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Four Ways We Can Become Good Neighbors

Like many of you during the last few months, I’ve been trying to help my congregation thrive through this pandemic. While the health professionals worked on preventing the spread of COVID-19, I’ve focused on helping my church family navigate the spiritual challenges they’re facing. And I’ve focused on leading our church to stand firmly against racism and bigotry.

All of this has drawn our attention to the urgent need to build or rebuild relationships within our own neighborhoods. The Bible tells us that loving God and other people is our number one responsibility on earth. 

Jesus tied the most important command, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind,” to the second one, “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:37, 39 NIV). The two commands go together. You can’t do one without the other. 

Right now, more than ever, the church needs to model what it looks like to be good neighbors. 

To do that, I’m convinced Christians need to build these four habits into their lives. 

We must get to know our neighbors individually.

We can’t love people we don’t know. As I’ve traveled around the world, I’ve discovered this is a particular problem in the American suburbs. Suburban people can live for years near others without ever getting to know them.

Making friends isn’t rocket science. It starts with simple friendliness. Proverbs 18:24 says, A man who has friends must himself be friendly(NKJV). 

When I asked my congregation how they’ve gotten to know their neighbors during the COVID-19 pandemic, I received some terrific responses. One family is trying to sit on their porch more and actively engage people as they walk by. Another family moved their grill to the front yard and invited the neighbors to join them for burgers. 

These are easy steps that just about anyone in your church can do.

We must encourage our neighbors continually.

Everyone needs encouragement, particularly during these times of uncertainty and anxiety. People are looking for hope. Proverbs 12:25 reminds us: “Worry weighs a person down; an encouraging word cheers a person up” (NLT).

Where can we get this encouraging word to share with our neighbors? First, we get it from God’s Word. Romans 15:4 says, “For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope” (NIV).

We all need hope right now. I encourage you to equip the people of your church with verses of hope they can share with their neighbors. And get creative! One family at Saddleback told us about how their kids are writing Scripture on rocks and taking them to their neighbors. Let’s encourage this kind of creativity right now—and always!

We must serve our neighbors cheerfully.

Service is love in action. John writes, “Now, suppose a person has enough to live on and notices another believer in need. How can God’s love be in that person if he doesn’t bother to help the other believer?” (1 John 3:17 GW).

This is a great time to encourage people to use their gifts and talents to meet the different needs of their neighbors—physical, emotional, spiritual, and practical needs.

I’m sure you have some great examples of people in your church stepping up to serve their neighbors during this season. I know I do. I’ve had members going on grocery runs for their elderly neighbors, mowing their lawns, and finding other ways to show love-in-action. We need to make these kinds of actions part of our regular, everyday lives.

We must share Christ with our neighbors personally.

God has never made a person he doesn’t love. Everyone needs Jesus. The greatest gift we can share with our neighbor is to introduce them to the God who loves them.

This is the ultimate demonstration of our love for our neighbors. It’s important that we help our congregations understand that they can share the Good News with their neighbors. They don’t need to wait for us to do it for them. 

Sharing Christ isn’t difficult, but it does require words. As 1 Peter 3:15 tells us, “If someone asks about your hope as a believer, always be ready to explain it” (NLT). You can’t explain your hope, as Peter describes, without words. It’s not enough to just help our congregations be good people who “witness with their lives.” Even Jesus had to explain his faith. We do as well.

I want Saddleback to be a church known for taking these four actions in our neighborhoods. I want people to feel like if they live next to a Saddleback member, they are lucky because they’ve got the best neighbors in the world.

I think that’s a worthy goal for all our churches. 

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