Scott Jones – Gilbert Campus Pastor
So there I was talking to this woman while she was sweeping up cigarette butts on her driveway. I bet this is the first time you ever read that opening sentence on a blog post. You’re probably wondering where this going, which by the way, is the point of an opening sentence. I’ll come back to the cigarette butts later. But I’ll give you a hint; it has something to do with the Kingdom of God. At Central, we recently launched a new series called “Thy Kingdom Come.” This series is so beautifully aligned with our neighboring emphasis because the Kingdom of God is all about bringing “up there, down here.” Neighboring is all about bringing “in here, out there.” Jesus started all this when his love for humanity could not be contained. He was not content to love from a distance, so he decided to leave “up there” and come “down here.” I love the way The Message version of the Bible puts it.
The Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighborhood. (John 1:14)
As a church, we’ve been trying to “move into the neighborhood” over the past year. Our emphasis on the Kingdom is highlighting this because God has strategically placed us as citizens of the Kingdom in certain communities in order to expand our Kingdom influence by joining God in his movement to transform the world. How do we do that? It seems like a huge undertaking, I know. I think we can make huge headway with a few simple steps by seeing your neighborhood as a kingdom.
- Get the right view of your “castle.”
You’ve probably heard the phrase, “A man’s home is his castle.” It’s a proverbial expression that illustrates the principle of individual privacy, which is fundamental to the American system of government. Though individual privacy is good, it can easily create a fortress mentality where we hunker down and live in isolation. What if we saw our “castle” not as a place of defense FROM the world, but a place from which we move in TO the world?
This is all about having vision for your neighborhood – seeing your neighbors as God sees them. This is the spiritual aspect of loving your neighbor, which by the way is the basis for neighboring. Jesus ignited this focus with these words:
Love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your soul and all your mind. That’s the first and greatest commandment. The second is equally important. Love your neighbor as yourself. (Matthew 22:37-39)
Question: Do you have a vision for your neighborhood?
This is where we pray and ask God, “Help me to see what you see.”
Last year, a little girl from our community was killed in a tragic accident. Her family was not a family who had faith. But Tony and Melody from Central had faith for them. They rallied their neighbors who also had faith, to come around this family and their extended family. They provided meals and housing and enveloped them with the love of Jesus. When I met with the family who lost their daughter, the father basically said, “I thought I was a good person. But this thing that is happening in our neighborhood, I don’t have a category for it and I want to know more.” And that began his journey toward God. It all started because one family had a vision for their neighborhood.
- Lower your “drawbridge.”
You know what a castle’s drawbridge being down says? Yeah, “Come in.” Do you know what the modern-day drawbridge is? You guessed it – the garage door. Do you know what an open garage door says? It says, “Come in.” Not in a steal something kind of way, but in an invitational kind of way.
Wednesday night as I was pulling into my driveway, I saw my neighbor’s garage door open. Immediately it did something inside of me because an open door just feels inviting. I thought, “I’m going to go over there and see what they’re up to.” I went inside and put my stuff away and came back out to find their door was closed. I was bummed. I went on to Plan B and I’ll tell you about that later. But I’ll give you a hint; it has something to do with cigarette butts.
What I want to convey is that an open garage door sends a message. It says, “Hey I’m here!” It might even send the message, “I trust you; I trust my neighbors.”
Question: Is your heart open to your neighbors?
An open heart will lead to an open door.
- Walk among the people of your “village.”
There’s a show that was popular a while back called Undercover Boss. Did you ever watch it? The CEO puts on a disguise so she or he can get an accurate perspective on their company. The big learning experience is always how the employees feel about the company. There’s always a story about one employee who is in deep pain. The reason the CEO does this experiment is because the more isolated a CEO is from the company, the more ineffective she or he becomes. Now make the turn with me. The further removed we are from our neighbors, the more disconnected we become to the realities they face. The closer we get, the more connected we become, and the more passionate we become, the more influential we are in helping them find their place in the Kingdom of God.
