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February 20, 2013
What a great reminder again of the greatest commandment that we've been given, "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and soul and mind and love your neighbour as yourself". This is a must read for anyone wrestling with how to live with and among others in an intentional life-giving way.
Thank you Dave and Jay for your insights and honesty about how difficult but how rewarding a life of intentional neighbouring can be. May we all seek to serve our neighbours well.
The Spirit was prodding and convicting my heart the entire time I was reading The Art of Neighboring. I have a confession: I know very few of my neighbors by name. I used to know my neighbors to my right twice over but both times those families moved. My oldest daughters plays with the new neighbor's little girl to the right but I haven't formally introduced myself to her parents. I know of some of the other neighbors but not real well. It's a shame. Jay & Dave make a compelling case that we should know them and be actively pursing relationships to a varying degree with them. They say,
I also learned that the story of Jesus becomes evident whenever we connect with the people who live closest to us. Jesus said, "Everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another" (John 13:35). The practice of neighboring creates incredible opportunities for us as believers to connect out stories to the stories of our neighbors and to God's story. (p. 10)
They beginning with their stories. They invited their city officials to meet with a group of local pastors. These pastors wanted to know how they could impact their communities. The officials said the best help the churches could provide was by being good neighbors. Isolation reeks havoc in many neighbors and is attached to many social problems. So simple yet often neglected.
It's important to note that they argue neighboring should not be seen as an evangelism method (p. 99). Otherwise, we are performing a bait and switch. Our neighbors will feel like we traded being nice for an opportunity to proselytize.
However, Jay & Dave argue inevitably faith will come as life happens and we are connected with others. I have discovered over the last year or two that evangelism feels uncomfortable because we treat it like a three step sales process. Nobody likes that. But when we evangelize through witnessing to the work of the Spirit in our own lives it's natural and rarely will people deny your experience.
The main rub is when those we have been neighboring with reject our gospeling. If neighboring is an evangelism tool then we stop pursing that relationship. But if it simply loving others unconditionally then we continue with the relationship.
Jay and Dave then talk about the biblical commands for loving neighbor and root that in this simple art of neighboring. They also address many of our hesitations in doing so--time constraints, fear, etc.
I have to say that both are fears of mine but their approach is balanced. They recognize that you cannot be intimate with every neighbor you have. They suggest being familiar with many of them and develop relationships with a few where there's a natural connection. They also recognize that we must set boundaries. Good neighboring doesn't mean we let people take advantage of our family. It means we are there for those who are in need and in conjunction we do not enable or do harm.
The Art of Neighboring is for everyone. All of us have neighbors. All of us have been commanded to love our neighbors. You don't have to dedicate your life to your neighbors but you should be there when life happens to speak into their lives. Just like the Spirit made a tangible difference in your heart when you were born again, your neighborhood should be different because you are there. They also point out that in many cases you may find some of your neighbors are Christians which provides natural allies in supporting and serving the neighborhood.