A few years after Karen and I were married, we started attending a small Charismatic church in our neighborhood. Our small and friendly church was literally adjacent to a very conservative church—we shared a common retaining wall. Years earlier, the church had purchased a piece of property from our church to build a larger parking lot. One would think that an act like that would create a rather cordial relationship between the two congregations, but au contraire.
Both churches held their services simultaneously. Every Sunday, as soon as I got out of our car, I would start waving at our neighbors attending the church next door. In all the years we attended church there, none of our Christian neighbors ever waved back at me. Somehow, their more correct theology prevented them from showing the love of Christ to those Christians whose theology was not quite as sophisticated as theirs. I often wondered, “Isn’t loving our neighbors as ourselves a part of Christ’s greatest mandate to his followers? Even if they considered me a heathen dog, I still deserved some crumbs off their righteous table, as the Grecian woman said to Jesus.”
By the way, we, the Charismatic believers, might think we are more ecumenical than other denominations, but when it comes to loving our neighbors as ourselves, we have our own unique issues. I attended a Charismatic megachurch for years. Next to the property was a Masonic temple. During all the 12 years that I attended church there, I never paid any attention to our Mason neighbors. After all, they were a bunch of demon-possessed people who should have been avoided at any cost.
I will never forget the day when my friend, Terry, a staff member at the megachurch, was asked by the leadership to inquire into the possibility of purchasing the Masonic temple. This is what the temple’s caretaker said to Terry, “You people have been our neighbors for 14 years. Not once have you even acknowledged our presence, and when you finally have, it’s because you want us out of the neighborhood.”
In one of my earliest posts, “Are You A Heat Waver”, I asked the following question: if you the individual (If you’re a pastor, I’m not talking about your church building or your church members, but you and your family.) move out of your neighborhood tonight, will your neighbors miss you tomorrow? If not, why not?
As Dallas Willard said, “The key to understanding the teachings of Jesus still remains: Loving our neighbors as ourselves in the power of God. And when you think about what that means, you realize that if that were done, almost every problem that we have in our cities would be solved. All we have to do is to simply follow Jesus’ words.”
Recently, at a meeting related to the Neighborhood Initiative, a movement started by my dear friend, Lynn Cory, a pastor shared with the 60 pastors present the difficulty he had in connecting with his neighbors. “I’m in a tough neighborhood. I don’t know how to approach my neighbors,” he said. I suggested that he starts waving at anyone who walked or drove by his house. Yesterday, I received this video clip by him (It might take a while to load).
It’s amazing what a genuine act of kindness through the love of Christ can do.
PS. If you’re interested in reaching out to your neighbors, may I suggest the book, Neighborhood Initiative written by Lynn Cory? You can buy it on Amazon, or get it directly from: www.neighborhoodintiative.org