The Future Depends on Your Willingness to be Neighbor
This is the first in depth look at four key things about the future of the church that we started in last week's post:
It is a difficult thing to change habits. In many struggling congregations the majority of members drive in from some other place. It is often ten to fifteen miles away. They love the church and have a strong connection to it. But they are often disinterested in the neighbors around it. “I don’t live here,” they think. “These people aren’t my neighbors.”
In order for a congregation to engage in ways that bring life to the ministry there, members have to own the locale around their building as theirs. It doesn’t matter where you put your pillow when you sleep. If this is your “church home,” then you have to treat it like it is one of your homes. You have to own the responsibility of being neighbor to the people around you. Do this and some good things can happen. Ignore this and you do so at your peril. Plus, it is simply not Christian to not care about the neighbors who are right next door to where you worship!
Every person has multiple “mission fields” in their life. Sometimes they overlap like when a person lives, works and goes to church in the same neighborhood. This used to be pretty common. But often they don’t overlap completely. People may live in one place, work in another, and worship and attend church in another. In each place there are different people and our call to be neighbor exists in each one. We need to know and relate to the people around our homes, in our work place, and yes, in our congregation.
Teaching the people in your faith community these spheres of relationship and Jesus’ invitation for us to be willing neighbors to those around us is a key step in renewing a congregation. No, it isn’t a magic bullet. But do it and good things can happen. Ignore this truth and the mountain to renewed congregational life just got a whole bunch steeper.