Archives For Love Your Neighbor

Last Fall, I began a series on missional living entitled “From Strangers to Missionaries” where I share about a personal strategy to win my neighborhood and city for Christ. After several recent interactions and encouragements, I felt I needed to provide an update and write more about my journey. For a review of what I’ve written thus far, click here.

Why I Hated My City

During the first four years of living in my city, I went from confusion to frustration to hate. I was confused because I was told that I live “in paradise” (sunny Southwest Florida) in what was one of the fastest growing cities in the country. But when my family and I established our roots, the boom town had become the epicenter of the bursting of the housing bubble. During those four years, 14 out of the 17 houses on my street went into foreclosure or short-sale with another one never making it past the cinder block facade.

My confusion led to frustration because, not only did my city suffer the hardest in the foreclosure crisis, but news came out that we also had the worst job performance market in the top 100 metro areas in the country. The frustration stemmed from the economic incompetency of my city to do anything but increase taxes on its citizens. Those years were full of “foreclosure tours” around the city, planned city protests my citizens against its officials, and alarming reports of increasing numbers of people attempting (and committing) suicide.

Over time, my confusion and frustration spiraled into hate. I hated the fact that I live in a city that has no roots. Very few have lived here longer than one generation. I would say that 8 out of 10 have transplanted within the last 10-15 years. They have come from all over the north (Snowbirds becoming permanent residents), from the south (Hispanics and Haitians from the Caribbean), and from the East (Europeans). So many cultures and backgrounds and traditions, there is no one cultural narrative and therefore no real city identity. Everyone is fearful and skeptical of one another, and I live in a city where every neighbor may not only be from a different state but from a different country in the world.

Continue Reading…

Share Button
Print Friendly

Over the past month, many people have heard about my “Jericho Road Moment.” That story is part of a bigger story this year where I’m praying and pursuing God’s kingdom work in my neighborhood and city with renewed initiative and intentionality. Over the past couple months, I’ve been working to gain greater clarity on how to make that happen.

Jesus commissioned His disciples to go into the world and make disciples. I believe, first and foremost, Jesus is speaking of cross-cultural engagement of unreached people groups. The thrust has an expansive, horizontal dimension no doubt. But, I also believe that the making of disciples has a depth dimension as well. Even in “reached” areas of our cities, there are many unreached and unengaged people. Let’s be honest: What percentage of our city is unengaged with the gospel? What percentage of people have any proximity to the kingdom of Christ?

A Helpful Diagnostic to Consider

In my city, we have 165,000 people. The best research I could find is that less than 10,000 belong to any church. That means 155,000+ people need the gospel of Jesus Christ. We dwell in the same city, but for all intents and purposes, they are strangers to me and every other Christian and church. When we are not on mission, the way a church “grows” is by shuffling some of the 10,000 when things don’t work out (transfer growth). It may give the appearance that we are reaching our city with the gospel when in reality we are simply receiving Christians who are either new to the area, or done with their previous church. We are skimming the surface with no missional depth to genuinely engage the city, evangelize the lost, and establish new disciples in the faith.

Here’s a helpful diagnostic to consider. How many non-Christians do you know on a first-name basis? How many of them would consider you a friend? What percentage of your relationship investments is with those who do not know Jesus Christ? How accessible are you to those in your world who do not know God? If the members of our church cannot, off the top of their heads, list 3-5 unbelievers they know, then we have missional atrophy. If the overwhelming percentage of relationship investments of church members are with other Christians, then it has become ingrown. If there are not pathways for pursuing those far from God in our lives, then we have put the Great Commission on the shelf to collect dust.

Continue Reading…

Share Button
Print Friendly

Previous on The Quotable Henry:
* On Civic Engagement
* The Calling of the Church
* Having An Evangelical Worldview

“The believer’s personal debt of love to God and his passion for the lost impel him, so that Christian activity transcends the antithesis of spiritual and social service.”

– Carl F. H. Henry, “Perspective for Social Action Part II,” Christianity Today 3 (February 2, 1959): 16.

“Whenever love triumphs at the expense of holiness, whenever love takes the priority over righteousness, we have moved outside the scriptural orbit.”

– Carl F. H. Henry, Aspects of Christian Social Ethics (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1964), 169.

“Christian holiness issues no license for the ecstatic enjoyment of the vision of God as a merely private option; rather, it insists that love of God reflects itself in love for neighbor, and enlists men of piety as sacrificial servants of their fellows.”

– Carl F. H. Henry, “Perspective for Social Action Part II,” Christianity Today 3 (February 2, 1959): 16.

“He who withholds love from another because he considers him unworthy removes himself from the love God manifests to us in the gift and death of Christ while we were yet sinners, yea, actually enemies of God.”

– Carl F. H. Henry, “Perspective for Social Action Part II,” Christianity Today 3 (February 2, 1959): 16.

“The compassionate factor in the Christian social thrust, with its eye on the value of the individual, delivers social service from its impersonal tendency to deal with the people as merely so many cases or illustrations of a given complex of circumstances. Social compassion thus holds status as a prime motive and duty of the Church.”

– Carl F. H. Henry, “Perspective for Social Action Part II,” Christianity Today 3 (February 2, 1959): 16.

Share Button
Print Friendly

My Jericho Moment

Tim Brister —  July 19, 2013 — 14 Comments

After four years of frustration and failure to really engage my community and neighborhood, I began this year with a repentant heart to love my neighbors with greater intentionality. I started a Next Door neighborhood and identified a square mile of my city to be “my neighborhood”. Things started off fairly well, and after a couple of months, I had first-hand knowledge of about 20 neighbors.

As the year unfolded, I began to find myself in a fog with a number of factors (personally and ministerially speaking) contributing to a state of malaise and detachment. It was not until our recent vacation that God used long hours of reflection and prayer to bring clarity and direction to everyday life. One of the first areas I wanted to address was my continual repentance in turning toward (as opposed away) from my neighbors. I asked God to help me re-engage in meaningful ways to make a difference where I live.

Two weeks ago today, I was riding bikes with my son when I look over a tree and saw a large black plume of smoke billowing into the sky. I knew a house was on fire. I rushed my son inside and sped over on my bike to see if I could be of any help. I arrived just as the mother and daughter ran from the house and the fire took over the garage, propelled by several propane tanks. After notifying neighbors to get out of their home, I watched on the street a house go up in flames. It was a crazy sight to see.

Continue Reading…

Share Button
Print Friendly

Owning My Own Square Mile

Tim Brister —  January 17, 2013 — 9 Comments

My Block GroupAnd he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him. Acts 17:26-27

Last week, I talked to you my efforts this year to build a neighborhood in my city through Next Door. This is a heavy burden I have, one that I have not steward very well in the past. The verses above speak about God’s providence, namely that God determines our dwelling places. Have you thought much about that? Yes, you thought you live where you do because of the great deal on the house, the school district, the proximity to work, etc. But in and through all of these secondary causes, there’s a primary cause that you live where you do: God put you there.

And God’s providence is not without God’s purpose.

God’s purpose in Acts 17 is “that they should seek God…and find him.” So let’s put this together. God placed me in this particular plot on planet earth for the purpose that people should seek God and find Him.

And God’s purposes should become the passion of our lives.

If God’s purpose of providentially placing me in the city where I live so that people would seek God and find him, then it ought to be my passion to accomplish that purpose. God has a design. He’s being intentional and purposeful. When I embrace that intentional design, my response should be a passionate embrace and acceptance of the mission.

Simply put: I live where I live so that those without God can find life in Him. What difference would this make if my life really looked like that?

Continue Reading…

Share Button
Print Friendly