The Bigger Picture by Sheila Jacobs
The bigger picture – Recently, I’ve been involved in street evangelism. I haven’t done it for years – actually, we nearly got arrested one night when one of our team was a bit too forceful in something they said, and that put me off. You can see I am a really committed evangelist!
Ten years later, I find myself doing it again. To be honest, standing in the high street giving out gospel leaflets to people who really don’t want them, and would rather buy their broccoli and go home and watch the telly, can be very disheartening. But I’m out there this time basically to support some good friends who are very enthusiastic about it. We have even seen some fruit – there are people who have started going to church through the outreach.
The thing I enjoy the most, though, is going to the café afterwards and having a cappuccino with the team. I have also noticed that most of the team are singles. Divorced, never married, widowed. Pulling together, having a laugh afterwards, we’re beginning to feel like a real unit. Maybe God has called us together, ‘for such a time as this’ (Esther 4:14). There’s a sense of camaraderie. We meet, we pray, we chat, we have a meal with others involved in the work.
In a team
It’s so important to feel part of a team. It doesn’t always happen in church fellowships, especially for singles. I don’t know what your experience is, but mine is pretty mixed. I’ve been through seasons of dryness, when I’ve felt quite alone in my singleness, but I’ve been very blessed for many years to go to a fellowship where there is a considerable number of unmarried people. When you feel you’re in the same boat as others, it helps. It also helps when you’ve all got the same goal – in my recent experience, during street evangelism – all gelling, even though your team may come from different Christian traditions.
Jesus said that people would know we were his disciples if we loved each other (see John 13:34-35). Perhaps a group of us laughing over coffees in the local café witnesses more to people than being given a tract, I don’t know. But when a lonely, quite troubled single parent came over, sat down and joined in the conversation, I began to wonder if the friendship shown by that little team was speaking with a louder voice than anything we were doing on the street.
When you’re going through a period of singleness, whether it is short-term, or seems forever, it is important to feel part of some sort of supportive group. That doesn’t necessarily mean we all need to rush out into the street with leaflets and guitars, or even sit around picking at our relationship histories and other issues in a small group. Perhaps it means just spending time in prayer, looking up to Jesus with some friends, working out what he would like us to pull together to do. Alienation and isolation were two of the biggest issues during the Covid lockdowns, so let’s not stay in that place of isolation now, if we can help it.
You may not be called to roam around streets having chats with random strangers; you might prefer a Bible study, or helping at the food bank, or to get involved in other ministries within your church. But get involved. Make friends. Get your mind off your relationship status and remember that you’re part of a bigger picture. A jigsaw is made up of many different bits, and if one piece of missing, the picture is not complete. Have you ever thought, you might be the missing piece?
Being part of something bigger can raise our self-esteem in a good way. We are valued. We are respected for our unique and individual gifts. We can contribute. We can bring something positive to the group. When we realise that our identities are so much bigger in Jesus than whether or not we are in a relationship with a significant other, but that we are sons and daughters of the King of kings, with a purpose that is God-given (see Ephesians 2:10) then we may begin to have a different perspective not only on our own lives, but on the lives of others. Being a disciple of Jesus should be uppermost in our minds. Everything else comes second: what we do for a living, who we are with. Our identity should not be in our careers, our marital status. Our identity should be in Christ. Jesus needs to be first: we have to follow him. Our lives are not our own, once we surrender to the Lord.
Being part of a team, a unit, is something we can miss when we’re not in a relationship with a partner. But being there for other Christians, in whatever capacity, can only strengthen our own calling, ministry – and character. The more we can focus on Jesus, the less we will focus on ourselves. So if that ‘right person’ does turn up, in God’s timing, they will meet a more confident ‘us’, who has plenty of interesting stories to tell. (If you’re involved in street evangelism, hopefully it won’t include ‘the night I nearly got arrested’!) But more than that, it helps us to remember that our true identity, whatever life has thrown at us or keeps throwing at us, is in Jesus. And that can never be taken away from us.
Spring is a time of fresh starts. Why not start think about new things you can get involved in, with some like-minded people? Pray about it. Maybe God has a bigger picture in store for you – and others – than you can imagine!
Sheila Jacobs is a writer, editor, and an award-winning author of 19 books, including Watchers. Her latest title is A Little Book of Rest: Walking Out of Anxiety and Fear (Malcolm Down).