Thursday, November 6, 2014

Learning to Love it Local: a church for the neighborhood - Part 6/8

For the next 3 days, we are going to tell our faithful readers a story.  If you missed part 1, click here.  For part 2, click here.  For part 3, click here.  For part 4, click here.  For part 5, click here.

It's our story.
It's the story that has slowly emerged in our lives over the last 11 months.
We hope you are encouraged by it.

If you don't want to wait for 3 more days….you can listen to this podcast (33 minutes) of us telling our story to our church congregation.

Part 6 - Learning to Love it Local – a church for the neighborhood

We said yesterday to be careful what you dream about because within your dreams may be God’s dream for you.  In the months which followed we began to talk about our own stories – Joe’s, of a kid whose visionary parents moved their family to the highest crime, lowest income neighborhood in Fresno to love their neighbors and to pursue Jesus’ plan for restoration in the Lowell neighborhood, in Fresno, and in cities all over the world.  We remembered Heidi’s story – a story of a kid who grew up under the care of parents who were totally committed to Jesus, who didn’t lead hypocritical lives, who loved their neighbors in practical ways and were committed to leadership in their church.   

Our dreams and prayers centered on the themes of neighborhood, leadership, and church.  We found ourselves getting excited.  We didn’t have plans to move at this point…..We just began to experience joy.  In fact, it was good for our marriage.  Our prayers, our shared dependance on God, our visioning was drawing us together in a new way.  

We started to ask ourselves questions like, “We’d never want to pastor a church in a neighborhood we didn’t live.  What neighborhood would we live in?”

We began to imagine a church that requires itself to get entangled with the neighborhood. A church that “loves it local” and invites imagination for how to announce Jesus' incredible message. A church that’s about family and local community – a church that isn't above its neighborhood, but a church of its neighborhood. We dreampt of a church that was the incarnate faithful presence of Jesus and called to demonstrate the gospel by serving the neighborhood – a church called to dwell beside its neighbors because that's what Jesus, our Emmanual (God with us), did for us.

Jesus says, "Love your neighbor" … but in my life I’ve often neglected to take this as a practical and geographical suggestion. As a church, if Heidi and I are to love our neighbor, what if we started right next door, with our actual neighbors? ... with the elementary school down the street, in collaborating with other churches nearby, with the park or community center down the street, and the businesses around the corner?

In our life we’ve often disentangled ourselves from a sense of place or neighbourhood or haven’t been present to our neighbors to begin with.  The arc of Scripture says, “get entangled.”  As we dreampt and prayed, we were sensing God’s delight and his Joy.  Something about this idea (prayer?)….excited us.

But what neighborhood would we serve by planting a church?  We didn’t desire to plant a neighborhood church in a neighborhood we didn’t live in.  So what about the neighborhood my brother  and his wife live, love and serve – a neighbourhood in which we too own a home.  Does the Jackson neighborhood (1st to 11th, Ventura to Tulare) have a Church for the neighborhood within it’s geography. No. Are there people there that are seeking it’s flourishing already. Yes, many.  Maybe we could join them!

"Lord, is this you?  Are we to do this? We sense our own excitement and are experiencing joy.  Is this your joy?"     

We were soon to hear God's answer to that question. 

Part 7 (tomorrow) - The cost of saying yes to God

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