Archives For Missional

In my previous neighboring 101 post, I mentioned a few ways to do research on your neighborhood and community. What I did not mention are two other neighborhood specific places where I have sought to do cultural exegesis. When I first moved into my neighborhood, I check to see if there was a Next Door neighborhood already established, and indeed there was. I began formulating my list of neighbors from the neighborhood directory. While you do not get a ton of information from ND, you do get some key info, including names and addresses, and sometimes children and interests as well. I would venture to say that the majority of neighborhoods today have an established Next Door neighborhood and would recommend using it to get to know your neighbors.

The second place I did research was on our neighborhood Facebook group. This group is private only to those in our neighborhood (like Next Door), but you are able to learn a lot more about your neighbors through Facebook than Next Door. For example, the majority of them will have recent family pics either through their profiles or cover photos. Even though you may not be friends with them on Facebook, you can still learn things they “like”, such as groups, interests, hobbies, books, movies, etc. At the risk of sounding kind of weird, I will admit that one week I spend over 10 hours learning the interests, backgrounds, and other general info about my neighbors through Facebook.

Now why would I do that? First, it is information already available to anyone, so if I want to know my neighbors, why wouldn’t I take advantage of it? Second, there are things I learned about my neighbors that provoked intrigue through common interest and opportunities to pray for them or serve them. I learned several of them, for example, have children with special needs. Many of them are newly married and just starting their families. This kind of superficial cultural exegesis can be boring research. But after several months, I now know the names, addresses, have pictures, and know something of the stories of the majority of the 90+ families that live in my neighborhood simply from doing my research.

In other words, if there isn’t an open door yet, look for an open window. Take the time, do the work, and listen well, because that’s the loving thing to do.

 

/// Previous Neighboring 101 Posts:

Share Button
Print Friendly

Did you know there are ways you can “get to know” your neighbors before you “get to know” them? While you may not get all the specific information you can in a personal conversation, doing your research can help you understand the metanarrative of your neighborhood and community. There are a couple of ways I have gone about gathering research:

(1) Internet Research

Google is really an amazing thing. You can learn the history of your city, gain a better understanding of the annual rhythms of major events and/or celebrations, and gain insight into aspects that make the city attractive to others. More specifically, you can review census data from various sites such as USA.com and demographic data for your very own city block (census tracks, census block groups and census blocks).

(2) Paid Research

A popular company for gathering research in a community in Percept Group. For example, their Ministry Area Profile gives you roughly 20 pages of demographics and data nicely compiled with charts and graphs to analyze.

When you gather your research, you can compare the data with the details and stories of people you meet and gain a holistic picture and profile of the needs, challenges, and opportunities to your neighborhood.

/// Previous Neighboring 101 Posts:

Share Button
Print Friendly

“Christians must be like their neighbors in the food they eat and clothes they wear, their dialect, general appearance, work life, recreational and cultural activities, and civic engagement. They participate fully in life with their neighbors. Christians should also be like their neighbors with regard to excellence. That is, Christians should be very good at what others want to be good at. They should be skillful, diligent, resourceful, and disciplined. In short, Christians in a particular community should–at first glance–look reassuringly similar to the other people in the neighborhood. This opens up nonbelievers to any discussion of faith, because they recognize the believers as people who live in an understand their world. It also, eventually, gives them a glimpse of what they could look like if they became believers.”
– Tim Keller, Center Church

Share Button
Print Friendly

How Christians Should Be Like Their Neighbors

One of the more influential books I’ve read over the past year is Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown. Listen to how McKeown summarizes the way of the Essentialist:

“The way of the Essentialist means living by design, not by default. Instead of making choices reactively, the Essentialist deliberately distinguishes the vital few from the trivial many, eliminates the nonessentials, and then removes obstacles so the essential things have clear, smooth passage. In other words, Essentialism is a disciplined, systematic approach for determining where our highest point of contribution lies, then making execution of those things almost effortless.”

When I first read this book, I read it through the lens of an organizational leader with varying degrees of responsibility in a number of areas that seemed to make life complicated and difficult. This book was instrumental in helping me get to the essentials and drill down deep from that perspective.

In recent months, however, I have been thinking about the idea of essentialism specifically through the lens of living as a Christian. Could it be argued that the reason why we have so few people living an abundant, spirit-Filled, fruit-bearing life is because Christians have unconsciously adopted a non-essentialist approach to Christian living? Have we been “living by default rather than by design”? Of all people in the world, should not children of God be living by design? If so, then why does so much of our lives seem reactionary? Is this not another away of simply “being conformed to the world” as in Romans 12:2?

These are the questions that I’ve been asking myself lately. As a result, I have begun a pursuit of living an “essential Christian life.” But that, I mean a disciplined pursuit of less so that I can make my highest point of contribution to the kingdom of God. By design, I want to live with such intentionality that I am willing to say “No” to a host of good but trivial things so that I can say yes to the vital few that should mark my life as a disciple of Jesus Christ.

When we hear that inner voice expressing frustration that we don’t have the time, we are simply too busy, we don’t know how, or it just doesn’t work, why have we not first asked ourselves how we got here in the first place? Have we uncritically adopted a manner of living entirely incompatible to the Great Commission given to us by Jesus and justified our being out of step with the gospel because “everyone else is doing it”? If we could acknowledge the essentials to healthy, fruit-bearing Christian living, would we be willing to have the “disciplined pursuit of less” as Christian essentialists so that we can make our highest point of contribution for the spread of the gospel, love of our neighbor, and advance of the kingdom of Christ? Isn’t that what we should be doing after all?

