“God has moved into the neighborhood, making his home with men and women! They’re his people, he’s their God.” —Revelation 21:3, The Message
When I was a child growing up on the south side of Chicago, the world revolved around a square block; to venture any further would have resulted in serious consequences from our parents. We would recruit door to door, whether we planned to catch lightning bugs on the vacant lot or play softball on the four corners of our cross streets. We knew that we could play until dinner and then again until the “street lights came on.” As neighborhood children, we lived out the importance of place that shared the heartbeat of that community.
I was reminded of this as we and our neighbors sheltered at home during the coronavirus pandemic. Our world revolved around our block in ways that suburban life usually doesn’t. The second and powerful command, “love your neighbor,” took on some tangible forms: placing Easter eggs on lawns, which delighted two-year-old Declan, and another neighbor mowing the lawn of an older woman on the block simply because he had the time to do it and her lawn desperately needed it.
Each of us has been placed in a neighborhood. Our church buildings are also within a specific context. As individuals and church communities, we can make the choice to isolate behind the walls of a building, or pay attention to our place in the neighborhood.
Resonate's Go Local is a process, a journey, that asks this question: “Where do we see God working in this place so that we can join in his mission?” We listen, reflect, and take actions as we discern the answer. At a recent meeting of churches involved in Go Local, stories were shared about what they were doing in their neighborhood. While very early in the process, here are a couple of them:
“I had never met my neighbors so I went and introduced myself. It was hard to overcome my shyness, but I did it! A common interest in gardening encouraged me to share some of our produce with them. ”
“I used to walk my block and look at the houses, noticing which looked nice and which needed some work. Now when I walk around I think about the families that live in these houses.”
These stories illustrate what author David Fitch refers to as “faithful presence” in his book by that title. He echoes what the book The New Parish (Sparks, Friesen, and Soerens) describes as a place-based approach to “loving your neighbor” by the church of Jesus Christ.
But how do we get to know our neighbors and show them the love of Christ? Where do we start? Let me encourage you to start where you are:
- Read Luke 10 and ask God to show you what “being sent “means for you.
- Take several walks in your neighborhood and be curious. What do you notice? What do you wonder? Where do you sense God’s presence? Pause to strike up a conversation if you can.
- Reflect on what you see and hear; share it with another person.
- Consider what action God might be calling you to take and consider others to join you
Written by Peter Kelder, Resonate Global Mission’s Regional Mission Leader for the Central USA region