There are a lot of people out there earnestly committed to loving their neighbor. Last month, I had the pleasure of meeting a couple hundred of them at The Neighborhood Collective, a gathering of leaders from around the U.S. to talk about neighboring ministry. While they claimed no one can be an expert in this vast and subjective subject, this place was filled with folks (OK, mostly men) who are leading by excellent example.
Here’s what I just learned about loving your neighbor:
Dave Runyon, Art of Neighboring
“‘I’m doing a lot of really good stuff, I’m basically just neighboring all the time’ isn’t a good excuse.”
- Neighboring is a long game, we must repeat the same message over and over and over and over in our churches
- Stories are the key to success; share them often
- Pastors go first so they have time to process their success, failure, or apathy
- Intentionally invite a diverse group of faith and city leaders
- We can’t just get comfortable drinking a beer with our neighbor: we have to actually have conversations about Jesus
- Neighboring Movement Timeline: download here
Randy Frazee, Oak Hills Church
“This is not what I signed up for…”
- Neighboring is a proven model for church growth. Mobilization works!
- Must decide if you’re going to be a church that encourages people to be good neighbors, or a neighboring church that is organized around involvement and active connections – there is a difference
- Why is this working now? The millennial generation understands the authentic, granular level of being missional
- Book recommendations: Real Simplicity by Rozanne and Randy Frazee, Toxic Charity by Robert D. Lupton
- There is no other path to neighboring other than partnering with other churches in your city
- What gets the most traction with neighbors? Gospel engagement
- Believe, a 30-week chronological study of the Bible offered by a network of churches in San Antonio, led to the creation of 470 new neighborhood groups
3 Challenges to Neighboring
- Brand Loyalty: churches have spent years selling their brand to grow their congregation, now they’re attempting to transfer this loyalty to the neighborhood. People only have so much margin.
- Organic vs. Mechanic: While you can’t mobilize masses of people organically, you must create mechanisms that allow relationships to develop organically
- Numeric Growth: the neighboring model must also grow the church as people come to Christ
Tim Hawks, Christ Together Greater Austin
“How will we explain to Christ the greatest decline in Christianity in the greatest Christian nation?”
- The majority of Christian pastors will die in the next 15 years, and the upcoming generations are “Nones” with no religious affiliation
- The missing apologetic in the US is found in John 17:20ff – unity
- There are 184 cities in the US with a population >250,000 that represent 75% of the total population. Christ Together is organized in 69 cities to date.
- The goal of Christ Together: “We aim to unify the Church to consistently demonstrate and communicate the gospel of Jesus Christ to every man, woman, and child in America.”
- What’s at the center of your neighboring movement – prayer? social justice? unity? The only sustainable center is Gospel saturation. “You will pray. You will unify. You will serve. And you will help save the lost.”
- Obstacles to neighboring: lack of personal pastoral involvement, competing church programs that require commitment and time
Other super cool neighboring resources
We’ve invited several of these organizations to share their stories on our blog in the coming months:
- Canning Hunger: a dual-goal strategy to fight local hunger while intentionally building relationships with your neighbors
- Neighborhood Initiative: the whole church taking the whole gospel to the whole city
- Apartment Life: reaching apartment communities with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Did you know that more than half the population in America’s major cities are apartment dwellers, yet on 5% of these renters attend church, compared to 40% of homeowners?
- Loving Your Neighbor: Surprise! It’s Not What You Think by David Sanford shows how Jesus loved and lived among His neighbors
- The Neighboring Church reveals the secret to doing what Jesus says matters most. They are producing a video series to accompany the just-released book. Download 44 neighboring tweets, posts and texts to share! Part 1 | Part 2
- Perry Bigelow is a nationally-recognized builder who is advancing kingdom virtues through the way communities are designed – a place where cars drive slowly and kids walk to the store to buy a loaf of bread for dinner, affordably priced with great Fourth of July parades and a community Christmas tree.
And a special shout out to –
The Turquoise Table by Kristin Schell
Finally got to meet this neighbor of my heart in person after a long online friendship! Everything Kristin has learned about becoming #frontyardpeople comes out in her beautiful new book this summer.
Kristin put an ordinary picnic table in her front yard, painted it turquoise, and began inviting friends and neighbors to join her. Life changed in her community and it can change in yours, too. Alongside personal and heartwarming stories, Kristin gives you:
- Stress-free ideas for kick-starting your own Turquoise Table
- Simple recipes to take outside and share with others
- Stories from people using Turquoise Tables in their neighborhoods
- Encouragement to overcome barriers that keep you from connecting
- New ways to view hospitality
She’s our kind of people!
What Matters Most
My new friend Dan Scates wrote this beautiful poem about “What Matters Most” after the funeral of a young friend. Dan has the perfect heart to serve as the Coaching and Leadership Development Pastor at LifeBridge Christian Church in Longmont, Colorado.