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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

Letter from Region Board President - Nov. 2011

November 10, 2011

 
Greetings to the Churches, Pastors and Leadership Learning Communities of the American Baptist Churches of the Northwest,
 
As you are aware, we, the ABC of the Northwest, are in a time of exciting transition following the Region-wide Assessment conducted in the second half of 2009 by Dr. Bill Hoyt. The findings of the assessment were presented at the Boise Biennial Celebration business meeting which convened on May 14, 2010. The report calls for continuing changes in the Region. A copy of the report has been posted at the ABCNW web site for your referral. While transition always includes stress associated with change please know that your Region Board is committed to supporting you throughout the forthcoming transition process.
 
Previously, we sent you a letter about how the restructure would impact the old “Area” model. Since that letter was sent out most “Areas” in the ABCNW have disbanded in favor of the changes recommended by the Region Assessment. By way of our assessment it became clear that, as a whole, this structure was no longer serving it's purpose. Dr. Hoyt had reported to the board:
 
“Areas no longer work. This was overwhelmingly evident from the information gathered in the online survey. Areas aren’t what they used to be and they aren’t ever going to be. They are an economic improbability if not an outright impossibility. There are now different and better ways to provide connection and resourcing.” 
 
This is a follow up to the previous letter written to explain the process for nominating and electing of Representatives from each geographical area to serve on the Region Board. During the transitional period of the Region restructure the Region Board feels that the election process can best be facilitated at the LLC level. With this in mind, the Region Board is asking the LLCs that reside within the boundaries of the old “Areas” to vote to elect these Representatives from within their respective churches. All nominations will be subject to Region guidelines including acceptance of the Commonly Held Essentials, Resolution on Human Sexuality, and affirmation of the new structure and vision of the ABCNW. To this end, the Personnel and Nominating Committee of the Region Board will work in conjunction with the LLCs and the Executive Minister to assure that the above guidelines are met.
 
For the time being, if there is more than one LLC within a given area boundary they would need to divide the vote between them. For example, the Inland Northwest Area has three LLCs. These LLCs would establish a rotation by which each one would have a vote for a Representative over time. In the old model, each Area had two Representatives who served a three-year term. If the Eastern Montana LLC and the Spokane Area LLC vote on the first two Representatives from within their geographical area, then the Central Washington LLC would have a vote on the following cycle and one of the previously mentioned LLC’s would not vote. As you can see, this system has the potential to increase the actual involvement from a greater geographical area.
 
In order to give these votes bylaw authority, each Pastor in each LLC will be asked to sign a form acknowledging that they are casting a vote on these Representatives. This form will be kept on record at the Region office and updated whenever an LLC is eligible to vote.
 
The Area elected Representatives to the Region Board who are currently in office with continue to fill out their term and this new system will begin when their terms expire. This timing will differ based upon the dates at which the currently serving Representatives finish their terms.
 
If you have any questions regarding the upcoming changes, the suggestions of the assessment or the decisions reported at our Biennial meeting please feel free to contact your Area Representative to the Region Board or the Region staff.
 
Sincerely,
 
Rev. Jim Amend
President, ABC of the Northwest Region Board
 
Dr. Charles Revis
Executive Minister, ABC of the Northwest