Block parties.  Barbecues.  Knowing your neighbors.  These are concepts you’ve read about often here in the Fancy Newsletter. ‘Loving Neighbor’ and ‘Building Neighbor-hood’ are familiar phrases, not just in SLF circles any more, but all over Salem-Keizer.  How thrilling it was to walk into church one Sunday and learn we were about to embark on a 6-week series entitled “The Art of Neighboring.”  And what a series it was!  Then my colleague DJ Vincent got me the book … WOW!  I heartily recommend it for your summer-reading book bag.  The authors are a pair of pastors who discovered the richness of the Greatest Commandment lived out in 21st Century urban and suburban American neighborhoods.

It’s common sense … it’s what our grandparents did routinely … it’s what the scriptures proclaim … all rediscovered and redeployed for the Gospel transformation of people and place.

The premise is simple.  Get to know the people and families on your block.  The statistics are shocking.  Only 10% of people can name eight neighbors who live around them.  Only 3% of people know something about them beyond their names.  The book encourages us to “meet and love your neighbors.”  Not with Bible tracts and crusade invitations.  Rather, with the simple acts of daily life.  Learning their names.  Their kids’ names.  Listening to their stories.  Eating!  Sharing life around barbecues, football games, favorite recipes, gardening, school.  It doesn’t mean you become everyone’s best friend.  But it does mean you know them, you listen to their stories, and you’re there for them when they need you.  And vice versa.

The book is built around the Greatest Commandment as recorded in the gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke.  Jesus instructs his followers to love God with everything (heart, soul, mind, strength); and love neighbor as self.  In the modern age, cars and garage doors and TVs and computers make it easy to cocoon up and avoid contact with people.  Is that our spiritual call?  To insulate ourselves from the people around us?  Or is our call to engage, to serve, to build relationships, to love.  It can seem so hard.  The book helps make it easy.  Easy steps, easy to read, easy to put into practice.

In the book, I was particularly interested to learn how the two pastor-authors got started.  They were praying with 20 pastors in the Denver area.  They felt led to impact and transform their community.  They approached the mayor and asked “What can we as churches do to help?”  The mayor said, “deploy the Greatest Commandment; love your neighbor.”  It was so simple.  It was so obvious.

And, the authors admitted, it was a bit embarrassing that the mayor provided the epiphany.  They got busy encouraging their congregations.  Block parties.  Barbecues.  Fixing gutters.  Sharing tools.  Picking up garbage.  Visiting shut-ins.  Volunteering at school.  Community gardens.  Hmm … sounds kinda familiar, doesn’t it?  God is moving in cities around the world, including Shalom, Oregon.

What’s Your Neighborhood?

Here’s the link to the story in the Denver Post.