There has been a debate over the past several years in evangelical circles about being “radical” for Jesus and living “ordinary” for Jesus. While I that conversation certainly has merit, why don’t try to address Christian living from a different angle? How about essentialist versus nonessentialist Christian living? Would this perspective not shed a little more light on the status of evangelical Christianity in North America?

So the question then begs for a definition and description of essential Christianity. Let me propose five aspects of Christian essentialism:

  1. Jesus  – who Jesus is, what Jesus has done, and why that matters for all of life
  2. Scripture – the revelation of what God has said and done, the story of God,
  3. Kingdom – the entrance, nature, growth, and impact of the kingdom of God
  4. Great Commandment – love God supremely and love neighbors sacrificially
  5. Great Commission – make disciples of Jesus by the power of the Spirit

I know there is so much more that could be argued for Christian essentialism. But the point of essentialism is to determine the “vital few” (pursuit of less) and build a “systematic, discipline approach” for making our highest level of contribution for the cause of Christ. All we need to do is take 10 minutes in a Christian bookstore to see how rampant nonessentialism is in our world today. Let’s not go there. How about we pursue a few things and execute on them with priority and passion so that they produce a lifestyle that makes a difference as disciples of Jesus?

Share Button
Print Friendly

If you’re like me, you tend to forget things, especially names. I’m the worst at this, people. But there is nothing like meeting someone for the first time, and days or weeks later calling them by their name, even better, if you can remember the details of whatever conversation you had with them. What does that communicate to someone who once was a stranger to you? It tells them you want to be more than a neighbor. You want to be a friend, to be in community. You tell them that they matter to you. They are not just a random passerby. They are your neighbor whom you call by name. You listen to their story and can retell it as if it was yours.

Now how is that possible unless you write it down? You may have a photogenic memory, but I don’t, and neither does 99% of us in the world. So do you want to love your neighbor? A simple way to start is by learning to write it down. Have a way to capture and retain information you learn about people. Whether on your phone, voice recorder, notebook, or computer, make a point to memorize and retain what you have written down. Have a way you can add, update, or edit what you have written down as future conversations are documented in your head, to your hand, and ultimately to your heart.

Share Button
Print Friendly

“Everyone is busy, and we all have different stories and struggle with different issues that compete for our attention and time. We all should be concerned about how much we cram into our schedules. If we truly want to be great neighbors, we are going to have to make some adjustments. And that may mean God will call you to say no to some good things so you can focus on the things that are really important.”
– Jay Pathak and Dave Runyon, The Art of Neighboring

Share Button
Print Friendly

Great Neighbors Make Adjustments

“We can’t do our work of pointing sinners to the Savior unless we spend time with them. The first thing Levi does after following Jesus is to throw a party.”
– Tim Chester, A Meal With Jesus

Share Button
Print Friendly

Throw a Party

11 Marks of Gospel Community

Tim Brister —  January 20, 2016 — 1 Comment

A couple years ago, I share the following characteristics of gospel communities. Living on mission is not a maverick endeavor. It happens in the context of community, but not just any community, a gospel community. Here are 11 marks I have discovered to be distinctives of healthy gospel communities.

  1. Believers practice confession instead of trying to make an impression.
  2. People are defined by a lifestyle of repenting rather than pretending.
  3. You embrace truth at all costs, not agreeing for each others approval.
  4. Light exposes & wounds and love covers & heals – both/and not either/or.
  5. People are happy to be holy not content to be comfortable.
  6. You own your mess because of His mercy instead of hiding them because of your shame.
  7. Functional saviors & heart idolatry are lovingly confronted & challenged by Christ’s reign & rule.
  8. Unbelieving sinners & believing sinners together look away from themselves & look to Jesus.
  9. The pleasure of God in Christ to save you liberates you to passionately serve others.
  10. Hospitality is given to those on the margins & those not like you are welcome in your world.
  11. Individual preferences take a back seat to community purposes of loving God and neighbor.
Share Button
Print Friendly

“Many of our approaches to evangelism still assume a Christendom mentality. We expect people to come when we ring the church bell or put on a good service, but the majority of the population are disconnected from church. Changing what we do in church will not reach them. We need to meet them in the context of everyday life.”
– Steve Timmis and Tim Chester, Everyday Church

Share Button
Print Friendly

Meet Them in Everyday Life

The yard you choose to use says a lot about how you feel about your neighbors. The back yard approach is typically closed off from the rest of the neighborhood. Whether it has a fence or not, it says “we don’t want to be seen, and we don’t want to see you – this is our private space.” This approach is very typical in suburbia, enforced by gated communities, guard dogs, and the like. The goal is to keep people out, only letting them on the rare occasion we feel like it, on our terms.

The front yard tells a different story. This approach says “we want to be seen, whether you drive by in your car, walking your dog, or riding your bike.” The front yard creates anticipation for community, looking for people who may have hobbies or interests in common. The front yard encourages engagement and looks for opportunity to connect with others. The walls are not there. You are not hiding. You want to know others and be known by them.

Moving from the back to front may make your front yard look a little messy. We brought our kids’ picnic tables, plastic slides, etc. that normally is in the back to the front. We play our football and wiffle ball games out front. Basically, whatever we once did in the back, we have made an effort to do in the front (grilling out, throwing parties, playing games, or just hanging out on the porch).

What kind of difference does it make? It tells your neighbors you are present, you are open, and you are welcoming them to join in with a spirit of hospitality. While that may not sound like much, I believe you will be surprised by the difference it makes.

Share Button
Print Friendly