live in an unprecedented time culturally speaking. I’m not lamenting the moral decay of western
civilization, nor am I sounding an alarm for some impending ecological
disaster. I’m talking about automatic
garage doors and smartphones. Nowhere in
any time of history have people lived so closely together and yet been so far
apart. Think about it. We drive home, open the garage door, pull in,
close the garage door and from the private safety of our secured garage, enter
our home. Once inside we bask in the
beautiful blue light of our smart phones or tablets keeping up with our friends
from around the world via Facebook, twitter, or SnapChat. We live in in our
communities, yet isolated in our own private castles, and entertained by our small screens.
So… since we live in these times, how do we reach out to our communities - the people who live right next door? Developing relationships with neighbors and the community around us takes time, lots of time. But you absolutely can develop meaningful connections that can be conduits for God’s grace through you. This takes active work to maintain but can yield a fruitful harvest for the kingdom.
Our family has tried a number of things, to a varying degree of success.
Matthew 19:19b “…You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
Host a Neighborhood watch meeting or become involved in your local chapter. It’s always a good idea to know who your neighbors are and let them get to know you. Through it you can begin to from bonds with your neighbors and see ways that you can serve them.
Invite your neighbors over for dinner
This may sound obvious. But it’s easy to overlook. You don’t need a special occasion, or you can use a holiday or day off. Matthew (Luke 5:29) and Cornelius (Acts 10:24) invited their friends and neighbors over just to listen to the Gospel! But it doesn’t need to be a dinner with a message it can be just dinner. Ditch the apologetics YouTube videos and just get to know your neighbors. Let them get to know you. Build a friendship. Love them. Be sure that as they get to know you, you will have ample opportunity to share the gospel with them.
Trick or Treat
Yikes! Did I just say take your kids “trick or treating?” I realize this can be a touchy subject so obviously this is not a command. But consider, what other day in the whole calendar is it culturally acceptable to knock on your neighbors door and interrupt their evening? We do serve a God who owns all the days, including the 31st of October. What if we engaged our community on this particular day and gave gifts to our neighbors? What if we served them? Use it as an opportunity to get to know your neighbors, establish and build relationships. Consider how you can capitalize on a day that encourages visitation for the Gospel.
Plan to have guests over for Thanksgiving, (and invite them early), plan a holiday meal around 2-3 weeks before Christmas and invite friends and neighbors. You may not get them all, or any, but at the very least your neighbors will know that you care, and at the best you might get to know them better, and through you, they will see Christ! If your community group gathers to celebrate Christmas or Thanksgiving, invite a neighbor. Have them share about the special meanings of the Holidays and share what these holidays mean to you.
If the Trick or Treating is outside your comfort level for personal reasons, try giving out Thanksgiving or Christmas gifts. We are a culture that loves food, get together with another brother or sister in Christ and make cookies, pies, jam, whatever and give it out with a note or invitation to a Christmas service or event. Make it personal so your neighbors, friends or coworkers know you care.
Be ready to give an Answer
“But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect..” 1 Peter 3:15
If the Gospel is a rhythm of your life, then as people are around you, you will stick out. There will be an opportunity to share your faith in Christ, and clearly present the Gospel. Do you know it well? Have you ever practiced your testimony with a friend or spouse? Can you share it give from scripture - w/o a bible handy. We have great resources like “Two Ways to Live” or “What is the Gospel” that you can use to both better know the Gospel, and how to clearly share it.
If you are rebuffed, can you still gently respond and care for your friend / neighbor? Can you still care for them and live out what you believe in front of them?
Garage doors can be shut, Front doors can be slammed, you can be “un-friended” on Facebook, but building relationships gives you the opportunity to live out the gospel in word (yes please say the words….) and in deed in a world that needs to see Christ magnified.
Jesus Deserves Disciples!