We want to change the world!
We want our church to reach this whole community!
God is the God of this city!
[The crowd raises to its feet and cheers as the band begins to play…]
These are guaranteed anthems to bring a church to its feet.
But I’m left wondering if our ecclesiology is a little too big?
“It looks like your eyes were bigger than your stomach.” That’s what my mom used to say when I put too much food on my plate at dinner.
And I think that’s the strategic error of many churches.
I know it’s the strategic error of most believers.
Most churches mission statements tell the people the goal is to reach the world… and when we aim at that we get nearly nothing because it’s too big.
Isn’t our job to love our neighbors as ourselves and put God first? (Mark 12:28-31)
Isn’t my job, then, to love my neighbors? Like the ones who live next door? Or down the block? Or maybe as far as around the corner? Isn’t that why God, in His infinite wisdom, placed me in my neighborhood?
Yes, it is. That is the business God has clearly called you to. He has called you to be good news to your neighborhood.
Every other type of ministry you do is secondary to that. To take it a step further… every other ministry you have which gets in the way of what Jesus calls the second most important command, is unnecessary. Until you can love your neighbors as yourself you have no business doing anything else. (Yeah, including those who work in churches. I’m looking at you.)
Step 1: Get to know your neighbors
Loving your neighbors isn’t hard. You were created in Christ Jesus to do it. It takes no training. And it takes no special skills. This is what you need to do.
- Get to know your neighbors names. If your yard touches theirs get to know their names. If they are across the street they are your neighbors, too. Each neighborhood is a bit different. But just start with the people immediately around your residence.
- When you see them… stop and say hello. Talk to your neighbors. These are people God foreknew you to know. You don’t need an agenda, just be friendly.
- Keep your eyes open and your ears open. When you can see they need help, do what you can.
- When you need help, ask your neighbors. Sometimes exhibiting some dependency is the perfect open door to getting to know someone.
- Over time, learn to depend on one another. Maybe your neighbor is a little older and you have a snow blower. Start shoveling the walk. When you go out of town, ask them to pick up the mail.
As you do this process, the Holy Spirit will begin to reveal to you next steps. Maybe it’ll be to host a neighborhood BBQ? Or maybe it’ll be to help find a lost dog? It could be any number of things… but it probably isn’t to invite them to church or to give them a flyer. God didn’t ask you to bring people to hear the Gospel at your church. He empowered you to bring the Gospel to your neighbors through your love for them.
What are you waiting for? The power of the Gospel will prevail when you set out to be Good News in your neighborhood.