The Hopeful Lean

He leaned across the table and told me a secret in a hushed tone. “This neighbor loving neighbors thing. It really works. It’s incredible!”

He then went on and talked about all the things that are going on in his neighborhood.

Over the past months I’ve had several conversations that essentially went the same way. I hang out with a former youth worker, a person like me, who left full-time ministry on some sort of a quest to find their first love, ministry. And that position they take when they lean across the table? I call that position HOPE. 

With excited hushed tones they start talking about what happened when they gave up the podium.

  • They stopped talking and started listening.
  • They stopped looking for their next illustration and started noticing what was going on.
  • And they got involved. And it lead to more cool things. And now Good News is on fire on their block.

This life reorientation is disorienting at first. It causes them to lose their balance and go through a period of questioning, often times slipping into a period of depression.

And what they find in that dark place of self-reflection is that they live in a neighborhood. There are people, often just like them, living next door. And this newfound disequilibrium causes them to be open to something they never were before… listening to what God wants them to do… regardless of if their church is behind it or not.

That was funny to write. That people who have spent decades working at churches started to listen to what God wanted of them only after leaving their church work. And I’m sure that some may take offense at that. All I mean is that these folks feel free to listen to God’s voice in a different way, not through the filter of leadership, but with a more simple posture, “Lord, what will you have for me to do?

And almost universally the answer to that question involves simply reorienting their life around serving the needs of their block. It’s not a program and it’s not a paycheck. But it’s the ministry they always wanted.

It Was There All Along

It’s kind of funny having these conversations. Each of them is unique. With each person finding a new kind of ministry that fits their neighborhood differently. Big smiles emerge as they share this secret they’ve discovered: It was there all along. 

Hope has a flavor to it. It’s having tasted the bitter root of despair, rejected popular fast-food cynicism, and popped out the other side with a big smile on your face. Hope is like taking an overcooked steak and decided to chop it up and put it on a salad. What was once not-quite-right is now the star of the meal.

Hope has derivatives. It’s contagious. As one neighbor ventures out of the front-door and meets others, others do likewise. Suddenly, hope spreads down the street. A person shares a garden. A guy cut a neighbors grass when they are sick. A block party pops up. And neighbors begin to slow down and enjoy where they live as opposed to just seeing it as a place to store their stuff and relax between activities. Kids start to play outside again. Kids start to be kids again. Crime goes down. On and on and on.

All because a family on the block decided to reorient their lives.

The Bible doesn’t lie. Each of us were created in Christ Jesus to do good works. (Ephesians 2:10) And when we lean into that the rewards are everywhere.

By Adam McLane

Kristen and Adam live in Ahwahnee, California.

1 comment

  1. Good word, my friend.  I know you’re onto something because I have experienced it and continue to experience it everyday.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: