Sometimes when I read books or blogs on missional living, I get confused. All of the jargon, made-up words, and fancy metaphors trip me up. Might as well ask me to make your wedding cake. When it comes to loving the people who live nearby, it’s really not all that complicated. You don’t have to be a trained theologian or missional frontrunner to do it. Simply overlay your natural friendship skills with your heart for Christ. Without complicating things, here’s what it looks like on my street:
Do I know my neighbors by name? I really don’t love people who I’ve never met. Meeting my neighbors is really about paying attention, seeing opportunities (at the mailbox, on a walk) and remembering their names.
Have I heard their stories? This is basic curiosity. When we chat, I ask questions that tell me about them without coming across as nosey or intrusive. Almost always, their answers tell me something about their work, marriage, family, history, even their spiritual journey.
In hearing their stories, have I discovered a way to pray for them? This is a key step. By praying for them, I enter their spiritual journey whether they know it or not. If they moved through a job relocation or divorce, that certainly gives me practical ways to pray. If they are struggling or complaining, I can pray. Listen well, and you will hear many ways to intercede for your neighbors.
Have I found a simple way to serve them? Extending God’s love in some practical, helpful way opens more doors than I ever imagined. Being a blessing can be endearing to the heart. Watch a child, shovel snow from a driveway, feed a pet. Just pay attention and see what you can do to help.
Am I ready to share my story when asked? Inevitably, a friend will ask questions in return. I can’t say much about my work, family or activities without saying something about my faith. It’s just that integrated into who I am. And by introducing faith to the conversation, it opens a door for them to ask more, or not. No need to be pushy. Just honest and open. For those who want to know more, they will ask. For those who don’t want to know more, that’s okay too.
Do I trust God? It is not my job to convert people, or to save them. Some are interested, even hungry for spiritual conversations. Others are not. Not at this time and maybe not ever. Simply be ready to walk with them if they want to take a step in faith.
Over the years, this simple approach has led to a Spiritual Discussion Group on our street (attended by those who grew up all over the religious map), and now to a very basic form of Neighbor Church. We have found spiritual friends who live closer than we imagined, and we have formed special friendships with neighbors who want spiritual dialogue without attending an organized version of church.
When it comes to sharing God’s love where you live, don’t overthink it. Meet your neighbors. Ask about their stories. Pray for them. Look for ways to serve. Share your story when asked. Trust God.
Simple missionality. Friendship and faith. I wish baking a cake was this easy.