Someone in Common
Whether you live in an apartment complex, or surrounded by cows and squirrels, we have something in common: neighbors. Whether they live beside us or down the road, they are all encompassed by the strangely spelled word “neighbor.” And as Christ followers, we should be the ones telling them about Him.
Our family tells the story of the retired farmer just down the hill who arrived while our things were being unloaded into our new house to inform my dad that a fence needed mended on the property line. Despite the grumpy attitude directed his way, Dad assured the man he would mend the fence. We laugh at it now, but it certainly was not the ideal way to meet our new neighbor.
I am now settled into a house in town with my husband with neighbors close on all sides. And when I say close, I mean every bit of what that word means. I might not hear them in their living room, but I could easily see into it.
(Disclaimer: I believe the word neighbor in the Bible means anyone, whether they live near you or not, but in the following, I will use it in reference to those who live near us.)
Already at Work
In every place, God is already calling people to Himself. In fact, it might even be suggested that we go out and witness so that we might discover where God is already at work! – Nik Ripken, “The Insanity of Obedience”
Being a Christ follower, I believe, is synonymous with being a Christ disciple maker. While others go to different countries to do that, most us will stay here in the United States. The above quote reminds me that it’s not up to me to accomplish the Great Commission. You and I have a part in God’s great plan, but He’s the One that provides the power to bring it to pass.
Our first assignment as Christians is to be in prayer. I encourage you to pray, not in a general sense, but specifically. Pray for individuals by name, for their certain situations, for opportunities, and for wisdom to know how to use your time.
What about you, are you finding God at work in those you’re reaching out to? Are you praying for your neighbors, known or unknown?
Over Christmas, I used cookies to introduce ourselves to the neighbors. Since then we have been able to build a relationship with a young couple next door. A few small give-and-take interactions led to them asking for help when they needed it and more opportunities to build a friendship. Our home has become a safe place for them, and as they talk, we have opportunity to speak back into their lives.
Hopefully, you’ve already met your neighbors. If not, find a way you can do so. A small gift including a card with your name will be a great reason to knock on doors. From there, you can gather lots of ideas. Are there families with children you can offer to babysit for an evening? Are there elderly you can visit regularly? Maybe pick up their groceries for them? Is there anyone you could invite for a backyard barbeque?
If you’re surrounded by many neighbors like we are, don’t feel overwhelmed thinking you need to reach out to all of them. God will make a way for us to reach out to the ones where He’s already working. We just need to keep seeking out those places. One wise woman once paraphrased Mother Teresa’s words for me, “God has not called us to be successful, He has called us to be faithful.”
Many times we fly out the door, walk to the car with our eyes straight ahead, and hope no one stops us. Instead of seeing the needs present right at our doorstep, we frantically try to meet other ones somewhere else. There are often times when my neighbors are outside the house and I don’t want to miss the chance to say hello and ask how they’re doing. Staying up to date on what is happening in their lives makes it easier to be there for them in times of joy or difficulty. Even if I am in a hurry, it only takes a little extra time and hardly enough to make a difference in my plans. If it does take longer because of their need to talk, I must remember to trust the Lord to direct my steps and grant me grace to do what is required of me that day. I have a list that I love to check off, but if it doesn’t match His, mine is the one that needs to adjust.
What attitudes and habits do you need to change to allow you to be more available to your neighbors?
Time to Listen
When you find yourself in conversation with your neighbor, listen to them. Here my friend speaks from her own experiences,
Even if you hear about all their ailments for the 20th time, or it’s heartbreaking to hear over and over how family relationships are so marred, listen. And be really interested, even in obese cats! If it’s important to them, it needs to be important to you if you want to have a way into their hearts.
To listen is to take time. Lots of time. Time you would rather spend on Instagram, the latest sports highlight, or in quiet solitude. Sharing Jesus with some one requires sacrifice, effort, and a whole lot of grace from God.
Acts of Worship
Is it just me, or do you also use different words while at church versus the grocery store? Why do I find myself telling one person how God met my every need the previous week, yet don’t mention Him when speaking about the same subject to the individual next door? We need to stop separating our spiritual life from our physical life. We live our lives believing some of our actions are sacred while others are not when in truth they all should be done as acts of worship to our God!
Actions into Words
All of these things are a means to an end. Ultimately, you’re setting the stage to tell your neighbors about God and what He has done for you. You may not be able to say much about Jesus the first time you bring His name into the conversation, but don’t stop trying. Your neighbors may not know why you are different and they’ll most likely never ask you. Explaining why you do the things you do is putting your actions into words because actions don’t always speak for themselves. A question that haunts me frequently is, if Jesus is everything to me like I declare Him to be, then shouldn’t I want to tell people about Him? Won’t it come somewhat naturally? I need to speak when the Spirit prompts, or it may be the biggest regret of my life.
The Gospel, I’m learning, is very practical. It affects how I wash the dishes, how I mow the lawn, and even the attitude I allow myself to have upon waking. When Christ lives in us and we die daily, He will be seen. But I pray we are not satisfied that those who live near us will hopefully be curious enough to ask us why we do life differently. Our neighbors will not truly know we lead different lives if they do not become a part of our lives. We cannot merely have “sharing the Gospel with our neighbors” on a checklist that we cross off once we force the words out. With some people, we’re only given one opportunity, but with neighbors, we’re likely to get a lot more. Christ has called us to make disciples, and that means a lifetime commitment of continually sharing Christ.
|Linda Coblentz is a young wife seeking to encourage Christians to be true followers of Christ. Raised in Wisconsin, she spent a couple years in Sinaloa, Mexico. She also spent time in Indiana before getting married in central Ohio. She believes the greatest thing a Christian can do is to do everything as if it was to Christ Himself, even in the menial task of day to day living.
- Ripken, Nik. The Insanity of Obedience: Advancing the Gospel When Facing Challenge and Persecution. LifeWay Christian Resources, 2016.