism does indeed require discipline, and all Christians are called to it. We won’t reach our neighbors with our theology of evangelism; we will only reach our neighbors with repentant hearts that lead us to practice what we preach. 

We Will Reach Our Neighbors with Prayer 

The Bible teaches that our work is to go to the lost, faithfully proclaim the good news of the gospel to them, and call them to respond with repentance and faith. Conversion is God’s work. 

Therefore, we must pray. Jesus taught that the harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few (Matt. 9:37–38). So the first thing we must do is pray for God to send more laborers into the harvest. Then we must pray that God would grant us evangelistic opportunities, that we would recognize them, that we would have the faith and courage to take advantage of them, and that God would use our efforts to bring about the miracle of conversion. 

We Will Reach Our Neighbors with Spirit-Fueled Efforts 

Far from hindering our evangelism, the truth that God is responsible for conversion sets us free to make every effort to share the gospel and entrust the results to him. Here are a few examples of Spirit-fueled efforts:

1. Invite your neighbors over for dinner.

Even if you’ve lived next door to each other for years and never said a word, it’s as simple as saying, “I’m sorry we haven’t gotten around to meeting each other. Would you like to join us for dinner later this month?” I suggest starting with a cookout in the backyard and asking them to bring something for the meal. Being outside feels less intimidating to most people, and by contributing a dish, they feel a sense of ownership in the evening.

2. Take advantage of holidays and special events.

Halloween is one of those rare times when all the neighbors are outside and talking to each other. We rent a bounce house, set up games in our front yard, and pass out candy to encourage families to stay and get to know us and other members of our church. We’ve shown movies on our garage door and decorated cookies in the driveway at Christmas, had cookouts on the 4th of July, and attended our neighborhood’s National Night Out party every year. When it comes to evangelistic opportunities, holidays and special events are “low-hanging fruit.”

3. Invite your neighbors to church.

As you get to know your neighbors, ask them if they’d like to visit your church. Even if they don’t take you up on it at first, what church do you think they’ll probably visit if they change their minds? That’s right—yours. Our neighbors will hear the truth about Jesus if they come to church, and they’re much more likely to come if they’re invited by someone they know. 


Every Christian wants to see their neighbors come to saving faith in Christ, and I have no doubt that you do as well. Evangelizing our neighbors starts with repentance and continues with prayerful, Spirit-fueled efforts. May the Lord of the harvest send more laborers into his harvest today, starting with you and me. 

* * * * *

[1] Keller, How to Reach the West Again: Six Essential Elements of a Missionary Encounter (New York, NY: Redeemer City-to-City, 2020), 17-18. 

[2] Whitney, Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life (Colorado Springs, CO, Navpress: 1991), 109. 

Allen Duty

Allen Duty is the Preaching Pastor at New Life Baptist Church in College Station, Texas.

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