Neighboring

During a conversation over coffee yesterday with a friend, he asked why things like missional living, neighboring, being a student of the community where we live, collaborative partnerships, racial reconciliation, foster care and adoption, serving the poor, hospitality and expanding our relational capacity to include people across ethnic, socio-economic and generational lines into gospel-centered community were all so important to me personally.  I thought for a minute.  A host of names, faces and stories in our church came rushing through my mind.  I suppose there are a couple of ways to answer a question like that.  First, the reason I care so much about these things personally is because there are people part of our church family who care deeply about them.  I continue to learn so much from others who have poured their lives into these and other issues.  And so, I carry a responsibility as a pastor to care about and be concerned for the things our church family cares about and is concerned for, especially as these things are formed, shaped and compelled by the Gospel.

But perhaps the best answer to the question of why these things are important is because they’re important to Jesus, and subsequently should be important to those who follow Him.  In fact, He has purposed His Church – His active, living, breathing presence on earth – to not only care about these things, but to do something about them by bringing relief and hope to others.  Therefore, the Church’s purpose, which was Jesus’s idea in the first place, should matter deeply to us because it matters deeply to Jesus.

Although I didn’t include the two answers above in my response, how I answered the question was by explaining how doing and being church the way we get to is really the only thing that makes sense to me.  While making disciples who make disciples remains the imperative of any local church, I can no longer imagine anything I’d rather be part of more than the missional church – the church who not only understands its mission but who also takes responsibility for it.  I explained that I don’t believe I could go back to doing church any other way, and I’m pretty sure I’m not alone.
(I read an article this week that included the following paragraph:

“Our culture pictures Christianity as a Sunday hobby, a tranquil way to spend a few pleasant hours each week in the secure presence of like-minded friends.”  

The author concluded the sentence by saying, “Our culture could not be more wrong.”  However, when this is how Christians understand what following Jesus looks like, unfortunately I suppose our culture couldn’t be more right. If our only way of understanding church is by attending a service on Sunday and being part of a gathering (or two) during the week, that’s not only far from being missional, it’s far from being church.

All of this helps explain why our latest teaching series, Love Where You Live, is so critically important when it comes to understanding who were are and where we’re going.  While my heart is that the things we are discussing on Sundays and throughout the week will draw us in deeper to missional living with Christ, I also realize that we are moving further away from the comfortable form of Christianity that continues to become more and more popular around us…which means, there may be temptations along the way to jump ship and ‘go’ somewhere that’s easier.  To which I would plead and caution you. DON’T!  

Don’t be led by an appetite that desires to be somewhere that “meets my needs” more than being somewhere that is centered on meeting the needs of others.

As messy, as challenging, as difficult, as overwhelming as being and living missional together as a church family can be, there are few things on earth that we could be giving ourselves to that matter more.  Let’s keep pressing in to neighbor well, and in doing so, continue the work of bringing heaven to earth!

Oh, and by the way: Next time someone asks you a similar question to what my friend asked me yesterday, my hope is that your answer will become so natural in that you cannot imagine doing it any other way as well!

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