People in our age often want to be told what to do so they can follow the directions. The dangerous thing is that if we just tell people what to do, then we not only become their functional savior for mission, we also avoid training them as leaders. This enables followers to stay followers and keeps leaders as their idols. We become the Holy Spirit for them, and when something in their life isn’t working, they don’t go the King. They come to another finite servant for direction. They become our disciple, not a disciple of Jesus. I’ll actually be speaking more on this understanding of leadership development at the GCM National Conference in September. So, what do I tell these people that inquire about how to live Christ's mission in their neighborhood (without making them feel stupid for asking a question that was prodded by the Spirit)?
Jesus tells us to love your neighbor as you love yourself.
He also tells us in Acts 1:8 that he’ll send us power by way of the Spirit to empower us for mission… to be his witnesses. (Notice witness is a noun, not a verb. You are the witness. It’s not something you do, but someone you are by His power.)
If we take these two principles to the neighborhood, what might that look like?
What would you attend if you were invited by a neighbor?
This seems very simple, but most don’t do this easy task. There is a great list given over at Verge by Josh Reeves - good dude by the way - called 25 Simple Ways to Missional to Your Neighborhood. Over at the GCM Collective there is a great document by Jeff Vanderstelt called Contextualization Assessment Starter. These are two great tools to start your mind thinking, but I have a very simple way to start. Simply ask yourself and your family, what would you attend if a neighbor invited you?
Would you attend a church service?
Would you attend a picket line?
Would you attend a “school” during the summer at another place in the city?
Some event where someone is trying to sell you trinkets?
Maybe some of you are thinking…"Yes I would!"
If so, try it out. See if it works. If not, think through other things that you might attend.
What you will find through this process is the demographics of your neighborhood. When I started, one of the things I tried was inviting over people for a UFC fight. Literally no one showed up. Most of the folks I talked to afterwards said that they just weren’t interested in the UFC. That was the pits for me, because I dig me some ultimate fighting, but that gave me a better understanding of the neighborhood. Also, I got a chance to ask the next question to my neighbor:
What do you enjoy doing?
Now I get ideas, plus some ways to engage my neighbor for their story.
Neighbor: I really enjoy things I can do with my whole family.
Me: Oh, you have kids? How old are they? What are their names, etc.? What do you guys enjoy as a family?
Just with that small question, you're already beginning your contextualized understanding of your neighborhood.
You’ll also notice you'll start to engage your neighbors, whether they are in your “demographic” or not. This doesn’t simply “work” if you are in a neighborhood surrounded by people like you. It will also work in those neighborhoods where you are not like your neighbors. You can try some things you like. They might fail. But that just gives you a chance to engage neighbors to see what they enjoy and what would draw them out to engage the community as a whole.
How would you like to be invited to engage community?
The next question people ask me is this:
I have an idea to engage neighbors. How should I invite them?
I just turn the question back on them:
How would you like to be invited to something from someone you don’t know? What kind of invitation would you ignore? What kind of invitation would cause you to engage?
I don’t know about you, but I would ignore most things sent to me in the mail or something just left on my doorstep. For me, I would respond positively from a face-to-face interaction, with something left behind with the information.
This is exactly what I decided to do three years ago in our neighborhood. I took flyers around to our neighbors, knocked on their doors and introduced myself to them and invited them to our 4th of July party. This created many opportunities for conversation and many have come to our community events because of a simple introduction.
For others, email might work, Facebook (I have a community Facebook group now that we’ve built relationships), evite, etc. Think through different ways to communicate to people, to engage them in the ways that your neighborhood is comfortable with.
Sent by His Power
This is the greatest part. You have the power of the eternal God, the embodiment of wisdom, inside you for his glory.
After thinking through the first two questions of how we can love our neighbors like we love ourselves, we must not forget the first part. The commandment to love your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.
We need to go to our God to simply ask him what he’d like us to do next with his power. When we go through what things we are going to do to engage our neighbors, or any other group, we must first ask our Dad. "Dad, what’s next with this neighborhood to show off your glory?"
Then do what he tells you.
It might be huge, or it might be small. The important thing is to be obedient to him after he tells you what he desires. This doesn’t mean it will “work” in your eyes (such as the UFC thing above), but it means you're allowing your eternal Dad to determine what you NEED to do to make you more like Jesus and for others around you to see his glory and fame.
I fully believe if we think through these three easy steps, we’ll engage our neighborhoods and other groups around us much more often with more power and positive response from those around us.
Yes, you’ll end up sacrificing your time, your money and your possessions, but in the end isn’t this what we are called to do as followers of Jesus?
Love others as you love yourself by the power of the Spirit, and watch the work God will do.
Seth McBee is the adopted son of God, husband of one wife, and father of three. He’s a graduate of Seattle Pacific University with a finance degree. By trade Seth is an Investment Portfolio Manager, serving as president of McBee Advisors, Inc as well as a missional community leader, preaching elder with Soma Communities in Renton, Washington, and executive team member of the GCM Collective. In his down time, he likes to do CrossFit, cook BBQ, and host pancake ebelskiver breakfasts at his home. Twitter @sdmcbee
For more information on taking the gospel to the streets, check out Jonathan Dodson's Unbelievable Gospel.