The Strategic Ministry of ‘Neighboring’

vectorstock_1561530_neighborsBy Michael C. Mack

In 2009, Dave Runyon gathered a group of 20 lead ministers in the Denver area to think, dream, and pray about how their churches might join forces to serve their community. The ministers asked the local mayor a simple question: “How can we as churches best work together to serve our city?” The mayor’s response has inspired passion and a movement. “The majority of issues our community is facing would be eliminated or drastically reduced if we could just figure out a way to become a community of great neighbors,” the mayor said.

Runyon and Jay Pathak, who was also there that day, tell the story of their resulting journey in The Art of Neighboring: Building Genuine Relationships Right Outside Your Door (Baker Books, 2012). The authors say, “We felt convicted and even embarrassed that we were being urged by our civic officials to obey the second half of the Great Commission. But out of that moment something powerful was birthed. We were reminded that Jesus has given us a strategic plan that has the potential to change lives, neighborhoods, and entire cities.”

09_BP_neighbors2_JNmhShan Moyers, lead pastor at Rocky Mountain Christian Church, said he was convicted about neighboring several years ago when he could not remember the name of one of his neighbors. So he decided he would start “doing life” with them.

The value of changing families and neighborhoods now saturates everything RMCC does, even how the church does missions in Ecuador and Kenya. The primary place it does men’s ministry and family ministry, for example, is now in neighborhoods. The church devoted a sermon series to neighboring in June. “The majority of Americans don’t know their neighbors,” said a webpage describing the sermon series. “We get home, open the garage, pull in and shut the door. We do the same when we leave. What if we changed that? What if we began to dwell with our neighbors in such a way that they were able to see the God who dwells in us? Our neighborhoods could be radically changed!”

The church’s goal over the next year is to make all its small groups neighborhood groups; the church does not plan to start anything new that’s not a neighborhood group. Moyers describes neighboring as a “slow burn” when starting out, but it has exponential long-term growth opportunities.

Recently the church began 10 new neighborhood groups and more than 100 families signed up to pray for their neighbors and hold neighborhood barbecues. People have told Moyers, “I can’t play guitar or teach a class or work with a group of middle-school kids, but I can barbecue!”

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