As we search for how God wants us to be involved in ministry we are well served by asking new questions. Our insights and habits can begin to be reshaped as we ask questions about God, ourselves, and our neighbors. What does it mean to be God’s people in a community? Does God intend to erase the boundary lines of who my neighbor is? When we ask questions in the light of God’s intent, our perspective goes beyond what is inside the church walls but becomes something entirely different.
If you want to learn more click below to download an article on how to Transform an Urban Neighborhood.
Think of your house or apartment as the center of a Tic-Tac-Toe diagram, with eight spaces around you being residences surrounding you.
Can you name all of the people living in the 8 houses or apartments closest to you?
If you answered the first question, can you think of something about their life that is not visible from the outside of their house?
If you were able to answer the second question, do you know any superficial facts not seen from the outside?
If you answered the first two questions, do you know anything personal about them? Would you consider them a friend and do you help them when needed and they help you?
Results from this exercise
Most people don’t know the names of their neighbors, let alone anything personal about them. It’s typical for many people to have lived in their current residence for a short time. It’s easy for people to feel isolated and not care if they know their neighbors or not. People find it difficult to know who to go to if they need help.
How Many Different Places Have You Lived in during your lifetime?
Asking hundreds of people in US cities this question, we found the following:
This shows us that Americans are very transient. Many people only live in one place for two or three years. Most people are very busy at work and with their kids, taking them to their different activities. Therefore, they don’t have time for their neighbors, so why make the effort?
Even those who have lived in a place a long time, who used to take cookies to their new neighbors or helped their neighbors, have stopped. They once knew most of their neighbors but today they know they won’t be there long, so why go through the effort.
Are you interested in learning how you can be intentional about meeting your Neighbor? If so click below to download an article on how to Know Your Neighbors.
If so discipleship is central to what happens in Neighborhood Transformation.
A disciple is a learner with the intent to learn from the master and then pass on what he has learned onto others as he puts it into practice in his own life. It focuses on making obedient disciples. It is not just focused on making converts. It is also builds multiplying disciples whose impact expands Jesus’ kingdom. It is discipleship where people practice their following of Jesus Christ in every act of their daily life. It is where word and deed are intertwined, not parallel tracks of life. It is a strategy that occurs when a disciple is following God’s direction. It does needs right principles to be applied. It is ongoing, unstoppable and out of control. It is not hierarchical, systematic, or highly structured and tightly managed.
It’s a rapid multiplication of groups and churches. It is not slow, sequential, methodical addition. It’s simply about churches rapidly planting new churches. It is not primarily about expansion of denominations, or growth of organizations. It thrives in an environment of persecution and chaos. It is messy. Disciple making does not do well in a peaceful environment of significant controls, policies, and procedures.
Discipleship focuses on replication. It is not about growing large, highly programmatic, organizations but rapidly multiplying small groups that have a core value of discovering where God is at work by finding a person of peace. It is not about starting church services and inviting people to come. It is about the church emerging from within the culture of the people. It is not about calling the people out of their culture to form a new organization. It’s locally led. While often started by outsiders, it is not led by outsiders who intend someday to turn over the ministry to the people of the community.
It is family-based. It does not seek to extract individual respondents from their families and communities, re-acculturating them and then sending them as semi-outsiders back to their communities, which is powered by ordinary people; unschooled and non-credentialed. It is not driven by highly trained and credentialed professionals. It’s counter-intuitive. It does not fit management theory or organizational development. It’s about developing independent leaders. It is not about building a mass of followers.
It is about simple men and women with the simple gospel for simple people. It is not sophisticated and complex. It’s inexpensive. Once begun, discipleship expands without outside resources at all, which is making disciple-makers of every member. It is not about the few reaching the multitudes. It does not make buildings a priority. The church meets within the community of the people. It places a high level of commitment on the health and welfare of the people; people caring for one another. It is not a strategy of hiring professionals to care for the needs of the people.
Churches never emerge without a heavy commitment to prayer. It has a saturation commitment. It believes in a church for every people. Nor is it about planting a denominational church in every community. The goal is a rapidly expand movement under God’s direction through the people in the neighborhood who want to see God’s kingdom established in their neighborhood.
The goal is a rapidly expanding movement that is growing exponentially neighborhood by neighborhood until it transforms the city. A movement is a group of committed people embracing a common purpose moving towards well-defined goals and who are committed to the spread and multiplication of these objectives. It is based on winning, building, and sending people.
Are you interested in getting a free 10 lesson workshop on Making disciples email me at email@example.com to get it.
I heard Brenda Salter McNeil convincingly speak at the Christian Community Health Fellowship Conference in May 2016. She also wrote a great book Road-map to Reconciliation 2015, IVP Books Downers Grove, IL which I bought. Her whole approach is on Reconciliation primarily between races but also where you have opposing ideas and practice between two groups. I have written a couple lessons on, but not published yet. An approach to reconciliation between two groups which hold radically opposed positions which they guard to the core. The groups are so entrenched in their positions they reject out of hand what the group is saying.
