by Mark Gold
I have read two authors in the last ten years who have both suggested that Christians have become so concerned for their “world” neighbors that they have forgotten their “next door” neighbors.
Jesus invites us to begin the spread of the Gospel first in Jerusalem, our neighborhood and town. (Acts 1:8)
At Sonlife, you will often hear the conversation about, “Who is in your circles of concern?” Part of those circles should contain the names of friends and neighbors that we are building relationships with for the sake of the Gospel.
Thank you, church, for lifting up your eyes to the harvest field of Judea and Samaria and the utter most parts of the earth … but what about that wonderful divine collision that God created in your life when you moved next door to the Andersons or the Jankowskis or the Omars or the Singhs or the Wu’s?
My wife and I have the privilege of visiting about five other countries in the world every year to train and encourage youth and their leaders, but we live on a rural road in Minnesota with 18 farm families, construction workers and commuters. When we moved to this community, we believed it was with a divine purpose.
The first Christmas in this community, we had an open house for the neighbors. Over 40 people came. Most of them just came, curious about the “new guys.” My wife made soup and homemade bread. Our loudest expression of our faith at that event was to thank God for the food. Our ongoing regular invitation to our neighbors has been to ask them how we can pray for them.
Over the years we have had the joy and privilege of praying with three to yield their lives to Christ, to pray for cancer healing, finances and children. We have attended funerals and grieved with our neighbors over their losses and have also been excited over their achievements and successes. We have helped with farm chores (me … milking cows …haha), given rides, mended fences and when asked, offered advice. All of our neighbors have clearly heard the saving Gospel of Christ in a multitude of non-aggressive ways.
One of our favorite resources is Joyce Bademan’s “Christmas Coffee.” Joyce asked the question how she could gather friends or neighbor women for a social time and presentation of the Gospel. In her area, it was normal for women to gather with friends during the Christmas season for a social coffee. She just proposed the event to share the Gospel. This idea has been reproduced around the world in 10,000 venues.
Here’s nine quick ideas for “loving your neighbor, like you love yourself”:
- Know their names! We keep a running list of neighbors and children, even some of their pet’s names.
- Ask them if there is ever anything you can help them with.
- Ask them if there is anything you can pray for them about.
- Give a small gift during the Christmas season- something made or something bought.
- Host a September or October harvest block party. You could provide meat and grill outside. The neighbors can bring a dish to share.
- Prayer walks. We walk and pray for our neighbors with the expectation of divine collisions. We ask God to open our eyes and let us see what He sees.
- Neighborhood acts of kindness. Gather your neighbors to go as a group to help in a relief project, food distribution/packaging, or help a distressed neighbor.
- Thanksgiving cards.
- Ask your neighbors for house repair, car maintenance or cooking advice. For me this is not manipulation, I really need the advice. God uses these questions to strengthen and build friendships.
Some of you may find yourself in a neighborhood that would be open to you hosting a weekly children’s Bible club or discovery level Bible study for your neighbors. Love your neighbors by reaching them wherever they are in their spiritual journey.
At Sonlife, we describe the relationship that Jesus had and desires his followers to have in agricultural or gardening terms.
C … Cultivating friendships for the sake of influencing people with the love of Christ.
P … Planting the seed of the Word of God into these friendships.
R … Reaping eternal rewards as the Word of God brings the awareness of sin and the need of a Savior and we get to answer our neighbors questions on that journey. Sometimes ending in their responding to His loving invitation to also become followers. For more guidance on simple ways to explain the gospel, read the Sonlife blog on “Sharing the Gospel.”
We see CPR so clearly magnified in our relationship with our neighbors.
Please apply with joy, these thoughts to your neighborhood or the sports team you play on or your workplace or your dormitory hall or wherever God has chosen to place you as salt and light.