It’s dawned on me over the last few years that I’ve been a commuter to my own home more than a neighbor in my neighborhood. Being in full-time vocational ministry as I have been these past fourteen years is relationally taxing (and rewarding). I often get my fill of people while I’m out and about and show up at 1230 Houston Street in the evening zonked relationally. Too often I have little left to give my own wife and kids and dog (poor Jambo Wambo!), let alone my actual neighbors.
Dear friends, this should not be the case! I need to build margin into my life to be a relationally and emotionally present husband and father AND a present neighbor in my neighborhood.
I remember a conversation with a friend who was also in full-time vocational ministry who become our neighbor when we bought our current house three years ago. We both basically said some version of the following to each other within the first week of us moving in, “I’m an introvert. Ministry is relationally demanding. When I get home I don’t want to engage anymore relationally. Cool?” “Cool.” Our interactions over the next two years until they moved out of Manhattan were limited to the occasional nod and “Hey!” here and there and very sporadic and brief fire pit interaction. Since we were both in full-time ministry this was our agreed upon arrangement because we understood each other! We didn’t have capacity to actually be neighbors who neighbored each other well. During those two years we did, however, go get coffee three times at various coffee shops outside of our neighborhood.
Dear friends, this should not be the case (the coffee part was great, the stuff before that not so much)! I need to build margin into my life to be a relationally and emotionally present neighbor in my neighborhood.
It’s recently dawned on me that there’s some wonkiness with the small group phenomenon in many (if not most) churches across the country, including my own experience with the small group we’ve led the last twelve years. Every week people drive in from outside our neighborhood to our house (or wherever we’re meeting) to talk and pray about how we can better experience God’s love, love God better, and love our neighbors better. And then we get in our cars and drive back to our homes to turn around the next week and do it all over again. Actually, if you’re involved in a Sunday morning worship service AND a weekly small group then you’re waaaay ahead of the curve with church engagement. You’re already doing great!
However, think about this weekly phenomenon from the perspective of our neighbors. The streets are filled weekly with cars carrying people who are showing up to talk loving God and loving neighbor and then the streets are empty and the neighbors go unengaged.
Dear friends, this should not be the case! We need to build margin into our lives to be physically, relationally, and emotionally present neighbors in our neighborhoods.
When will we orient our lives around living out the thing that King Jesus, the Apostle Paul, and Jesus’ half-brother, James, said was the most important thing, loving our neighbors?
When Jesus was asked, “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” His response was, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” See Matthew 22:36-40. Paul seemed content to pare this down to one commandment. In two places he said the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” See Galatians 5:14 and Romans 13:9. This sentiment was echoed by Jesus’ half-brother, James, when he said, “If you really fulfil the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing well. See James 2:8
You can build a case that anyone in the world is your neighbor if you have the ability to love them in some way. Through technology we have the opportunity to love people who live in neighborhoods on the opposite side of the globe from us. We can meet their physical needs through the mail. We can meet their relational and spiritual needs (partially) through Skype/Zoom/Facebook/WhatsApp/Etc. With this ease of access to anyone and everyone in our world it’s made it increasingly difficult to be a neighbor to our actual neighbors.
What if when Jesus said that the Great Commandment to love God and love our neighbor as ourselves was in reference to our actual neighbor? What if there’s something indispensable about moving into a neighborhood and being a neighbor right there where you live? What if our culture is crying out for us to reclaim neighboring? What if God is asking us to love our ACTUAL neighbors as ourselves? What if God is asking New Hope Church and Tallgrass Church to be known as churches that are full of people who are really great neighbors? What if we BECAME the best neighbors our neighbors ever had?
Neighboring well is a place where New Hope Church and Tallgrass Church can partner immediately for the cause of Christ in our communities! We can live this out in our neighboring relationships with one another starting now. Let’s champion one another and pray for one another as we seek to respond to Jesus’ example and exhortation to love our neighbor. Let’s reclaim neighboring together and show the world that we are followers of Jesus by our love for one another. Let’s start small and go from there.
If you’re curious about how we’ll attempt to go after reclaiming neighboring at Tallgrass Church then give a watch or listen to the third and final Tallgrass Vision Gathering on March 4, 2018. That’s what the chaos in the picture is all about!
50 Neighboring Ideas
Adapted from The Neighboring Church Appendix by Brian Mavis and Rick Rusaw (pp. 171-175)
Let’s become the best neighbors our neighbors have ever had. Here are several ideas. What are your ideas? Share them with us. Let’s add to this list and then live it out!
- Start with 1—Learn 1 name, pray 1 prayer, act 1 time in love. Every 1 counts!
- Special dates are huge in neighboring. Birthdays. Anniversaries. Graduations. Learn and love!
