I just finished reading the book “The Art Of Neighboring” by Jay Pathak & Dave Runyon. It’s good, but sad that it truly needed to be written. Culture has drifted so far from relational connectivity with those closest to us, that I guess it warranted this book about our neighbors and neighborhoods. Here’s a synopsis of the book taken directly from it. Enjoy!
What if the solution to our society’s biggest issues has been right under our noses for the past two thousand years? When Jesus was asked to reduce everything in the Bible into one command he said: Love God with everything you have and love your neighbor as yourself. What if he meant that we should love our actual neighbors? You know, the people who live right next door.
The solutions to the problems in our neighborhoods aren’t ultimately found in
the government, police, or schools or in getting more people to go to church. The solutions lie with us. It’s within our power to become good neighbors, to care for the people around us and to be cared for by the people around us. There really is a different way to live, and we are finding that it is actually the best way to live.
We need to think about our literal next-door neighbors before we attempt to love everyone else on the face of the planet. How could we begin, for example, to care for a wounded terrorist if we haven’t reached out to our neighbors? So let’s start by learning our neighbors’ names. If you’ve lived next to your neighbors for a long time and still don’t know their names, it can be awkward. But you have to start somewhere. They probably don’t know your name either. Someone has to break the ice. Why not you?
We know that we need to reprioritize our lives. And the bottom line is that it will
take some real courage to begin to eliminate and create enough space to be great neighbors. Remember, real relationships with our neighbors will happen as we have the ability to be present and connected to them. It’s one thing to be home; it’s another thing to be present. It’s going to take some real discipline with our calendars and our hearts to become the kind of neighbors that Jesus wants us to be. But it’s worth it.
The first step to taking the Great Commandment literally is to move from stranger to acquaintance in your relationships with those who live nearest to you. Learning a person’s name is the first and easiest step you can take to become a better neighbor.
Once you have learned and remembered someone’s name, your relationship has moved from stranger to acquaintance. That’s a crucial first step. However, Jesus didn’t tell us to become acquaintances with our neighbors; he called us to love them, and that means we need to have an actual relationship with them.
But moving from acquaintance to relationship is not as clean or as easily defined as the first step. There isn’t a simple tool that can move you into relationship, because it is impossible to program relationships. All of us can, however, create environments where relationships might develop and grow into something significant.
Just make some effort. And remember, relationships don’t happen when we heap pressure onto ourselves and others. So don’t try too hard! This can happen more easily than you anticipate because this is how God designed you to live. You were built to connect with other people. So be who you are, and relationships will grow out of that. It makes friendship normal and natural, something that just happens rather than something that’s forced. And the most natural way to connect with people is through shared activities.
Remember, it’s often the small moments that count, so focus faithfully on the small things day in and day out, and over time change can and will happen. Small things have a way of adding up and producing disproportionately great results. It’s simple: just share what you love to do. Make small steps. Give the little you have and watch God do a miracle.
We want to be clear about something when it comes to the art of neighboring. This is not an evangelism strategy. And if evangelism is your only motive, then you won’t be a very good neighbor. However, if neighboring is done with the right posture, then people who don’t know God will most certainly come to know him.
So what should you do when your neighbors begin to ask you about what you believe and why? We want to encourage you to lean into those moments. Is there any wrong move you could make? Probably not. It’s easy to want a formula to follow, but we want to encourage you to simply talk about whom you love and why you love him. Be real, speak from your heart, and let God lead the way.
Great neighborhoods are built on reciprocal relationships, on two-way streets. At the end of the day, no one wants to feel like a project. We want to feel that we bring something to the table. But when it comes to neighboring well, one of the biggest temptations is to turn neighbors into projects. We put on the “super-neighbor cape” and rush out to serve our neighbors and make a difference on our block. This really isn’t a bad thing, but if this is all we ever do, then our relationships will be empty. If we don’t allow people to meet any of our needs, we limit what God wants to do in our neighborhood and our life.
To get started, ask yourself, Who are the two or three households in my neighborhood with whom we really connect and who really connect with us? By “really connect” we don’t mean that the relationship is always easy. We mean that they’re really open to having a relationship with you, and you with them. Identify these people and then invest in their lives.
Whoever you are, whatever your personality, you can do this. When the people who live around each other become closer in their relationships, great things happen. We believe that neighboring is the answer to solving the biggest social issues that exist in our communities today. It works better than any program, and it works better than any government initiative.
Start now, start by doing the small things well, and commit to good neighboring as a lifestyle. You have been invited to begin a sacred journey, one that has the potential to change your block, your city, and possibly the world.
Interested in purchasing the book? You can get it here: http://amzn.to/2fKWxlp