So we have chosen to be for our neighbors. We have raised our hands, signed our names on the list and maybe even shouted “I” instead of “nay,” during the vote. Whatever the case may be, we are here now. We are crouched at the starting line, waiting for the starting pistol to permit us to lift our feet into acceleration.
Bang! And we’re off! The invitations to our special event or regular church service have been mailed—some are even given in person. A few days, weeks or months later, our invited neighborhood guests show up. We have the best time ever and new relationships are formed! Our church community and our new friends become best buddies and live happily ever after. Yeah, we wish.
If we are honest with ourselves, we know we will never hear it. We will never hear the piercing crack that follows a pulled trigger. There is no pistol. And therefore, there is no one holding it. So what is stopping us? What is keeping us from getting out there and connecting with our neighbors?
Well, a lot of things! Choosing to be for our neighbors is scary. We are choosing to deal with the stress and anxiety of doing everything perfectly. We want so badly to connect with others, invite them to our dinner tables and into our spaces, and for it all to work out without a hitch. But we know that is not reality. That is fantasy.
Maybe we know what’s ahead. Maybe we already expect the struggle of meaningful relationships, but lack the capacity to add that to our already full plates.
Let’s be real. We are the ones holding ourselves back. We are not fans of failure, nor do we want to subject ourselves to the messiness of investing into the lives of others. So, what do we do? We wait to see how it goes with others before we stick our necks out there. As with many things, fear drives our hesitancy. So we continue to wait . . . No! We go!
I challenge us to go. If we wait, nothing happens. If we move, something happens. Yes, it will be uncomfortable at times, but it will be worth it. We will meet many people similar to us, and we will learn so much from those different from ourselves.
Being for our neighbors means reaching across racial, socioeconomic, generational and many other types of lines. And to be effective, we need to do the following:
Give Ourselves a Break
First, let’s give ourselves a break. Take a deep breath and exhale. Taking the leap to get out of our comfort zones is a big deal. Choosing to strategically invest into our neighbors takes a lot of courage, so let us go ahead and forgive ourselves.
Sometimes we are going to mess up. In ignorance, we will say the wrong things. Foolishly, we will have impure motives. We may even have false assumptions. However, this is a process. We are going to fall flat on our faces at times. We are unintentionally going to offend. But that is the beauty of meaningful relationships. We grow stronger through the ups and down, the tears and laughter, the celebrations and devastations.
We cannot give time to people if we do not make it. We must take a look at our calendars and schedules and make sure we stop doing things before we start doing more.
If we keep our same filled schedules and launch into connecting with others, we will end up with shallow relationships. We are going for depth, and that requires more time. So, let us make more time in our lives for our neighbors.
We don’t know what we don’t know. Sitting at the table with those different than us will lend itself to the opportunity of learning so much. Let’s leave our titles and intellect at the door and simply be humble humans.
As we already know, there are more things that unite us than there are things that divide us. Choosing to understand rather than being understood goes a long way. Let us think of ways we can enter spaces without embracing stereotypes, prejudices and preconceived notions.
Set the Tables
Are our spaces inviting to those outside of them? It is not an easy task, nor are we trying to please everyone, but let us do our best to make our spaces embrace our neighbors.
As Orange Leaders, we believe that what happens at our churches will have a lasting impact on what happens in the homes and neighborhoods around our churches. The converse is also true. Having a good pulse on our neighborhoods, should impact what happens in our churches. Which leads into our next need.
We need to get out of our churches sometimes. Our communities are filled with more people than those that fill our spaces. To get a more realistic pulse on what’s happening in the lives of our neighbors, we must spend time with them.
There are six whole days between one Sunday and the next. During these days, our neighbors are not in our churches, for the most part. Let’s spend some time connecting with our neighbors during the week. There are conversations we can have on front porches that will not happen in our churches. There are things that will be shared at the park that won’t be shared in our offices.
This is going to be so much fun! However, when it is not, please do not give up! Just as Jesus has never given up on us, we are called to do the same. Forgiveness is still the banner that connects us all. We are worth each other’s time and attention.