I have been involved in church as long as I can remember. I have always loved to serve others. Children’s ministry. Women’s ministry. Youth ministry. You name it, and I’ve probably been a part of it. And although it was fulfilling to be a part of all these wonderful groups, I felt as if something was missing.
Until one day I realized that, even though I was serving and busy, I didn’t really know many people outside my church. I didn’t really know anyone who did not have a relationship with God. And I didn’t like that part of myself.
I wanted to reach people outside the church, but was unsure where to begin.
And then I read a book called The Art of Neighboring, which talked about how to reach out to our literal neighbor. Right next door. Challenging people to take Jesus at his word when he said:
“‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.’” Matthew 22:37-40 (NLT)
Although I’ve read this passage many times and was very familiar with it, I realized that I did not know my actual neighbors very well. I was good at loving people from a distance, supporting missionaries and humanitarian efforts around the world, but knew little about the people who lived closest to me.
I decided that this is where I would start. I would begin to love the people around me, not to evangelize or get them to come to my church, but just to love them because Jesus loves me and commanded me to do it.
It was a bit awkward at first; going over to talk to my neighbors while they were out in the yard was hard, especially when I’d lived next door for over three years and never done it before.
But over the summer, things have gotten easier. I’ve spent more time with my neighbors, gotten to know them better. We’ve helped them when there was a storm that took out their trees, invited them to a barbeque at our house, and are now planning a neighborhood block party to get to know others who live on our block.
And this feels like what I’m supposed to be doing. This feels like what Jesus meant when he said “love your neighbor as yourself.”
Am I still involved in my church community? Absolutely.
But I am also engaging the people closest to me, my neighbors, realizing that God has me where I live for a reason.
And I am loving it.
For more resources on how you can reach out to your neighbors check out: http://artofneighboring.com/