The books outlines a five step process to reconciliation but after doing the lesson plan what she is saying applies to radical change which is what Neighborhood Transformation is all about. There is the much more traditional beliefs by Christians which separate them into two camps, those doing evangelism and those doing Justice with very few holding the Biblical basis of Jesus. It is both. Also Christians have a tendency to separate functions into the evangelists and the social workers with few understanding we must be doing both together being wholistic. Also we are paid to do the work and members who if work generally only inside the four walls of the church. We must take the position we are all called missionaries where we are now. We see many people who just keep doing things for people instead of empowering them to change what they want changed.
Change is the central issue for those involved in transformation for what they are trying to accomplish. All of the above needs a catalytic event to shake people out of their old ways of doing things, the status quo. They then need a process for moving from where they are to an entirely new position. So I am presenting a capsule view of her process asking could this be of help to you who are trying to see transformation take place
Starting Point for Change, A Catalytic, Shake it Up
There must be a Catalytic Event to shake them out of their self-preservation and isolation mode which is natural. We try to preserve the values and way of life that defines us. People have to come to the realization that things might have to change before things can get better. Generally coming to this point requires some catalytic event that moves us to begin to consider this option. This kind of event causes us to consider moving from the stagnation of life in a homogenous group. Acts 22 which gives us the catalytic event Saul went through to become Paul
Transformation requires disruption and a degree of chaos to increase the urgency that change must happen. This causes chaos which we must embrace. Disruption is absolutely necessary for the reconciliation process. A catalytic event will either push us forward toward transformation or tighten our tether to preservation. Catalytic events cause chaos and chaos is resisted by most people because they want to be in control.
A catalytic event sometimes happens when someone read the book Where Helping Hurts or Toxic Charity that both show most help really hurts people they have desired to help. Another example is when a person goes overseas for the first time and sees deep poverty and they are blown away. This causes them to rethink what they have been doing. It pulls them up short.
There are four other steps which a person or group must go through if there is to be a dramatic change in the way people think and act. I will share them with you in my next blog.
For transformation to take place people and neighborhoods must decide they want something different than what they currently have. Then they must care enough that they are willing to do something about it to see the change take place. If that desire and action are not there then no matter what we do for others might be good but generally transformation does not take place. Transformation comes from inside people themselves and neighborhoods.
But we as Western Christians are focused on doing things for others. People might say sure I would like that and gratefully accept whatever we do for them but does that transform them or their neighborhood? The answer is No.
There are three ways of helping people and neighborhoods
An Approach that Fosters Transformation
There is a place for doing all three but we find most groups are doing relief which fosters dependency What are you doing in your ministry Relief, Betterment or Transformation? Make up a worksheet you can see what your church or organization is doing. Itr will have the following headings
Worksheet for Existing Community Ministry
|Ministry||What Do||Location||Leader||How Church Assists
(Financial, Church Member on Own, Provides Volunteers)
Prayer Walking is walking around the place where you are trying to implement Neighborhood Transformation. Without prayer, no transformation takes place, therefore it is central to what we do.
Prayer walking is praying on site with insight. It is intercession on location. It is praying for what we see as we walk and while we are doing this God sometimes gives us specific things to pray about.
Why do Prayer Walking:
It is important to do Prayer Walking in your chosen neighborhood because: It allows us to see firsthand what the neighborhood is all about. We also get to see the neighborhood through God’s eyes. God will show us things we normally do not see when we are in the neighborhood. God will break our heart for the people and the neighborhood and the Holy Spirit will reveal things to us we never would have thought of alone.
In Neighborhood Transformation we like to do Prayer Walking at the very beginning of the program to get God’s view of the neighborhood and to set us off on the right path. But we don’t stop there, we do it multiple times during the Entering the Neighborhood phase. We also do it when the neighborhood association is in place and with interested people in the neighborhood
Here are some guidelines that help us see the impact from our prayer walking:
Join with other believers and meet at an assigned time. Start with group prayer and then walk in groups of 2s or 3s. Covers as much of the neighborhood as possible by having different teams do different segments of the neighborhood.
The key is to focus on God and pray aloud in a quiet conversational voice. Make sure you do not call attention to yourself. If anyone asks what you are doing be prepared to respond, “We are praying God’s blessing on this neighborhood.”
Be observant of what you see as you walk and pray. At the same time be open to anything God impresses on you as you walk. Also be open to interact with people in an informal way as opportunities arise. Walk for half hour to an hour. As you walk, reflect on your observations.
Afterwards, gather to share your prayers, observations and experiences with the others in the group. Make sure to encourage people to continue to pray for the neighborhood during the week on what they saw and their reflections.
We are in a battle and according to the Bible we are fighting against”
We are to pray more intensely:
So you can see that Prayer Walking is critical to what we do in Neighborhood Transformation.
Call to Action
We challenge you to do prayer walking around your home. Do it around four square blocks of your place.
After you have done that reflect on what you saw, heard and were impressed by God about.