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Loving Our Neighbors, Jesus-Style

Loving Our Neighbors, Jesus-Style

I've lived in Montana long enough to know that we are nowhere near being done with snow for the year, but it has most-certainly felt more like Spring lately. Finally! Warmer weather has emerged and the snow piles are receding to remind us that the grass has been there all along, patiently waiting to re-emerge. 

What a welcomed sight!

My young family has been suffering from cabin fever for about a month now, so it has been incredible to get back to riding bikes, taking walks, and playing outside. We often celebrate the end of winter through signs like seeing our first robin or tulip of the Spring, but the other phenomenon of this season is the appearance of our neighbors again, for the first time in months. We've all re-emerged from the winter cocoons of our warm homes to rejoin the land of the living. I've missed seeing our neighbors, catching up across the fence, and casually chatting as we meet at the mailbox.

Which has left me processing my role as a neighbor. 

Jesus leaves no doubt about what it means to be a faithful follower of God: we MUST love our neighbors. You want to love God...then love your neighbor. They're one-in-the-same. And while 'neighbor' could certainly be interpreted broadly, with everyone being our 'neighbor,' I'm convinced that when Jesus commands us to 'love our neighbors,' he specifically means the people next door. On our block. In our neighborhood. The people we rub shoulders with each day. The people walking their dog past our home. 

Jesus wants me to love Jerry and Laurie, Greg and Trisha, and Carol across the street. Jesus wants me to be a presence of love, generosity, and hospitality in the place he has located us. On our block. In our apartment building or dorm. At our local school or park. Jesus wants me to intentionally engage with my neighbors, getting to know them as a means of ministering to their specific needs. 

At the very least, Jesus would want me to know their names!

So, how will you take seriously the call to love your neighbors this Spring and Summer...now that you'll actually see them more often? Do you know your neighbors' names? Do you know anything about them? Have you stopped to talk and listen? Are any of them struggling and could use some help? How might God be calling you to be a presence of blessing in your geographical context, working toward the flourishing of your place?

And more overtly spiritual, who goes to church on your block? Who knows Jesus...and who doesn't? Who could use the presence of God in their lives? Who could benefit from the blessing of deep Christian community? Who would come to an Easter service if you invited them? So, will you be willing to talk to your neighbors about faith, church, and how Jesus has impacted your life in a meaningful way? Will you take the risk of being an inviter -- to the challenging, yet compelling journey with Jesus -- and to a church community that is striving to faithfully take that adventure? Let's commit to the God-ordained and Jesus-demonstrated calling to love our neighbors.

"Loving Our Neighbors, Jesus-Style"  By: Pastor Jason Bowker

"Loving Our Neighbors, Jesus-Style"
By: Pastor Jason Bowker

 

Mission Northwest Note: The reading selections for January’s Leadership Learning Communities were focused on the topic “Neighboring”. These books urge churches to train their people to befriend their neighbors, to really love them just as Jesus taught His disciples to love their neighbors. These caring relationships open doors for conversations about Christ. It’s a simple concept, but an effective one. Each LLC was encouraged to pick one of three selections to study:

 

  • The Neighboring Church: Getting Better at What Jesus Says Matters Most by Rick Rusaw & Brian Mavis

  • The Art of Neighboring: Building Genuine Relationships Right Outside Your Door by Jay Pathak & Dave Runyon

  • Neighborhood Mapping: How to Make Your Church Invaluable to the Community by Dr. John Fuder

A Thank You Note to ABC Northwest from Becky Sullivan, Church Moderator for FBC Puyallup

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A Thank You Note to ABC Northwest from Becky Sullivan, Church Moderator for FBC Puyallup

Thank you for the access to Missioninsite you provided to the Region's churches a while back, Charles.  I spent probably 25-30 hours creating reports that were pertinent.  This past week Pastor Rick Siemens went through them all and today, at a Council retreat, presented the information most pertinent to helping direct our future outreach efforts. So, thank you for providing access to Missioninsite. 

 Most churches look to grow by seeking out families with children.  Although this would seem to make sense, what we found with our custom Missioninsite reports is that the biggest group of people in the service area around our church are the over-55’s without children in the home. And, as you might expect in Washington State, most of them do not attend church. Other reports gave us some of the characteristics of this group, including their beliefs about churches.  This doesn’t mean that we would not like to have that family with children, but it does mean, like that old cliché, we need to grow where God has planted us.    

God has been sending people to our church and we are seeing our congregation grow. It is an exciting time, as we are beginning to see a turnaround that began with the church assessment that the Region provided.  Your leadership has given us invaluable resources, Charles. May God continue to bless you and your efforts on behalf of the churches of Mission Northwest.

 

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