The Art of Neighboring
The Art of Neighboring is a clarion call to something that is basic but forgotten in today’s world—loving our neighbors. Pathak and Ruyon challenge us to take that call literally—develop real relationships with the people who live right around us.
At first as I read through it, I thought “this is so basic—nothing really new here.” However, as I started thinking about actually acting on what was said, and what the status of my relationships with my neighbors really looked like, I found myself rethinking that. Now I think it is one of the most challenging books I have read on the topic of reaching out to my world.
I appreciated that the authors took time to speak to some of the things that hinder us—some of those were very applicable to me! And I appreciated some of the practical suggestions they gave for how to move forward.
Two things stood out to me. First is the reality that neighboring is hard work. I’m an introvert, so the thought of approaching people I don’t know to strike up a conversation is not exciting. It’s pretty intimidating, to be honest. And I know that is true for a lot of people. But there’s no way around it, if we are going to build relationships with those around us. The thing that encouraged me was recognizing that people in our world are often lonely and looking for connection. They are more open than we often realize, and by reaching out we can meet a real need.
From a leadership perspective, I think leading a church into this kind of lifestyle is also hard work. It requires a sustained effort over time, and lots of vision-casting, teaching, and equipping. Leaders have to model what neighboring looks like. Testimonies must include celebrating small steps—taking first steps to build connections should be understood to be just as important as something that seems much “bigger.”
It’s also apparent that it will require the leadership to be very committed to calling the church to neighboring as a lifestyle. While some people will be excited, I think for many it will take a significant change in thinking and in lifestyle. That doesn’t happen overnight. Without a strong commitment, I suspect it would be easy to get discouraged when progress is slow. But with a consistent effort over time, any church that embraces neighboring as a lifestyle will see a big impact on its community.
What do you think?