Jason Ake – Creative Director
Over the last few months, we have been talking a lot about the simple invites we should be making to our neighbors. This theme will carry as we enter the Christmas season. We are in the perfect position to build up the courage and walk next door and extend an invitation to our neighbors to Christmas Services.
But what if they don’t come? This very question is what keeps most of us safe in our homes avoiding any chance of rejection.
Last month during the Glow challenge my wife and I went all in, preparing the “perfect invites” and “perfect party.” We wanted to create a space where people felt welcomed and safe just to hang out with no strings attached. We truly wanted get to know some of the neighbors we have been living next to for almost seven years. So, a week before our pumpkin carving party we set out, kids in tow, to deliver fresh baked cookies and invites to all our neighbors. We went door to door, but many were not home yet so we still left the cookies and invites for them.
After the invite delivery, the waiting began. Will they come? Do they think we are crazy? Luckily before too long we started getting a few texts. “Thanks for the invite this is great!” “We will be there can’t wait.” We started feeling good about the effort we made. The date approached, the pumpkins were prepared, and the setup began. We did it all in the front yard, that way anyone could join. Party was to start at 6 PM, by 7 PM no one had arrived. I understand the idea of being fashionably late, but we were sitting, waiting in our front yard for a little over an hour with our balloons flying, grill running, watching the world pass by and still no guests for our fully prepped and anticipated party.
To say we were feeling discouraged was an understatement. My wife and I looked at each other and asked, “what if they don’t come?” A simple question we all wrestle with when it comes to sharing our faith and interacting with those around us. This concept is why neighboring can be so hard to act on. Not only do we run the risk of rejection, but we also have see these people every day.
If you have ever read the book The Art of Neighboring by Dave Runyon and Jay Pathak, they share about the efforts they take to simply get to know their neighbors. Joining the local sports teams instead of a club, staying home a few nights a week just to run into neighbors, and the list goes on. They made a radical change in their lives to follow one of the greatest commandments given by Jesus to us.
In Mark 21:30-31 after being asked what the greatest commandment was, Jesus replied with,
Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself. There is no commandment greater than these.
So, was feeling very vulnerable and defeated par for the course in taking steps to follow this commandment? I felt like I was back in Junior High hoping a girl would dance with me. We were just sitting in a fully decorated driveway waiting for guests to arrive. But this isn’t the story for so many; I heard of countless stories from people that had 20-40 neighbors show up and the night was simply perfect. What made ours different? Why had no one shown up?
In typical God fashion, in my life at least, that moment where we were ready to give up, our neighbor and her three grandchildren who lived with her walked over. The night began! We spent the next almost 2 hours getting the chance to meet them and dive deeper, learn their story, and connect with them. We carved about six pumpkins with the kids, and they were simply delighted. Then a little after 8:30 PM I see some people walking our way, and it was more neighbors coming to say hi. We got to meet them and chat for a few minutes; they apologized for not making it over but they said they were hopeful that maybe we had “started something” – a movement toward a more interactive neighborhood.
At the end of the night, we called it a success. Not because people showed up, not because we carved a bunch of pumpkins, and not even because we learned about the lives of our neighbors, but because we obeyed the commandment given to us by Jesus. Jesus called us to love our neighbors; it’s that simple. It doesn’t say they will show up, it doesn’t say they will respond to our message, it just says to love them.
Don’t be discouraged in doing the will of God in our lifetimes. We may not see the fruit that is produced by our work, but that does not make it less important. His name will be known. All we must do is offer the invitation, even if they don’t come.