If you think about it, everyone wants to change the world, but no one wants to simply love his or her neighbor. Yet that’s all God needs to change the world. If every person sitting in an Austin church loved 8 to 10 neighbors, 2 million people would be impacted! I hope you’re willing to practice the art of neighboring!
A word of encouragement—it’s worth the investment to love your neighbor. When my wife, Kathy, and I moved into our neighborhood, we did many of the things I’ll be suggesting along the way through this series of blog posts. Over about 5 years, we got to know 10 of our neighbors really well, became friends, loved each other’s kids and truly cared about each another—it made our street a great place to live. Eventually five families found faith at Gateway, which is always an honor to experience.
Neighboring isn’t without challenges, but 15 years later we still maintain some of those friendships although we’re not all “physical” neighbors anymore. This isn’t rocket science, but we do need reminders and encouragement—that’s what I’ll provide.
First, I would highly recommend the book The Art of Neighboring, which also comes with a magnet you can fill in as you learn names of your neighbors. When you think about what you’re trying to do, think about this: “I’m BLESSING my neighbors.” Keeping this BLESSING acronym in mind will give you specific things to think of doing as well.
Right now, just focus on the first 4 letters:
BEGIN PRAYING—Start meeting your neighbors, get their name, write them down on a card and put it in place you’ll see every day and start to pray for them. You’ll be amazed at how God uses this and opens doors of opportunity.
LISTEN—Think of yourself like a spiritual detective, ask questions and learn more and more about your neighbors and let this inform how you pray more specifically.
EAT—Invite your neighbors (one by one or all together) to come over for a meal—BBQ Labor Day, have Halloweiners (hot dog cook-out on the driveway Halloween night). There’s something about eating together that just opens people up.
SERVE—Find ways to serve your neighbors, or even ask them to come serve others with you—help them unload their groceries, offer to watch the kids or bake something.
Recently I had an opportunity to Begin Praying, and to Listen and to Serve my neighbors. I saw a garage sale down the street (which I had no interest in), but I decided to go meet the neighbors. I found out they were moving (made note to come meet new neighbors), but met another neighbor who was selling his dresser (which I bought for my daughter and son-in-law). He offered to help me move it, and I let him serve me that way! I found out he, like me, plays soccer. He and his wife are now being prayed for daily.
Finally, I WANT YOUR FEEDBACK AND STORIES TOO, because I’m a part of group of 10 pastors leading this citywide initiative–what you learn and what helps you can help change our city as I pass on ideas that work!
HERE’S YOUR CHALLENGE…By the next blog post, see how many new names and facts you can gain from listening. Come up with creative ways to meet or engage neighbors, make notes because I want to collect them along the way!