As a believer, your identity is in Christ and therefore His mission is also your mission. Theologically, this sounds great and we are all in agreement with that, however how does that translate into real, boots-on-the-ground, application? What does it look like, practically?
Here are some practical suggestions on how to live missionally, where you are planted, to expand the Kingdom of God by revealing His glory to others in your community.
1. Pray for Your Neighbors
Not only is prayer powerful in God’s movement among people, but it virtually costs us nothing. Meaning, we can pray easily for people without their knowledge, in the comfort of our own homes and routines. We can approach the throne of grace, confident in His hearing & answering us, without stepping one foot in the awkwardness that is going next door and across the street.
Another way to pray for our neighbors, is to be keenly listening during conversations with them. If they mention anything that signals a moment of prayer for you – like an upcoming surgery, chaotic schedule, stress at work, issues with kids or marriage, or even someone in the family down with the flu – take the opportunity to let them know you will pray for them.
Bonus if you stop what you’re doing and ask if you can pray for them right there with them!
Prayer is the most accessible weapon we have to combat darkness. If you, like me, have some difficult neighbors then prayer is certainly where you start.
2. Be Generous
Generosity is one thing that marks the Church as separate from the world (yes, many generous people are unbelievers, I know) but you’ll gain more clout with your co-workers and community when you are characterized by generosity of your time and your resources.
- Let your neighbors borrow your tools.
- Give them the final ingredients for their meal that they found out they didn’t have in the pantry.
- Randomly give them gifts – a few times a year I like bake zucchini bread and hand them out to our neighbors, just because. Sometimes I put together a mason jar of stuff and give those out. Whatever gifts I give to my neighbors, I also do the same thing for our mailman and garbage men.
- You could be known to your husband’s co-workers as the family who brings treats once a month for everyone to share, this gives him an extra boost for building relationships at work!
- Instead of just waving “Hi” from across the street, simply walk the extra 10 feet to say, “Hi Cheryl, how are you doing? I heard you were pretty busy at work, can I help you with anything around the house?” More than likely Cheryl will decline help but she’ll be honored that you gave her your time and offered support.
3. Meet Their Needs
- When our neighbor found out he had cancer and was going to be doing chemotherapy treatment, we offered to mow their lawn, knowing it was primarily his duty within the house.
- When a lady half-way down the block had a baby, we took over a couple of meals for them.
- We also made meals for one of my husband’s co-worker’s family – I had never met them but we found out they had a need and met that need at the same that I got to meet them for the first time.
- You could also help dog/cat/pet sit while they’re on vacation.
- Babysit for them to enable a date night.
- Help pull weeds in their garden.
Meeting needs blesses people and as the aroma of Christ, we want to be a blessing to people.
4. Invite Them In
- Have your neighbors over a BBQ.
- As you go about normal every day activity, invite others to join you – grocery shopping, playing at the park, to the library, zoo, children’s museum, clothes shopping, back-to-school shopping.
- Host a book club, cooking club, or a freezer meal exchange.
- Host yard games or annual backyard olympics
- Invite them over for a fire pit with s’mores.
- Plan a block party, get others on your street involved as well.
- You could also alternate working on projects together. If I have a room that needs painting, I can invite others to help – we get the job done faster, with great conversation and all our kids play together! The next week or month, we might help another friend tend her garden and do canning. These are awesome opportunities to serve one another while building fellowship.
We’ve been in the habit of having one set of neighbors over each week or two so that we weren’t overloaded with tons of guests but we were able to concentrate on getting to know one family at a time.
Be known on your street for your friendliness and openness. People want to be loved so love them well while helping them get a glimpse into your home and family.
5. Be Seen
One note on the above suggestions – when we decided to do fire pits and invited all our neighbors to join us, we did them in our driveway instead of the backyard. We got more people stopping to say Hello because we were seen, not hidden behind the house in the backyard. You could also do BBQs in the front, especially during July 4th where you want to do fireworks too.
- Make it a habit to think through decisions in a missional way; meaning – when we got a porch swing, we decided to put it up on the front porch instead of the back because we wanted to be seen by our neighbors and we want to see them.
- We did picnics in the front yard, not the back.
- We ran through the sprinklers in the front yard.
Do you notice a theme? It’s that doing things in the front yard so that our neighbors – who we saw come home, drive into their garage, close the garage and we didn’t see them again until the garage door opened the next morning for them to go to work – could see that we enjoy life together. If they came outside, we took the opportunity to talk with them.
6. Be Assertive & Gracious
You may not believe me, but this is one my husband and I struggle with. We are both introverts. We’re friendly, but we’re introverts, so it takes a lot of effort to be geared up to talk with people we don’t know. I remember dragging him across the street to meet new neighbors who had moved in, he was walking so incredibly slow & then made me do all the talking.
It pushes us outside of our comfort zone and into a realm where we need to be prepared to ask questions in order to get to know someone we’re just meeting. Yet our motivation isn’t our comfort. If it was, we would never do it.
Our motivation is that our neighbors who are lost would “taste and see that the Lord is good” through our friendship with them, and that our neighbors who may be fellow believers would know there is another family who is like-minded around so we can gain encouragement, support and “sharpen one another” in the mission of God for our community.
The point in all of these ideas is to enable opportunities to build relationships with those you rub shoulders with on a daily basis. These things can be done anywhere and with anyone. No Christian is called to stay on the sidelines of the mission of God. We all have a vital role to play, no matter where you are and no matter what you do.
Holly currently lives in Nebraska with her amazing & godly husband, sweet & smart 4-year old daughter & joyful 2 year old son. She is a stay-at-home mom who serves with her local MOPS group, and on her church’s Mission Leadership Team for missionary support. She writes at The Brown Tribe for the purpose of discipling and encouraging women and mothers. She is also a contributor for Satisfaction Through Christ, Raising Up Stones & Missional Call. In her spare time she enjoys coffee, photography, exploring the culinary craft, helping combat human trafficking through awareness and is currently writing her first book. You can follow along with Holly on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Google+, and Instagram.