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May 06 2013

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The Neighboring Movement: A Simple, Radical Idea – God is Taking Back the Neighborhoods – AMEN!!

THE DAILY BEAST – May 5, 2013 4:45 AM EDT

Meet the members of an innovative movement that is taking the Bible’s commandment to love your neighbor seriously.

By Joshua DuBois.

When the Bible commanded Christians to love their neighbors, what if it really meant what it says? That’s the simple, radical idea behind the “Neighboring Movement”—a group of pastors, church members, and civic leaders around the country that may be coming to a neighborhood near you.

 

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Shannon Fagan/Getty

 

In January 2009, a group of churches in Arvada, Colorado—a community of about 100,000 people northwest of Denver—concluded that they weren’t doing enough to help their city. Arvada was facing an aging population, a relative dearth of services for seniors, and a rising number of homeless individuals and families across the community.

The pastors of around two dozen congregations requested a meeting with the mayor of Arvada, Bob Frie, a local attorney and political veteran. In a small meeting room at a local church, the two sides got together to hash out how congregations could help solve the city’s challenges. The clergy had big ideas for community interventions, from after-school programs to food pantries, but Mayor Frie had something else in mind.

“There are a lot of issues that face our community,” Frie told the pastors. “But the majority of them would be drastically reduced if we just became good neighbors. If we took Jesus seriously when he said to love God, and love your neighbor.”

The pastors—leaders who reached about 24,000 people every week—were flabbergasted. A politician was telling them to do something that was supposed to come naturally to churches, but in reality, wasn’t happening: to love their actual, physical neighbors, the people living right next door to church members.

“The mayor of our city said that to a group of pastors,” Jay Pathak, a pastor and leader in the Neighboring Movement, said on video about the meeting. “It was convicting—embarrassing actually!”

After the initial shock, a light bulb came on among the clergy. As Dave Runyon, a pastor and one of the organizers of the group, told me, “We suddenly realized that our churches had a watered-down definition of the Great Commandment. Our Bible tells us to ‘love our neighbor,’ but we were defining ‘neighbor’ as everyone in the world. Unfortunately, when everyone in the world is your neighbor, that often means no one is. We started thinking, how about we start by loving, in practical ways, the people right next door?”

Prompted by Mayor Frie, the group decided to address that disconnection and created something they called a “Neighboring Movement.” Leaders of 21 churches began preaching sermons encouraging their congregations to embrace the discomfort, messiness, and beauty of relationships with their next-door neighbors, whether those neighbors shared their faith or not. The goal wasn’t proselytization; as Runyon told me, “the focus is relationship.”

Practically, this means two simple things to the Neighboring Movement in Arvada: use a block map to learn the names and stories of people in the eight households closest to their home; and throw a block party in their neighborhood at least once a year. “One of the best thing that Christians can do in our cities is throw really good parties,” Runyon said. “No one needs another potluck. They need real parties where people from different backgrounds can meet each other, have a good time, and kids can connect and play.”

“One of the best thing that Christians can do in our cities is throw really good parties.”

In large and small ways, the outreach led by church members in the Neighboring Movement began having an impact. Through the movement, Ken and Janis Baney reached out to their neighbors in Arvada and discovered that one of them, Jim, had cancer, and Jim’s wife was overburdened with work. In response, Ken offered to bring over dinner once a week. He told Jim’s wife, “on Tuesday nights, when you get home from work, you just spend time with Jim, and I’ll fix dinner,” according to Ken. He and Janis did just that, supporting their new friends and giving the family more time to spend with each other, until Jim passed away.

When Todd and Karla Tillapaugh saw Chris Crowe moving into their Arvada neighborhood, “we thought the Clampets were moving in,” Karla said, referring to the Beverly Hillbillies. Looking at Chris’s yard, Karla remarked, “lots of stuff is left over and it trickles around the neighborhood—in the summertime, there’s stuff everywhere!”

But because of their participation in the Neighboring Movement, Todd and Karla found out that Chris Crowe wasn’t just another messy neighbor—she was a longtime foster parent, who had adopted seven children through foster care. The bikes and toys outside were a function of “managed chaos,” as Chris put it, the reality of being a loving mom to a large and diverse family.

Permanent link to this article: http://americansatanism.com/archives/705

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