Love Your Neighbor
We are in the midst of a discipleship journey called the Legacy Initiative where as a church, we want to grow in what it means to know Jesus and make Him known. We want to build and leave a gospel-centered legacy by living our lives on mission as followers of Jesus.
Jesus shows us in Matthew 22:37-40 that following him means loving our neighbors. We want this to be true of us, which is why we are launching the Love Your Neighbor Movement. Our goal is to deepen the impact that we have in the communities where God has placed us for the sake of the gospel. The Love Your Neighbor Movement is about helping us develop a framework for a lifestyle of living on mission.
For some, this will serve as a starting point for engaging your neighbors for the first time. Our heart is to be genuine and authentic in how we live this out and not manipulative in our actions. Remember, people are not projects. As disciples, our motivation has to be the gospel and our model must be Jesus.
We are so excited about embarking on this journey together! We believe God is going to use this summer as a launching pad for developing a greater love and intentionality for our neighbors.
The Love Your Neighbor Movement
Before we can love our neighbors, we have to know who they are! This week, make a map of your neighborhood or apartment complex. Draw it like the ones below or print something from Google maps -- no need to be perfect, just usable.
Who do you know? Are there new neighbors you haven’t met yet? Are you the new neighbors? Where do the people you don’t know live?
Joining your neighborhood or community association and social media groups. These groups are a great way to meet the people who live near you and begin getting to know them.
Take some time to pray over this map, asking God to open doors to build relationships. Ask God for eyes to see your neighbors the way He does, and for opportunities to serve them. Ask God to identify for you which neighbors to begin reaching out to.
Also, think about the people you regularly interact with in your neighborhood or building who don’t live there: postal workers, delivery drivers, trash collectors, landscapers, building owners, lifeguards, etc
Identify 3-5 specific neighbors to reach out to and get to know better. Reaching out can be as simple as leaving a kind note in their mailbox to start the friendship. Start learning your neighbors’ stories.
Prayer is essential. It’s how we draw close to God and seek Him. Through prayer, mountains move and God works. Nothing we do is possible without prayer, and so we want to spend this first week focused on prayer. We want to devote ourselves to prayer, staying alert with thanksgiving.
This week we want to pray over our neighborhoods and community areas, so we’re going to do some prayer walking. Prayer walking (or driving!) is simply what its name says: praying while you are walking.
Spend time walking around your neighborhood and community areas, praying as you go. Do this at least 3-5 times this week. This prayer walking guide can help you with suggestions for prayer and places to record how the Spirit leads you as you pray.
You can pray through the suggested topics, but be open to the Holy Spirit leading you in prayer. He may bring something to mind that you should pray about, or a portion of Scripture to meditate on or pray over a house or person you pass. When you sense the Spirit leading you to pray something specific or meditate on Scripture, make a note of where it happened. For example, if you are walking, and the Lord leads you to pray for healing, make a note that it happened at the 3rd house on your street. Or maybe you pass someone, and the Lord brings to mind Colossians 1:9. Look the verse up, then pray for that person to “be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding.” The people and locations around you when the Spirit brings these things to mind can be very important. Nothing is random with the Lord, and even if you don’t know why, it may be that the Lord has you interceding for someone in such a way that will change their life.
If there are pieces of your neighborhood map you haven’t completed, finish it this week.
As you’re walking and praying, say hello to your neighbors when you see them. If you didn’t last week, identify 3-5 specific neighbors to reach out to and get to know better. Reaching out can be as simple as leaving a kind note in their mailbox to start the friendship. Start learning your neighbors’ stories.
We have spent time focusing on who we know in our immediate contexts and praying for our communities. This week we want to look more broadly and think about the people who are outside our “circles.” These are the people in our community who would not immediately come to mind as our neighbors.
This week we want to take an honest look at where we are in our community. Please click here for a resource to help you this week.
Prayerfully and honestly answer the questions in this guide. It is tempting to excuse ourselves from these hard questions. We do not want to give ourselves a pass, but truly evaluate where we are. We often assume we are in relationships with marginalized peoples and people who are different from us because we have friendly interactions. A passing hello every time we see someone, having an acquaintance with a co-worker, being polite to the grocery store worker -- these types of interactions do not mean we know someone or are in a relationship with them.
These interactions could be an open door to building a relationship with someone -- and this is a great thing! But remember, we are not trying to use relationships to manipulate people into spiritual conversations or to check a box of “friendship diversity.” We want to get to know them, be their friend, and show them Jesus’ love.
Ask God to give you wisdom as you answer these questions. Ask him for eyes to see your neighbors and community as he does. Ask him to show you where there are opportunities to build genuine friendships. Ask him for courage to be honest and to follow him. When you ask, be open and willing to listen to him as he shows you.
3T’s: Time, Talent, Treasure
The last three weeks have been full of prayer and taking steps to learn who your neighbors are and getting to know them. You’ve identified through prayer people God is leading you to. You’ve started reaching out to them, getting to know them, and learning their stories.
For the next two weeks, we want to focus on putting into action what you have learned. Pick 3-5 neighbors from those you’ve identified and act. Get to know them more. Spend time with them. Be a friend. Serve them if possible. This could include:
- Write notes to the neighbors God has identified for you.
- Deliver care packages to people who shared needs with you.
- Did you learn that your neighbor lost their job? Buy a grocery gift card to help out.
- Host an online game night or get together for you and your neighbors.
- Organize a social-distance friendly hang out.
- Write thank you and encouragement cards for the people in your community you’ve identified.
- Ask your neighbors if you can pray with and for them.
- Invite your neighbors to watch the service online with you (host a Facebook watch party — or an in person one if you’re comfortable with that)
- Ask a neighbor to join you and your family at the park.
- Mow a lawn for your neighbors.
- Cook a meal for someone (but ask if they are comfortable with that first).
Be creative! This list is not exhaustive. Ask God how you can serve your neighbors and get to know them.
Talk with your community groups and share what is going on. Did someone in your group meet a neighbor with a bigger need? Maybe your whole community group could join together to serve them.
This summer we also want to continue our partnerships with schools and organizations in our community. We will be participating in three drives this summer, organized by community group.
First, we will be collecting food for the food pantries at Mosaic Church and Fair Oaks Elementary. We are one of the partners in education for Fair Oaks, and we have partnered with Mosaic during the COVID-19 pandemic. Both organizations have been providing food throughout the crisis for hundreds of families, and we have the opportunity to help provide for these families.
Second, we are beginning a partnership with a local organization called LoveWell. LoveWell partners with apartment communities in Marietta, serving the students and families through afterschool programs, mentoring, discipleship groups, and summer programs. For the last two years, LoveWell has been asked to partner with one of the complexes for a Back to School event, providing school supplies for 125 students. We will be collecting supplies for them and helping volunteer at the event.
Finally, we want to write letters to all of the teachers and staff at the schools we partner with as a way to welcome them back to school in August. These schools are: Fair Oaks Elementary, Osborne High School, and East Cobb Middle School.
We will be collecting supplies by community group. Please see the chart below for what your community group is collecting. If you have any questions, please contact [email protected].