One of the foundations of Life Model Works is for Christians to be joy starters.
This is a great opportunity to “love your neighbor,” beginning with your closest neighbors, those you live with. Being glad to be with each other is an opportunity for families to act on every day. Then, as you expand out, lo and behold, you have your next door neighbor.
For several years church leaders from our community have been praying together weekly for the people of our neighborhoods to connect with Jesus. We began specifically focusing on our own neighborhoods and spurring each other on to reach out to our own neighbors. Like everything else in Christianity, it’s not as much about talking about something, it’s actually doing it. We live out our vision and intentions by actually doing something.
We have lived in the same house for 24 years. Highly unusual for my generation in LA. So, over the years, we have had many different next door neighbors. One of the most recent neighbors were actually another pastor and his family! Two pastors living next to each other, go figure…We became friends, even did some outreach together, but then he moved and the house was purchased by a new owner. The daughter of the owner actually moved into the house, along with various renters of the other rooms. This is a nice house with a pool, a great place for parties. Most of her friends from the gym she worked at probably lived in apartments, so, sure enough, let the parties begin!
Party Central. No, not some summer tea party or soiree, no family bbq’s, mind you, but blaring rap and dance music, dropping-the-“F” bomb pool parties on many weekends. Along with this, came the heavy smell of “medicinal” products being smoked. Interesting…My favorite times were when we would occasionally have friends over for prayer and worship on our back patio. Sunday afternoon, “10,000 Reasons,” vs. "“F” you b… " competing over the wall between us like a tennis match. I guess the irony was noticed. A new friend who had not been to our home before showed up at the house next door by mistake. A woman who was one of the renters said, "O, you want the Jesus people next door." Nice...
Now, our neighbor wasn’t clueless to all of this. She would leave us a note saying when a party was coming up and how she would try to keep it down. She would talk with my wife or me, and she was always apologetic about the noise and such, and we did let her know if things went a little overboard. But, we stayed open and friendly, knew that being critical neighbors was not sharing joy. No good relationship is built on a foundation of complaining, after all. And, as the parties were not late into the night, we didn't yell, "Turn that music down! or "I'm going to call the police!" or whatever else you are supposed to yell when you are ticked off at your neighbors. Instead, we just told her we appreciated her letting us know, and over time, we began to build an acquaintance.
Then my wife began connecting with our neighbor about her life and relationships. Our neighbor seemed to be seeking, shall we say, wisdom from a “mom” figure living next door to her. My wife is a great listener and encourager, and being a light, not a judge proved valuable in the relationship we sensed God was building.
And then a new boyfriend moved in…
(Part 2 coming soon!)