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Uniting to Disciple a Neighborhood

Recently, we asked a penetrating question: Who owns the spiritual condition of your neighborhood?

It’s fascinating to consider the missional potency of a clear answer to this simple question. What if everywhere a follower of Jesus lived there was clear missionary ownership aimed at declaring and demonstrating the gospel in that same place? What if every local church took spiritual ownership of the gospel message getting to every man, women, boy, and girl who lives within the shadow of their own steeple?

The impact would be staggering.

Now, let’s add another strategic layer to this line of thinking. What if kingdom citizens worked together in taking responsibility for the spiritual condition of their neighborhoods? This could happen in one of two ways.

First, there are neighborhoods across North America where more than one believer, or one believing family unit, lives. In these places, Christ-followers, regardless of whether or not they attend the same local church, could partner together to engage their neighbors with the gospel. Or, fellow church members from the same local church could partner with one another to reach their respective neighborhoods.

There’s an unending array of options on how to proceed.

A couple could offer to come over and handle the grill and food stations for a neighborhood cookout in order to free a Christian brother or sister to engage their neighbors. A parent could offer to take care of children for a playdate so that a neighbor could spend time caring for a friend going through a particularly difficult season of life. Believers could provide financial resources so that a person in their small group could meet a tangible need or bless a neighbor with whom they’ve been trying to build a relationship.

These options all foster a unique power in evangelism through community because the following factors are in play:

Collaborative Learning

Community evangelism allows us to share best practices for vibrant witness to the truth of Jesus Christ. There’s a certain necessity for R&D as we engage our neighbors and when we are working synergistically with others. When we share stories of successes and failures, we aid the missionary potency of our friends by mutually modeling the way of disciple-making to one another.

Yes, there are numerous blogs and books written on this subject, but it is far better to, in real-time, learn soft skills from co-laboring neighbors who are working the same harvest together. In this, they have the ability to share specific “eureka” moments that can be immediately applied.

Strategic Gifting

When we read Paul’s illustration of the church as a body made up of different parts, we’re often prone to think of these various giftings as singularly deployed within the church’s internal organizational machinery. Certainly, such organizational labor is needed, but we should first think in terms of the church’s external gospel obligation.

What if we turned those gifts outward and partnered with other members of Christ’s body to collaboratively use our various gifts to live as disciple-making missionaries? Those gifted in serving, hospitality, teaching, giving, and evangelistic harvesting could function seamlessly to leverage their shared capacity in order to see people far from Jesus find their hope in him.

Mutual Encouragement

A dark world puts strain on even the most zealous disciple-maker. There are daily discouragements that cause us all to want to throw in the towel and retire to a less spiritually taxing form of ministry. When we are left on our own, we’re frequently disposed to apathy and missional indifference as our spiritual fire slowly dwindles away.

Co-laboring with other kingdom citizens provides a built-in mechanism for encouragement in the inevitable seasons of doubt and discouragement. Much like a healthy marriage, God’s wisdom inherent in the body allows individuals in community to feel motivated and expectant when others are discouraged and defeated.

Then, in turn, these roles flip and those who were once discouraged become vibrant encouragements to others who are in a season of defeat. We’d be unwise to neglect the very relationships that can encourage us to keep going when the unavoidable discouragement comes.

Authentic Care

Just like our own lives, our neighbors regularly experience physical, emotional and spiritual pain. An honest conversation will quickly reveal the despairing pain of breaking and broken families, financial loss, job frustration, marriage dissatisfaction and the scores upon scores of other real and significant pain-points. g While one family living on mission can support a neighbor who’s recently lost a loved one, consider the multiplied spiritual impact that occurs when multiple families rally around the person in crisis. Through prayer and active engagement, we can surround our neighbors with the love of God through the people of God living on mission together.

Multiplied Witness

Our neighbors can easily dismiss the truth claims that they hear through a single voice and categorize it in their minds as peculiar or unnecessary. But something unique happens when those same powerful points are made naturally and repeatedly through various neighbors from various faith families.

Imagine the impact of hearing a personal story of life-change during a dinner one night with a neighbor. Then again at the pool while watching their children play together. And yet again while on an evening dog-walk around the neighborhood.

Each time the hope of Jesus is represented by different personalities using different terminology, but the hearer is supernaturally compelled to appreciate that Jesus has legitimately changed the lives of many of those that they have grown to enjoy and respect. The impact is exponentially multiplied.

Uniting together to disciple a neighborhood might sound unusual in an individualistic and competitive ecclesiastical culture, but it is not at all unfamiliar in the global church that is experiencing an evangelistic surge.

When Jesus’ prayer for his disciple’s unity [1] is locally answered, the natural fruit is gospel belief. And with all these kingdom benefits implicit in Christian community, one wonders why we’d ever prefer the task of disciple-making in isolation when we’ve been gifted with an incredible mission-support system in the people of God who live right around us.

So, make kingdom collaboration primary within your neighborhood. Don’t allow secondary issues of tribe or brand derail the potential power of a united community voice sharing in unison of the wonders of a faithful Savior.

Experience a little bit of heaven on earth.

Jeff Christopherson is a church planter, pastor, author and Missiologist at the Send Institute—an interdenominational church planting and evangelism think tank.

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