Do you know your neighbors? Have you ever had a conversation with the people who live next door? Many of us, at home and abroad, do not even know our neighbors. When we refuse to invest in the lives of the people in our community, we disobey the very words of our King.
Jesus said to his disciples before his ascension, “…you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth. (Acts 1:8)” Obviously, this passage has a much broader application than argued here. At the same time, I believe this passage applies to all of us, regardless of where we live around the world. It does not matter if God has you living in Memphis or Mogadishu. We all are commanded by King Jesus to be a witness for the Gospel in our communities. For most of us, this is a struggle.
I want to briefly share 5 simple ways I have discovered to build relationships with neighbors and others in your community. This list is not exhaustive, but rather is intended to cause us all to pause and reflect on how we approach fulfilling the Great Commission in our own neighborhoods. I am going to share what has worked well for me in my context in the Middle East and you can modify, alter, or think of new ways that will be profitable in your own community.
1. Sports/Games. Play games and get to know the kids in the neighborhood. I realize that in the States it might seem creepy for an adult man to play flag football with a bunch of fourteen year olds. However, in my neighborhood, six to eight guys play soccer (futbol) almost everyday and they love it when I get out of the house and join them. It allows me to build a relationship with both the parents and the kids in my neighborhood.
2. Cooking. Have your wife offer to teach your neighbor’s wife how to cook an American dish. My wife did this with chocolate chip cookies. It was an opportunity for the ladies to socialize, for my wife to practice language, and to build relationships with the intention of sharing truth.
3. Time. Go, sit, and chat with the local barber or shopkeeper a couple times a month. In my neighborhood, we have a local barbershop. A few times a month I will stop by just to chat and demonstrate to them that I care about building a friendship with them. They love to ask me questions about America, hear me attempt to speak Arabic, and just talk about life.
4. Hospitality. Always be willing to invite your neighbors into your home for a meal, a game, or just a cup of tea. A few months back we had some friends over and we played the card game spades with them. I know, we are sinful Baptists for playing card games! We had a great time playing, laughing, and getting to know our guests.
5. Kids. If you have children, be intentional about taking them outside in the neighborhood to play and walk around the community. In the Middle East, all people love children. They will not hesitate to pick up your baby and kiss and hug them. Every time we go outside with our son, all the neighborhood kids come flocking in our direction and want to play. This allows us to develop meaningful relationships in our community with the purpose of sharing Christ.
When we barricade ourselves in our homes and choose to ignore the people living around us, we dishonor the name of Christ. We are called to always live on mission. Regardless of our vocation, we are in the people business. We want to see hearts and lives changed by the truth of the Gospel. This will not happen unless we are deliberate about getting to know those who live around us. God has put all of us in particular communities for a reason. It is time we stop thinking about our own comfort and instead focus on where our neighbors will spend eternity.
This is a repost from 2010, written by a 2+ student living in the middle east.