Being a Good Neighbor
By Steven Halter
We pass by all kinds of people every day. Some may be aspiring
young professionals, confident in their talents and pursuing success.
Others may be middle-aged businesspeople, disillusioned with life
and wondering what went wrong. Others may be teenagers hanging
out on street corners, or even grandparents feeling abandoned
inside of retirement homes. Rich or poor, healthy or sick, seemingly
happy or obviously sad, many people have one thing in common:
They haven’t received God’s forgiveness and accepted
the leadership of Jesus Christ in their lives.
The question for us is this: Will we be a good neighbor to them?
Will we show them God’s love and share Jesus with them?
Jesus said that the second greatest commandment is to love our
neighbors as ourselves. He also showed that our neighbor is whomever
we come into contact with: our co-workers, people in the restaurants
we eat in, and people on the subway or in the airport.
Loving your neighbor means having a selfless concern for the
complete well-being of the people around you. Many of those people
are unchurched, in other words, they don’t attend any local
church. And many unchurched people don’t know God’s
love and forgiveness.
Whether you’re in North America, Latin America, Europe,
Africa, Asia, or the Middle East, there are many people who need
to know the Lord. Dr. Moore, adjunct professor at Regent University,
shares that in the United States there are 195 million people
who are unchurched, making it the third largest grouping of unchurched
people in the world. According to Dr. Moore, polls indicate more
than 60 million Americans would respond positively if someone
they trusted invited them to church.
Being a Friend
The problem is, many Christians don’t have any unsaved
friends. But if we really care about people, then we will reach
out to non-Christians and befriend them. Some disapproved of Jesus’
method of ministry, saying that He was a friend of “tax
collectors and sinners” (Luke 7:34). May we all be guilty
of reaching out to those who need the Lord!
One key way to be a friend is to intercede for others. Pray that
God will soften their hearts to His voice, and that He will draw
them to Himself. Then be faithful to keep praying for them.
Giving It Time
As you develop a genuine friendship with non-Christians, there
will be opportunities to bring up spiritual matters in a non-threatening
and non-judgmental way. Also, you can invite them to Christian
activities, such as a concert, or even to a church service.
But keep this in mind: Conversion is usually a process that takes
place over time. It may take months or years for someone to finally
make the decision to accept Jesus as Lord and Savior. Pastor Lee
Strobel of Willow Creek Church and author of Inside the Mind
of Unchurched Harry and Mary, writes that “many Christians
and churches are only geared to treat evangelism as an event –
a decision that needs to be made right now, rather than
a choice that frequently comes after a period of discovery”.
You may be just one of several people over a period of time who
helps someone else come to faith in Christ.
A Better Understanding of God
One way we can more effectively reach out to our neighbors is
to develop a better understanding of God, and then to share it
with others. Sometimes our doctrinal traditions get in the way
of what the Bible reveals about God. God is a loving, good, holy,
and compassionate God who wants all people to come to faith in
Jesus Christ. He is the author of our faith but not the author
of evil. He grants people genuine free will, yet wants all to
follow His will for them.
Many people have either never accepted Christ, or have fallen
away from faith because of bad theology. We need to let people
know what God is really like. When our doctrinal traditions conflict
with the whole teaching of the Bible, then we need to adjust our
doctrine. When people know the truth, it will set them free.
Breaking with Tradition
When it comes to churches themselves, we must be willing to break
with how we have traditionally done church. Dr. Moore states,
“God’s creative solutions often challenge our assumptions,
traditions, lifestyles, and preferences. We must often learn to
color outside the lines to join with what God is doing.”
There are all kinds of people in this world, speaking different
languages, coming from various kinds of cultures, having differing
tastes in music, and differing in life experiences. We must be
willing to adapt our approaches in order to effectively reach
more people. As the Apostle Paul said, “I have become all
things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some”
(1 Corinthians 9:22).
In other words, we must reach out in ways that are relevant to
the unchurched. Dr. Foltz, author of Healthy Churches in a
Sick World, writes, “Barna believes churches have dropped
the ball, failing to demonstrate Christ’s power in a relevant
way to our non-Christian neighbors.”
