Engaging Our Neighbors This Summer

Living in a neighborhood surrounded by families is a prime place for mission.  This might be an obvious statement, but one that needs to be communicated to my own heart and family all the time. To be transparent, my heart is bent towards my comforts and seclusion, yet this is not what Jesus has saved me for! 

Last week, as I was preparing to preach on Galatians 4:8-20, the Spirit of God graciously reminded me how the gospel re-shapes and re-directs my life.  As I had the privilege to look into Paul’s heart, I was reminded—again—of the gospel and the mission I GET to participate in.  The gospel compelled Paul to moved toward people with compassion, re-arranging his life for the sake of others, in order to see Christ fully formed in people.  As I began to reflect upon this, it became obvious to me that a gospel-formed people move toward people in compassion and self-sacrifice personal preferences and comforts so that people who think differently, believe differently, and act differently might have the opportunity to see and hear the good news of the gospel.  It also became obvious that moving toward people in this way is costly, messy, and hard, which might explain why we struggle to do it.  But the more I reflect on the gospel, the clearer it has become that the one thing that will compel us to move toward people with compassion regardless of how hard, or messy, or costly it might be to us is, to remember how Jesus moved toward us with compassion in order to rescue us and call us His own.   Here is what I know: as the gospel is proclaimed over and over again to my own heart, the Spirit creates a deeper love for Jesus compelling and empowering me to move toward people with compassion in hopes of seeing Christ formed in them.

So how do we move towards our neighbors with compassion this summer?  Below are six considerations:

  1. See your neighborhood as your mission field.  Here is what I mean.  Most of us will re-arrange our calendar to do mission far away, but it is incredibly hard to do the same for our neighbors across the street.  As you take time to get to know your neighbors, you will discover many different ways your MC can serve them and share Jesus with them.
  2. Pray with intentionality.  This is something most people do not do particularly well.  MCs are truly the work of the Spirit because He alone makes our testimony about Jesus effective to the world.  Prayer is not about saying the right things so that Jesus will do something.  Prayer is about listening to God’s heart and depending up the Spirit of God to accomplish His work or rescuing His people.
  3. Doing things differently on purpose. We do not naturally drift towards living on mission and our not-yet-believing neighbors will not naturally drift toward our “churchy events” simply because we plan and host one.  We have to intentionally move toward people with compassion. But if our goal is to see Christ fully formed in our neighbors, we must move toward them in compassion.  In order to do that, we do not ask them to rearrange their life for our sake but rather we must rearrange our life for their sake.
  4. Invest in hospitality.  Spend time and spend money to get to know your neighbors.  Make your home a neutral, natural, and regular place for mission.  One way to do this is to invite your neighbors into your home and around your dinner table.  This will prove to be a great place to learn their story and to discover ways to bless them.  Is this hard work?  Will this take time? Will it be costly?  Does this require sacrifice?  Yes. Yes. Yes.  And a thousand times, yes! This is why hospitality might be the most overlooked evangelistic discipline, but it is also why it is one of the most powerful ways to demonstrate and declare the gospel.  In my experience, opening our home to our neighbors has been one of the most helpful way to declare and demonstrate the good news of Jesus.
  5. Mission takes years, not weeks.  Adjust your expectations.  If you are going to make a difference in the lives of others, then you need to be in it for the long haul.  I think this is how Paul approached disciple making and it is certainly how Jesus approached it.  If our Missional Communities are going to be a place where unbelievers can belong and genuinely see the power of the gospel, then it will take time.
  6. Cultivate community while doing mission.  Missional Communities need both community and mission.  A community without mission becomes self-absorbed and disobedient.  A mission without community fails to fully display the gospel.  Here is one a way to build community while doing mission: as you invite your neighbors into your homes and around your dinner table, you can also include members of your missional community.  This will help to build community around your neighbor and encourage mission as a community.   Cultivating mission and cultivating community isn’t an either/or, rather it is necessarily both/and.

Being formed by the gospel and moving toward people with compassion, together,

Andy