The Neighboring Church: A Program or a Process





It’s time to really get down to the nitty grittty of neighborhood missional work. Everything I am about to say is based on 30 years of senior level church ministry interfaced with three years of neighborhood missional activities.

So let me cut right to the chase and then explain. In my experience neighborhood missional work CANNOT be a program it must be an organic process. It must never be forced it must just happen from your availability to do the work of the kingdom right where you are.

When I look at some definitions of ORGANIC I like a couple of them that work well within my experience.

Developing in a manner analogous to the natural growth and evolution characteristic of living organismsarising as a natural outgrowth.

Viewing or explaining something as having a growth and development analogous to that of living organisms 

As I mentioned in my first discussion of neighborhood work I was greatly impacted by Mavis & Rusaw in their writings within THE NEIGHBORHOOD CHURCH (TNC). But after nearly three years of direct work in my neighborhood I have come to the realization very little in that book is what is happening in my neighborhood. We have a completely different animal on the loose here in the Nashville area.  This by no means is saying anything negative about the writings of Mavis and Rusaw. I recommend the book whole heartily, its just not what we are implementing or experiencing within our mission.

After I had read TNC I was pretty pumped up to go to the church I attended as well as others and say here is the next big wave of revival. Let me tell you what I am doing and how you can do it. That is when I quickly realized I could tell them but as a church, thinking always within a programmatic mindset, they could really never do it at a level I have seen evolve the past three years.

Let me give you the basic reason a successful neighborhood church mission can never be something formally directed by a local body.

Churches rarely think organically, they drive ministry through programmatic initiatives that are dependent on budgets and numbers of volunteers resulting in people feeling obligated and not necessarily called. 

In our mission work we probably have about a half a dozen people who are involved in leading grass roots activities. I would say outside of me none of these folks feel they are involved in a neighborhood mission they are just in relationship with their neighbors, looking for ways to increase and foster relationships at many different levels. They engage because it is a value to them not an obligation they have undertaken. Nothing is forced it just happens week by week by week by week. You cannot program anyone to love or care for their neighbor. It must be put into their hearts by the Holy Spirit.

So where does this leave the church and their role in the neighborhood, keeping in mind mind the church are people not a building or a political subdivision or an organization. Next time we will explore some very out of the box ways the church can be used to effect neighborhoods within their community avoiding the programmatic trap.

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