For 18 years I had lived 8 houses away from Barbara. In Spring of 2010 I met her for the first time.
Crushed over the new and horrifying news just reported by Ed Stetzer (researcher on the modern church), that last year only 3% of American Protestant churches participated as the primary financial support for a new church plant and that only 14% participated in any way toward the planting of a church in 2009, I went for a walk to pray and think.
All Christian leaders (however you define them) should repent with great mourning and grief over such numbers. So I went out, to pray and walk and repent and to beseech the Lord of the Harvest to send forth workers into the harvest (Luke 10:52). I did what I have done a dozen times over the last 18 years. I walked my neighborhood, praying for my neighbors, and for workers to be sent into the harvest and with trash bag in hand, I picked up trash off of my neighbors lawns and in the gutters of street.
Getting my hands in the grime and grit of my street helps to focus my prayer for my community. It’s part of how I am working out being Intensely Local in the expression of my faith. And then Barbara stopped and said hello.
She was driving by on some errand and she stopped her car to thank me for picking up in the neighborhood. I introduced myself, got her name, engaged her in a brief conversation. I told her it was nothing, that over the years our family had done this many times. She asked how long I had lived on the block “17 years” I replied.
And then Barbara dropped the bomb in my heart. “I’ve lived here since 1977.”
For 17, almost 18 years we have lived 7 houses apart, 20 numbers different in address, and
- I had never met her, never told her the wonders of the Gospel,
- never told her the glories of Christ,
- never told her anything about anything.
And I knew that one of the reasons that our house has not sold is that there is still work to be done among my neighbors on Cochise Circle.
With all the BBQ’s with my neighbors, with all the golf played with my immediate neighbors on my left and right, with all the children’s bikes fixed, balls thrown, basketball played, grass cut, snow shoveled, trash picked up, prayers prayed, invitations given, counsel given, visits after deaths, visits after suicides, all the conversations had, and kids coached and block party’s participated in, with all the fights broken up, and the gang members talked to, and kickball game arguments mediated, and the New Years and Christmas parties attended, I had failed to give even a simple “God bless you” to a neighbor who lived eight houses away!
It is stunning that I could live so ineffectively and it demonstrates that I have much to learn about living INTENSELY LOCALLY for the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ. Pray for greater impact with my neighbors. And pray for Barbara. There was nothing in our brief conversation that led me to believe or sense that she knows Jesus.
[Read comments for an update on Barbara.]