As Christians we are called to be more than “State Farm” neighbors, more than just there. Jesus calls us to be great neighbors, not just good ones. The second prong of the Great Commandment is to love our neighbors as we love ourselves. We are called to love them, not with an ulterior motive (sneaky, sneaky), but with an ultimate one, to gently and humbly introduce them to Jesus Christ. After all, how much do you really love someone if you don’t tell them about the One who died to meet them and lives to transform them?
So why aren’t more Christians reaching out to their neighbors with the love of Jesus? I once heard my close friend and former church planting co-conspirator, Pastor Rick Long, say that the problem is that Christians tend to view their homes as their castles. He emphasized that this is the challenge when it comes to reaching neighbors with the love of Jesus. If our home is our castle, then our driveway is our moat and the garage door is our drawbridge. We enter our castles and close our drawbridges without ever having to say hello to our neighbors.
Guilty as charged.
There have been times I have spent so much time inside my castle that I didn’t think about getting to know my neighbors. I travel a lot so, when I’m home, it’s like a Stier family party inside the castle walls (okay, it fluctuates from party to fight to party at times.) Our times together as a family are precious. I love hanging out with my wife and kids. But that time together inside the walls made us less aware of the people outside them. It’s not that we didn’t want to get to know our neighbors but, sadly, we didn’t think about it that much.
Last year that began to change. I began to get convicted about reaching my neighbors with the love of Jesus. As the President of Dare 2 Share Ministries I mobilize teenagers to reach their friends and classmates with the gospel. I inspire and equip these teenagers to take risks at their schools that I was not willing to take in my own neighborhood. Don’t get me wrong. I share the gospel a lot to a lot of people. But, to be honest, it’s far easier to reach a stranger on a plane or a Barista at a Starbucks than the neighbor down the street. Why? Because I have nothing to lose with a stranger but a lot to lose if I alienate my neighbor! So last year we began to get out more, get to know our neighbors better and start to take those risks.
As we have become more intentional as a family we’ve seen God do some amazing things. Here are three action steps we’ve taken to be more than just State Farm neighbors:
1. Get out of the castle.
Let the drawbridge down and keep it down. Go outside. Walk your dog. Cross the street and chat it up. Open up your yard for neighborhood kids to play.
Our yard has become the default neighborhood baseball field. Over the summer months they have created an indented brown spot on my grass. That brown spot is home base. That brown spot is a small price to pay to own the yard where kids come to play. It is a trophy of grace. It represents tons of chats with a lot of kids over the last two summers. It has opened up conversations with both neighborhood kids and their parents.
There are many ways to get out of the castle and get to know your neighbors. Dave Runyon, an old friend and former youth pastor, is working with pastors all across the city I live in (Arvada, Colorado) to help Christians rediscover the art of “neighboring.” He encourages block parties to launch the neighboring initiative. This whole movement has been exploding all over our city and starting to spread to others. It is exciting to be a part of it.
However you choose to do it, get out of the castle more often and get to know your neighbors.