Meeting a New neighbor
Earlier this week, I was grilling in the driveway when someone walked by in our alleyway. His name was Andrew (name changed, for his privacy) and he had a dog with him named Milo. He said something about the food smelling good and I responded that hopefully it tastes good. Then, I thought to myself, I am about to write a post about knowing our neighbors, am I really going to let this guy walk by without engaging him more?
So, I introduced myself and walked out the alleyway to shake his hand. After a brief 3-5 minute conversation, he told me where he lived, that he had moved from Atlanta this past fall to work as an engineer for Polaris, and a few other details of his life. My phone alarm went off, indicating that I needed to flip my chicken, so I went back to the grill and he continued his walk. It was a short interaction, but a great introduction.
As we seek to be men and women who multiply our faith into others in our community, we will need to be intentional about getting to know them. Multiplying our faith requires intentionality in relationships.
Knowing our neighbors is important
I have written elsewhere about the importance of our Relational Sphere of Influence (RSI), which I define as the people I have a relationship with as a result of my natural rhythms of life, including my family, friends, neighbors, coworkers, classmates, fellow parents, hair stylist, convenience store clerk, etc.
Our RSI is one of the primary avenues through which we can share the gospel. Are you investing in yours and taking advantage of the most natural pathways to relationship? Your neighbors are one of the easiest ways to get to know others; are you engaging with your neighbors?
It doesn't need to be complicated. It can literally begin with just a short 3-5 minute conversation. Then you can begin praying for them regularly and watch intentionally for other pathways to develop a relationship.
If I were to ask you to list the names of 10 neighbors, could you do it?
Missional Activity: Knowing your neighbors
Regardless how you answered the question about knowing 10 neighbors, here is an activity to get you started. And in the interest of full disclosure, I did this activity in preparation for this post - and I could not quite get to 10 neighbors. SO... I am writing this as much for you as for me. We all need to continue to find ways to invest in our relationships with our neighbors. And if you are married, it would be great to do this activity with your spouse.
Step 1: Create a diagram to give you a visual representation of your neighborhood or condo/apartment building
Step 2: Write down the names of 10 neighbors and put them in the appropriate place on your diagram
Note: A “neighbor” for the purpose of this activity would be a whole family unit. So it might be more accurate to think of it as 10 households.
Step 3: Write some observable facts you know about each neighbor
For example: Where are they from? How long have they been in the neighborhood? Occupations? Hobbies?
Step 4: Write down some “beneath the surface” information you know about them.
For example: Have they struggled with addictions in the past? Have they recently had a family member die? Have they always dreamed of owning their own business? Are there particular things they often complain about? What are their hopes and fears?
Step 5: Write down what you know about their faith.
For example: Have you had conversations about faith? What do you know about their own experience of faith? Did they grow up in church? Are they apathetic to faith? Curious about faith?
Pray, Wait and Watch
Pray: Once you have written down the names, begin to regularly pray for each of them (Tip: using the PrayerMate app can help). Pray for opportunities to care for them, love them and share the gospel with them. You cannot love your neighbors well on your own, you needs God's power and energy working through you and working in their lives.
Wait: Be patient as you wait for God to work. It might be tomorrow, it might be next week, or might not be until next year. Don't rush things by your own power, let God do the work.
Watch: Be intentional in your relationships and watch for open doors. Pray for strength to walk through them when they present themselves. Whether it is simply walking to the end of the alleyway to meet someone new, or inviting them over for a burger and beer the next time you see them. Watch with an expectant heart and jump on the opportunities when they come.