A powerful way to be more relevant to non-Christians is to have
separate church services for the unchurched. This way, the whole
service can be strategically tailored to the needs of people who
are seeking spiritual truth. Many churches have started doing
this very successfully.
In such services, sermons can be directed at questions that seekers
have, such as: Is there really a God? Why believe in the Christian
God? Did humanity just evolve? Can I really be forgiven for all
of the things I’ve done? Can God really change me?
There are many other ways that seeker services can be tailored
to the unchurched, such as having a shorter worship time, letting
visitors remain anonymous, limiting the whole service time, and
even having the service on a different day or at night.
It is important, though, to keep seeker services separate from
the regular church service. While seekers need one type of service,
believers need another type. They need one that will help them
grow to maturity in Christ. They need a different kind of sermon,
and different kinds of worship and prayer times.
A tremendous advantage in having a separate seeker service is
that Christians who do not feel very gifted in evangelism can
help others come to Christ by being part of a seeker service.
For example, they can be part of the music team or greet visitors
in a seeker service. They can also invite friends to a seeker
Dr. Moore says that we must move from cultural uniformity to
unified diversity. We must stop expecting everyone to conform
to traditional church culture and allow for greater diversity
in our churches.
One way to do this is to offer services with different styles
of musical worship. Many churches have more than one Sunday morning
service, yet offer only one style of worship as if all the people
in their communities are the same. Instead, churches could be
all things to all people by having one service with a Vineyard
style of worship, another with a more traditional hymn style,
and yet others with Hosanna or Hillsongs styles. Some areas may
wish to offer country music worship. Offering different styles
of worship is not about division, it is about reaching out to
people with differing musical tastes so that they may more readily
enter into the worship of God. It is about recognizing and respecting
people’s varying tastes and making it easier for them to
connect with God.
Another way to emphasize unity without uniformity is to celebrate
the diversity of a church’s members. One such church is
Mosaic, in southern California. Its website states, “The
name of our community comes both from the diversity of our members,
and from the symbolism of a broken and fragmented humanity which
can become a work of beauty under the artful hands of God.”
Also, there are new styles of churches which seek to reach a
certain part of their communities, such as skateboarders, bikers,
or surfers. This approach simply recognizes that people often
feel more comfortable around people that are a lot like themselves.
For instance, someone who is a surfer may be more comfortable
going to a surfer church. This is just another way of being all
things to all people in order to help them come to know Jesus.
Today’s Good Samaritans
One time, when a lawyer asked Jesus who his neighbor was, Jesus
replied with the well-known parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke
10:25-37). Though Samaritans were looked down upon or even despised
by Israeli society, the good Samaritan was actually the hero of
the story because he showed genuine concern for the well-being
Like the Samaritans, in today’s world Christians are often
looked down upon. Communist governments see them as a threat to
be eliminated, as do radical adherents of some other faiths. And
the religious pluralists of western society preach tolerance while
being intolerant of Christians. Yet, like the good Samaritan,
we Christians can show compassion for those that are hurting.
We can let the love of God flow through us to bring healing to
many. May we all, like the Good Samaritan, love our neighbors
as ourselves, and share the light of Christ.
Do You Want a Relationship with God?
If you want to have a relationship with God, and know that the shed blood of Jesus will cover your sins, pray this prayer right now:
Lord Jesus Christ, I believe that you took the pain of the cross to give me new life. I ask you to come into my life and to give me your peace and joy. I confess that I am a sinner -- that I have gone my own way and have done wrong. Please forgive me for my sins. I receive you now as my Lord and Savior. Please fill me with your Holy Spirit. Help me to follow you and to serve you all my life. Thank you, Lord Jesus. Amen.
If you prayed that prayer, you are now a child of God. The things of your old life have passed away and He has made all things new.
We want to join you in celebrating your new life. Please send us an e-mail to let us know that you prayed to receive Jesus as your Savior. Or you can call our Prayer Counseling Center at (800) 759-0700. A caring friend is available to talk with you and send you some resources to help you begin your walk with the Lord.
Learn more about new life in Jesus Christ
Gordon Robertson: What does it mean to be 'born again?'
A Higher Calling: Guide to Christian Life
What is Truth?
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Living by the Book: Learn more about being a Christian
CBN Teaching Sheets
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