Art of Neighboring

This is an excerpt from the book The Art of Neighboring by Jay Pathak & Dave Runyon

Let’s try a quick exercise. Oh and a warning. This might hurt a bit.

We have done this exercise with hundreds of churches and thousands of people, and a number of them have jokingly referred to this as “a chart of shame.” This exercise might be convicting, and if it is, that’s probably healthy. But the point of the exercise is not to bring shame; its to move the Great [Commission] from a theory into a real-world context.

To begin, print ArtNeighboring Chart. Then imagine that the middle box in the chart below is your house and the other boxes are the eight houses situated nearest to you–the eight households that God has placed closest to wear you live…try to picture the eight nearest neighbors, however they may be situated.

Then in the middle of the chart, simply write your home address. In the other boxes fill in the three subpoints within each box–a, b and c–as follows:

A) Write the names of the people who live in the house represented by the box. If you can give first and last names, that’s great. If it’s only first names, that’s fine too.

B) Write down some relevant information about each person, some data or facts about him or her that you couldn’t see just by standing in your driveway, things you might know if you’ve spoken to the person once or twice. We don’t mean drives a red car or has yellow roses by the sidewalk, because you could see that from your driveway. We mean information you’ve gathered from actually speaking to a neighbor, such as grew up in Idaho, is a lawyer, plays golf, is from Ethiopia, had a father in World War II.

C) Write down some in-depth information you would know after connecting with people. This might include their career plans or dreams of starting a family or anything to do with the purpose of their lives. What motivates them to do what they do? What would they say about God? What do they fear the most? What are their spiritual beliefs and practices? Write down anything meaningful you have learned through interacting with them.

Okay, how did you do? After leading this exercise numerous times in many different venues we have observed the results are strikingly consistent:

  • About 10% of people can fill out the names of all eight of their neighbors.
  • About 3% can fill out line b for every home.
  • Less than 1% can fill out line c for every home.

Take a step back and consider what these means. Jesus said to love our neighbors. Sure, the teaching extends to our metaphorical neighbors–people everywhere in need. This extends to the people we work with, the parent on our kid’s soccer team, and even the person on the other side of the world who is in need of a meal. But it also means our actual neighbors–the people who live next door.

So are we doing this? Are we actually loving our neighbors? What does this exercise reveal about our neighboring or lack thereof? Our chart may not reveal what you’d like it to, and its important not to shy away from how this makes you feel. Lean in and feel the burn.

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