When Paul wrote to the Christians in Rome, we should remember that the church had no buildings. They met in homes, as small pockets of believers - in fact in chapter 16 when Paul greets various people he even writes 'and the church that meets in their house' on some occasions. Secondly Paul himself had not yet been to Rome. He sorely wanted to get there, and was frustrated that so far he hadn't. We see that in verse 10 and 11: hoping that at last he will make it, for he is longing to see them.
Similarly for us, we are still in our homes or at best very small groupings. We have a longing to meet up, but we are not there yet - frustrations abound! For Paul however his faith in God was unchanged: in verse 8 he writes 'I thank God through Jesus ...'. He is encouraged by the reports of their faith coming out of Rome. Paul has a healthy sense of servant-hood (see verse 9), and has a rich and ongoing prayer life (verse 10 - making requests and giving thanks). All this is indicative of a healthy [UP] component: relating to God. His whole life orientation and pattern was on God. This is something each of us can, even in lockdown or isolation - it cannot be taken away from us.
Paul had desire to reach Rome, to meet the Roman Christians and be part of the witness in that city. Digging further we see that he wants to 'impart some spiritual gift, so that the Roman believers may become stronger in their faith (verse 11), and that he with them might be 'mutually encouraged' (verse 12). So he wants to minister to the believers, but also for them to minister to him - in other words a two-way street!
This is a healthy [IN] component: it is faith done together - i.e. share the walk that we encourage as a church. Remember that faith is not supposed to be always in isolation, but shared in community. Jesus said 'where two or three are gathered' He will be present - so even in the 'micro meet-ups' that we are suggesting as a church can be occasions where those meeting can learn to experience the presence of God. It does not need to be complicated, and you do not have to be clever or special - simply meet and invite Him among you!
Paul wants to get to Rome - a multi-cultural mega-city of its time. He knew there would be Jewish and non-Jewish people, educated and non, rich and poor. He wanted to go there and tell them all about Jesus - this is his lot as an evangelist! He has a love of people, and the burning power of the gospel within him. In verse 16 he bursts out 'I am not ashamed of the gospel - it is the power of God that saves!'. For Paul it didn't matter who you were, the good news of Jesus could radically change your life. He had no qualms or inhibitions here - for this is the good news, and he is unashamed to tell it. This is the [OUT] component - telling others about Jesus.
We see in these opening verses that Paul shows UP, IN and OUT - the 3 aspects of healthy discipleship: maintain your personal rhythms and spirituality, share the walk, and don't be ashamed to tell others!
For the telling others there might be two categories of people. The first is the friend or colleague you are praying for. You are hoping for that deeper conversation, the opportunity to invite etc. The encouragement is to keep praying! Yet we must be honest: our prayers may seem to draw a blank for ages and ages, with them showing little interest: keep praying!
The second is the person who 'pops up' on your radar. You have not necessarily been praying for them, but almost randomly they come across your path and show an interest. This is the person God brings to you. Remember in both cases you need not be ashamed of the gospel - you can be honest about your faith and the good news. Hence the key question:
Key Qn: [OUT] Who is God leading you to?
Challenge: Pray for opportunity
Challenge: Pray for opportunity
Whoever God is leading you to, pray! Have your antennae up for those out of the blue opportunities. Now of course when those opportunities do come, it may only be the shortest of conversations. You may not get to tell them the whole gospel or lead them in a prayer of faith! It may be your small opportunity is their first link in the chain.
Yet it is something that each of us can be involved in. Imagine if in the next couple of weeks there were circa 80 short conversations of witness - roughly one per member, arising because we all take our walk with Jesus seriously, we know the presence of God among us even in the smallest meet-up, and we go out with no shame about the good news, the power of God to save.