For the past two summers, I’ve had the joy of working with a local youth group and doing some leadership training and coaching. At the beginning of our times together, I’ve sent the students out into their neighborhood with a simple question: “What kind of world would you like to live in?”
How would you answer?
The students polled a diverse group – business people on their lunch break, blue collar construction workers, mothers with their children in tow, etc. From such a demographic you would expect a divergence of answers, but the responses were amazingly similar (and that surprised even me, and I kinda knew what I was looking for!).
Across the board, the replies described a vision of love, joy, and peace, of health and provision. In debriefing with the students, they immediately got it – “They’re describing what Jesus and the Bible describes and promises!” And they were right, for the respondents clearly indicated a longing for the fulfillment of the prophets, a manifestation of what Jesus said and did, and a desire for the “new heavens and new earth.” “Kingdom come” is what they wanted, even among folks that wouldn’t put it in these categories.
As a pastor and follower of Jesus, this is what I’m after. But the question emerges, “How do we get there, how do we work toward this end?” I’d like you to consider that the solution might be somewhat more basic than we have ever thought.
I’ve recently tapped into a network and growing movement that is taking Jesus’ command to “love your neighbor” seriously and practically. In Denver, a group of pastors have rediscovered the “art of neighboring.” Consider…
What if the solution to our society’s biggest issues has been right under our noses for the past two thousand years? When Jesus was asked to reduce everything in the Bible into one command he said: Love God with everything you have and love your neighbor as yourself. What if he meant that we should love our actual neighbors? You know, the people who live right next door… But the fact is, Jesus has given us a practical plan that we can actually put into practice, a plan that has the potential to change the world. The reality is, though, that the majority of Christians don’t even know the names of most of their neighbors. [The Art of Neighboring, location 159]
It’s difficult to quantify the results of good neighboring. What we do know is that when people get to know their neighbors, good things start happening. Real relationships are formed. And these relationships make a difference. Neighbors start to work together… [And] these small acts add up to something significant. [The Art of Neighboring, location 1896]
I’m enough of a realist to recognize the limits of neighboring. However, praying “kingdom come,” I’m also willing to hit the streets, working to get to know my neighbors. I hope you’ll join me in answering this call. Who knows, maybe we’ll change the world (beginning a block at a time!)