- Try to see your neighbors as Jesus sees them. What do you see differently?
- A Plus One is anything you do for your neighbors that helps them experience the love of God.
- Take some time today to think about one idea that could bring your neighbors together. Ready. Set. Go!
- Pray for yourself today. Ask God to give you his heart for your neighbors.
- It’s not all up to you. Be faithful to loving your neighbors. God will take care of the results. Trust him.
- Think about how you have been loved by others. Find a way to do that for your neighbor.
- Think about how God has loved you. How can you love your neighbor like that?
- Loving your neighbor is linked to loving God. How do you need to grow in loving God today?
- Throw a party for your neighbors this summer. If you need help planning it, let’s chat!
- Have kids? Set up a lemonade stand and work it with them. Great family time. Awesome neighbor connections.
- God put you where you live for a reason. Your unique qualities are needed in your neighborhood. Go love!
- Want to learn how to share the story of God better? Check this out: www.gcmcollective.org/story-training
- Bring the backyard festivities to the front yard. It will make a huge difference.
- If your neighbor is out, go out with them. “How are you doing?” “What are you up to?” will get the ball rolling.
- See a need. Meet a need. See a need. Meet a need. See a need. Meet a need. Repeat.
- Maybe you are the answer to the prayer you are praying for your neighbor. Love is an action.
- Take a regular neighborhood walk with your family. Walk slowly and take time to meet and talk to neighbors.
- Neighboring is easier when you do it with friends. Who around you would be a good partner? Find a person of peace. Team up! #havefunwithfriends
- Connect! Connect! Connect! Facebook. E-mail list. GroupMe. Phone tree. Nextdoor.com. Neighborhood newsletter. Do it!
- What do you love to do? Invite a neighbor to do it with you (camp, garden, sports, knit, cook, movies).
- Set aside a meal or two a month to share with your neighbors. Plan it. Schedule it. Be intentional.
- Pull together neighborhood sportsball activities with kids and/or adults.
- Everyone loves receiving gifts. Find a way to bless someone through gift giving. Doesn’t have to be fancy!
- Stay in the know. The more you know the more you can step into the lives of others with love.
- Love your neighbors in ways they won’t ever see. Find ways to bless in secret. This matters too!
- If your neighbor makes you mad. Pray for them. If you make your neighbor mad. Stop it!
- Gospel means good news. How can your life be actual good news to your neighbors?
- Walk you dog with neighboring intentions. Walk a little slower and stop to visit with neighbors as you pass.
- Plan special events to invite neighbors to. Examples include Friendsgiving Feast, Easter Brunch, Trick-or-Treating, etc.
- Use the existing infrastructure in your neighborhood to engage your neighbors. E.g. Parks, pools, schools, community centers, etc.
- Neighboring is also about receiving. If you have a need, ask a neighbor for help. Great way to connect! Accept the local hospitality.
- End your conversation with neighbors like this: “And if you ever need anything, just know we’re here!”
- We love our neighbors, not to make them Christians, but because we are followers of Jesus. Pure love.
- Love your neighbors who are in the military well. Go to redeployments and other significant ceremonies on post. Care for families during deployments. Tell your story and don’t leave the faith parts out. It’s part of who you are. Share confidently and with humility.
- Don’t give up loving people. Sometimes love takes a long time to sink in. Keep loving people every day.
- Make yourself present in the neighborhood. Make yourself an easy person to bump into.
- Be completely you in front of your neighbors. There’s no reason to put on any kind of mask. Authenticity is key.
- Setup a neighborhood childcare co-op. Date night childcare swapping is also great. Get to know families and get childcare for your family too!
- Pick up trash around your neighborhood while out on walks.
- Be aware of nudges from God. When he nudges, listen. When you hear him, obey. God is the best neighbor! Follow the leading of the Spirit.
- If someone invites you to their party, go! That means they like you. It’s a good thing. Go love them!
- You may not get anything in return for all your neighboring. Love your neighbors anyway.
- A Plus One is anything you do for your neighbors that gives them a sense of good news around them. What good news can you see and share this week?
- Jesus worked more at being interested in others than being interesting to others. This week, be interested.
- Invite your neighbor to something. Manhattan, KS and the surrounding communities have lots of options that are already planned and paid for. Show up and bring a neighbor!
- Be ready to offer hospitality at any time! Keep your pantry stocked with snacks. Keep your fridge stocked with beer. Keep a couple bottles of wine on hand.
- Throw a block party. The City of Manhattan will put up a barricade for you for twenty bucks!
- Ask your kids what ideas they have to neighbor well…and then go for it…with them!
What other ideas do you have? Let me know and I’ll add to the list. Let’s share our neighboring stories with one another!