Do You Know Your Neighbors’ Names?
The sad reality is that most of us don’t know our neighbors. If I asked you to give the names of the people living in the six houses closest to yours, could you do it? Or if you live in an apartment, can you name six people who live in your building? If you can, kudos to you! But unfortunately, you’re in the minority. The fact is, most Americans do not take time to get to know the people geographically closest to them.
Not only is having nameless neighbors sad for social reasons, it’s sad for spiritual reasons. Each one of your neighbors represents someone who may not have a relationship with God. By not getting to know them, you miss the opportunity to share your faith, invite them to church, or help them get connected to a community of believers. Your neighborhood represents a mission field right outside your front door.
My guess is that your church is involved in some form of overseas mission. This time of year tends to be when we begin to host fundraisers for short term mission trips. Right now a youth group is doing a car wash or selling donuts somewhere to raise money for a summer mission trip.
But isn’t it strange that we organize, plan, and fundraise to go to another country for a week, while at the same time, many of us have families living in our neighborhood from other countries that we’ve never even met? I’ve heard it said before that we should be weary about our motives for going across the world if we’re unwilling to go across the street. It does beg the question doesn’t it?
That said, I don’t think it’s an either-or situation. You should go on short term mission trips as you are able, but not at the expense of the people right outside your doors!
There are people on your street this moment who have real needs, are desperate to be loved, aren’t not plugged into church, and who do not know God.
You’ll have incredible opportunities to be on mission with the people right in front of you, if you will simply begin to look at your neighborhood as a mission field.
Resolve in your mind that God is calling you to know, serve, and love your neighbors. At the church I pastor, I tell each of our members that they are a missionary, sent into everyday life as ambassadors of God’s good news. Jesus told his disciples in John 20:21, “As the Father sent me, so I am sending you.” If you consider yourself a disciple of Jesus, he has sent you to go out and to live in the pattern he set forth: with compassion and concern for others.
If you don’t reach to out to your neighbors, then who will? You’re the best candidate for the job! God has placed you in your neighborhood, on your very street, as an instrument of his mercy toward those who happen to live next to you.
In future posts, we will highlight all kinds of ways to “neighbor well,” but for now, the challenge is simply to embrace the calling to be a good neighbor, and the best way to get started is to discover the names of those who live closest to you. Consider yourself challenged.
Let us know how it goes! Share with our community what approach you took.