Pressing the Flesh in the Neighborhood

Friday is for Heart Songs

Some time ago, I had the idea of working on a book proposal for my publisher on a book that would explore “INTENSELY LOCAL” ministry. Later, I worked on some new material for what we are calling “Go Training” at the church. For that reason, I was happy to go back over the data and find out that this was one of the more popular posts from 2010.

a Neighborhood 3Pressing the Flesh in the Neighborhood. Or, “Developing an “intensely local” vision for church planters.”

To really get to know a community, you have to “press the flesh.

As a church planter you need to develop real relationships with real people and you need to help everyone in your launch team to do the same. This will involve changing both our mindset and our behaviors. Some of the guiding principles of that changed mindset are:

  1. God is sovereign over the place of peoples in a neighborhood. (Acts 17:24-26)
  2. God is calling men and women to himself. (Acts 17:27)
  3. God has fixed a day when all men everywhere will be judged. (Acts 17:31)
  4. He calls us to be fishers of men. (Matthew 4:19)
  5. The field is white for harvest, but the workers are few. (Matthew 9:37-38)
  6. Disobedience to his call to fish for men retards our growth in Christ. (John 14:21)

In addition to a change in perspective, we need a change in behavior if we are truly going to incarnate the gospel and get to know our neighbors. The following list is suggestive of the kind of new behaviors that we will seek to both inculcate in ourselves but also to model for our launch team. It is not enough that the church planter does these things. When it comes to our neighbor and neighborhood, all launch team members in a church plant need to be trained to:

  1. Serve your neighbor. i.e., shovel his driveway (in the north), cut his lawn, visit when they’re sick, offer bounty from our gardens, etc.
  2. Invite your neighbor into your home, backyard. i.e., BBQ regularly.
  3. Accept every invitation to visit with your neighbor, even if it means canceling another engagement. i.e., Christmas and New Years parties.
  4. Coach kids if you have the skill.
  5. Become a community organizer for block parties, golf outings, etc.
  6. Look for opportunities to visit with neighbors.
  7. Be completely upfront about your Christian faith. Give the neighbors spectacles with which to view your life.
  8. Initiate with your neighbor. i.e., “What is your favorite pie?” Pecan. “Great. Sometime soon, let’s get together for some pecan pie.”
  9. Don’t expect your non-Christian neighbor to behave like a mature Christian.
  10. Pray not only for your neighbors but with your neighbors. “Would you mind if I prayed for your wife’s recovery right now? I won’t take long.”
  11. Welcome new neighbors into the neighborhood and then into your home and lives.
  12. Make it your ambition to be his best friend in the neighborhood.[1]

A NeighborhoodWhen individuals begin to do these kinds of activities they begin to uncover the hurts, the pains, the disappointments, the joys and the victories of their neighbors. When this happens, we are much closer to figuring out the contextual forms most appropriate to ensuring that the gospel is heard clearly.

This type of caring and involvement in the community has the added benefit of not only expressing care but also of supplying a kind of reconnaissance into the interior of the neighborhood’s soul. We discover what its (the neighborhood’s) idols are. We find the captivities of its spirit and the things that cripple its discernment. This is part of what the apostle Paul was doing while he waited in Athens for his associates to arrive from Berea (Acts 17:16-34).

There were 11 comments to the original post. If you would like to join the discussion click here and comment there. (Is that too complicated?)

[1] Two books that are helpful though somewhat different in approach are. Bill Hybels and Mark Mittleberg’s Becoming a Contagious Christian, (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan, 1995) and especially,  Halter and Smay’s The Tangible Kingdom, (2008).

© Marty Schoenleber, Jr. 2010

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