DO YOU WANT TO REACH YOUR UNCHURCHED NEIGHBORS?

2 12 2011

Who are your neighbors?

Increasingly traditional churches cannot answer that question with any specificity.  Some congregations are reverse commuters, returning Sundays and perhaps Wednesdays to gather and worship in a community in which they no longer live.  Other churches live in a bubble of doctrinal isolation (i.e., we do not want to tainted by the world and therefore have little contact) or inward-focused fellowship, spending almost 100% of their time with other church people.  Some congregations are even afraid of their neighbors.  As a result no attempt is made to reach those unchurched neighbors except the billboard or sign out front.

Who are our neighbors?  The scriptures make it very plain – they are the people for whom Christ died and who Christ loves.  Some of them are connected to churches, some are not.  Some are Christians, some are not.  Some are church drop-outs.  Some have absolutely no Christian roots and have barely a clue as to what you do behind closed doors on Sunday morning.

If we think of those neighbors at all, we generalize them as the lost and then act as if they’re not really lost by largely ignoring them.

Do you want to reach your unchurched neighbors?  That is an essential question for every congregation that claims to be an obedient and faithful part of the Body of Christ.

If you truly want to reach your unchurched neighbors, then there some realities you must come to grips with.

1. They are not your enemies, nuisances, nor your project.  These are three perceptions that will drive your neighbors away or create barriers across which they will never pass.  They may not like your faith nor approve of it, but if you see them as your enemies and approach them as such, they will fight back.  They are not persons who get in the way of your ministry. They are people who need your ministry.  Reaching them is far more important than all the church suppers, small group Bible studies, and projects your church may pour its energy into.  They are not a project, a number to be counted, a victory to be one.  They are people, created in the image of God, loved and respected because Christ died for them.  They are people who need a relationship with Jesus Christ and with you, the Body.

2. They have needs that you must first understand and then respond to in the name of Christ.  Too many of us do not know our neighbors well enough to know their needs, let alone address those needs.  We often assume we know them, but that usually leads to assuming they are like us and just need to be persuaded to behave as such.  If you don’t build relationships, listen, and seek to understand–you will not reach your neighbors effectively.

3.  They are have values and dreams.  You may think those values to be sinful or their dreams to be shallow; but you do not build a redemptive relationship with people who you do not respect in some way.

There’s more to be said on this subject, but for now; know that if you want to reach your unchurched neighbors, you will have to begin thinking in new ways.

(C) 2011 by Stephen L Dunn