A few years ago, my family moved into a suburban neighborhood in central North Carolina. We loved the tree-lined streets, the warmth of the old homes and the idea that our kids would grow up in a picturesque neighborhood.
However, the real reason we moved to our neighborhood was to show our neighbors the love and compassion of Jesus. We moved hoping that God would be glorified and our neighbors might eventually become brothers and sisters in Christ.
In Matthew 28:19, Jesus says that we are to “Go…. make disciples….” We often don’t think of “going” right outside our front doors. Have you ever seen your neighborhood, apartment complex or wherever you live as a mission field? Now with social distancing in place due to COVID-19, we must be more creative with how we approach this. Here are four things you can do this week to be a good neighbor and to be on mission in your neighborhood.
When we moved into our neighborhood, one of our first commitments was to walk around the block every day just before or after dinnertime. We got to know more neighbors by doing this than by doing anything else. Pick a spot to walk regularly. If you live on a busy road, find a local park or high school track that people walk around. If walking isn’t an option for you, just get out and experience the “rhythms” of your neighborhood, in whatever way is best for you and your family.
Pray for your eyes to be opened to your neighborhood and the needs around you. You might be surprised at what you begin to see. You might notice people only go outside at certain times. While maintaining a safe distance is a requirement for everyone’s safety, taking a walk and praying can be a regular part of your schedule.
Since eating is something that both my neighbors and I do every day, we started inviting neighbors over for a meal. Sometimes we would have big neighborhood breakfasts on Saturdays where each family would bring a side and we would cook the pancakes. This is a great way to naturally get to know folks in a deeper way. Good food and good conversations go hand in hand. In light of current circumstances, consider sharing meals around a computer or phone on video conference. Conversation can still happen around a meal, we just have to do it creatively.
A mentor once told me that “Jesus always made time for interruptions.” Interruptions are often opportunities in disguise. Does it feel like an interruption to help a neighbor in need? Now that our routines have been altered due to COVID-19, be careful not to fill up your calendar. If you do, you won’t be open to interruptions (i.e. opportunities) from calls, texts or video chats from your neighbors. That’s where mission in the neighborhood lives — the unexpected conversations and happenings. Don’t miss these opportunities because you’re too busy.
There’s one more thing you can do to love your neighbors. You must love Jesus to love your neighbors. If you don’t love Jesus, your neighbors will just be another task on your to-do list.
After all, the Great Commission of going and making disciples is linked to the Great Commandment, found in Luke 10:27: “And he answered, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.’”
You won’t do it exactly like we do it in our neck of the woods, and it will certainly be different in this uncertain season, but no matter how you do it, if you aren’t the missionary to the people in your neighborhood, who will be?