Keep it simple.
The morning main session featured Jay Pathak and Dave Runyon, authors of The Art of Neighboring. They’ve worked with hundreds of pastors who have put the principles of the book into practice in their church and communities.
Laid back, a little sarcastic, and on point with every word is how I would describe these guys. The ease in which they shared their personal and humbling stories was so refreshing. Their sarcasm had us laughing at them and ourselves. Jay and Dave’s message was to keep it simple: know your neighbors’ names, spend some time with them and get to know your neighbors’ hearts.
Jay shared how neighboring came into view for him. He was working in a church and leading a group. He and his wife, Danielle, hosted the group at their home weekly. This one week was particularly hard for Jay. He came home and admitted to Danielle that he wanted to just cancel group for the week. She convinced him to just have a fun night with the group instead.
“Danielle pulled the grill around front of the apartment, bought some extra meat and invited some neighbors, too. I came home and there was a guy sitting on my couch with my guitar. He was my neighbor. There was a party going on.”
The turning point came when one neighbor said, “We noticed you had a party every Wednesday night. We could hear you laughing together. We wondered if we’d ever be invited.”
“It was then that we became pastors of our apartment complex,” shared Jay.
Know their names
At one point, Dave admitted that their book was good but the real genius was the block map magnet. “The magnet does all the work. We figured out how to stretch a magnet into a book,” joked Dave. Why did this simple tool grab the attention of people? “People are more influenced by concrete ideas, not abstract. This tic tac toe makes it simple,” said Dave.
We are often told that we should set the bar high so people will reach for it. Dave and Jay found something different to be true. “We set the bar so low there is no way under it,” laughed Jay. They defined neighbor in the simplest way—the people next door—and then asked people to do the simplest thing—get to know a name.
Laughter erupted as we developed a new word together in the room during Q & A. Shamespiration. It’s Shame + inspiration. That is what happens when you introduce the block map to your leaders and congregation. Try it. Ask a group of Christians to list their neighbors’ names. Suddenly the Great Commandment gets very real for people “You’re a Christian and you don’t even know all your neighbor’s names? Huh. That’s interesting.” I know it both convicted and inspired me.
“With the block map, we gave everyone their own little parish,” said Dave.
There was so much more we shared together in that time. Watch for the recording of the session coming soon. (and, the book is just as great as the magnet! It’s a great read for anyone.)
I can’t speak to all sessions, but I can share a little about the ones I attended. (Watch for more resources and blogs from our session facilitator in the coming weeks.)
The Age of Loneliness
Did you know 48% of people describe themselves as lonely or extremely lonely? This has been called The Age of Loneliness. “Here’s a chance for the church to step into that. Neighboring with the love of Christ could be the prescription,” shared Rick Rusaw and Chris Freeland in their session about Casting a Neighboring Vision.
Finding People of Peace
In Lynn Cory’s session, we opened the word and had Bible study together. In Luke 9 Jesus instructs the 12 before they are sent out. In Luke 10, he instructs the 72. “I think the 72 include you and me,” shared Lynn. In this section of Scripture, Jesus gives instructions on how to go out and make disciples.
- The center for ministry is the home. Jesus says, “When you enter a house…” (Luke 10:5)
- You need a partner. Jesus sent them two by two. (Luke 10:1)
- Become and observer of people. The harvest is plentiful. The harvest is ready. Jesus looked at people and saw where they were at. (Luke 10:2)
- Search for a person of peace. (Luke 10:5,6) How will you find them? “Whoever listens to you listens to me; whoever rejects you rejects me; but whoever rejects me rejects him who sent me.” (Luke 10:16) The greatest indication to receptiveness is that the person listens to you…like magnets together,” said Lynn.
- Devote time to the one who welcomes you (Luke 10:7). Be responsive and a relationship begins to develop.
I loved the story Lynn told about one of his partners in neighboring. He wanted to go around and give a small gift to each neighbor. He invited his four-year-old granddaughter to go with him. They loaded the wagon and went door to door. “My granddaughter gave me confidence and people just loved her.”
Simplify. Share. Spread.
Tom Anthony wrapped up the final main session of the Neighborhood Collective with advice for all of us as we move forward in leading our churches in neighboring.
- Simplify- Like Dave & Jay, Tom reiterated that we have to make neighboring easy for people.
- Share- Why re-create the wheel in neighboring? The point of a collective is to share. Get a hold of another neighboring church leader and ask about their model and resources. Don’t replicate, but use them to dialogue your own way.
- Spread- Be a catalyst in your region for neighboring. “The state of the church means we have to do something different,” said Tom. He invited everyone in the room to explore the possibility of one-day Neighborhood Collective gathering in their area of the country.
As an adjective, collective means “characteristic of individuals acting in cooperation.” As a noun, collective means a “cooperative enterprise or unit.” As we closed our time together at Neighborhood Collective, it is my prayer that we form a true collective of individuals that ACT, not just talk about neighboring. As a unit, loving God and loving our neighbors as ourselves, I do believe God could change the state of the church in America and the lives of the people in our pews and neighborhoods.
Thanks to everyone who came, because everyone contributed to the conversation and learning. God willing, hope to see you again next year.