Just a word of caution here. To truly love our neighbor, we have to be willing to invest in a relationship. Not as a project, but a relationship. There’s a distinction between an “ulterior” motive and an “ultimate” motive. We love our neighbors not to save them, but because they have intrinsic value as human beings.
Question: Are you getting to know your neighbors?
I’m still meeting my neighbors two years into moving into my new neighborhood. Remember my neighbor’s garage door being open and then closed that I mentioned earlier? So, I looked down at the very end of my street and I saw an open garage door and someone outside with a broom sweeping. I just walked down and met this woman. I didn’t know her. She was sweeping up this huge pile of cigarette butts, which by the way is a great conversation starter. After some small talk, I pointed to my house and said, “That’s my house with the garage door open.” She looked at me with a puzzled face and said, “I thought a pastor lived there.” Now my brain is working pretty fast. Immediately two thoughts come to mind:
- She’s heard about me.
- Why does she not think I could be the pastor?
I began to explore that second question which revealed that she saw me as a regular guy and not a religious figure. Thank God for that! That led to a conversation about Central, the Bible, music, and an invitation for her to come and experience it all.
- Serve like your “King.”
Have you ever been to Disneyland or Walt Disney World? It’s pretty special. There’s a reason for that. John Ortberg tells the story about a friend of his who was a former employee. He said in the training process, you’re told what puts the magic in the Magic Kingdom is serving. When you’re in the kingdom, you serve. It doesn’t matter what your job is, ultimately you’re a servant. When someone walks through those gates, you treat every encounter with them as if they were your own personal friend and guest. If they need directions, then you escort him. If they ask a question and you’ve heard it 100 times, you answer it like you’ve never heard it before. This is how deep this value goes in that kingdom.
There’s a ride in Disneyland called the Jungle Cruise. Some of you know the Jungle Cruise, and the most common question for the people who work it is, “How long is this ride?” So they give those guys a standard answer. “The Jungle Cruise is an exciting adventure ride that lasts 10 minutes!” And they’re supposed to just say that over and over. There’s a guy that worked there and he’d been asked it thousands of times and he got sick and tired of saying it. Finally, he got asked it once too often.
There was a couple there and they asked him, “How long is the Jungle Cruise?” He looked at them and said, “Three days.” This is a true story. They’ll tell this in the training process at Disneyland. That couple got out of that line, left the park, went back to the Disney Hotel where they were on their honeymoon, packed up their suitcases, checked out the hotel, came back and once again got in line at the Jungle Cruise. That day, there was somebody else standing in line working at the Jungle Cruise saying, “The Jungle Cruise is an exciting adventure that lasts 10 minutes!” That first guy didn’t last because what puts the magic in the Magic Kingdom is serving. It’s just one of those kingdoms where if you don’t want to serve, you’re not really going to want to be in that kingdom.
Jesus came to this earth and said, “I didn’t come to be served but to serve.” That’s what His kingdom is about and this is the life he brought to earth.
Question: Are you ready to serve?
We have a phrase around Central that goes like this: “We are Made for More.” And to show it, we go into our neighborhoods and serve. You can serve, whether you are an extrovert or an introvert. Try this. If you’re an extrovert, organize a block party. If you’re an introvert, attend a block party. If you’re an extrovert, walk across the street to say “Hi!” If you’re an introvert, walk your dog. If you’re an extrovert, bake cookies and take them to a neighbor. If you’re an introvert, eat someone’s cookies. If you’re an extrovert, do a prayer-walk. If you’re an introvert, do a prayer-walk. If you’re an extrovert, start waving at people. If you’re an introvert, wave back.
Anyone and everyone can find a way to love their neighbors. No matter how you show it, it starts when we decide to serve like our King, because serving is what put’s the magic in the Kingdom of your Neighborhood.
So, the next time you see a cigarette butt I hope you think about the Kingdom of God and the Kingdom of your Neighborhood.