Last night my wife and I attended two Christmas themed parties. The first party was put on by the local Chamber of Commerce and hosted at a local Bank. This party was comprised as most Chamber parties, of local business owners, residents and civic leaders of the community.
A wonderful couple that does not attend our church but have been attending our Wednesday night study group for over a year hosted the second party. In both scenarios, we were able to “Love my Neighbor” but that is not the main point.
Knowing I was going to write a blog for the Small Town USA Partnership current series, which is focusing on the book The Art of Neighboring by Jay Pathak and Dave Runyon, and specifically chapter 2, “Taking the Great Commandment Seriously”, I found myself pondering the relationships that have developed in this small town community, (pop. 2000), since we held our first gathering as a church in April of 2013. Before launching, I attended the same event in 2012 as an introduction to the community. It was an awkward moment when introduced as the latest member to join the organization as the Pastor of the “new church in town”. This small town has many churches already. One question I overheard was, “do we need another church”? Many respectfully smiled and offered a “hello” as a courtesy to my wife and I.
However, I made a commitment, when I decided to plant a campus in small town America back in 2012. Our church campus was going to be in the community, of the community, and serve the community. This means they all are my neighbors and I plan to love them one at a time. This year I attended the annual Chamber event, but as a member of the Chamber Board. My wife and I received countless hugs and genuine greetings. We genuinely receiving love back from the Community of neighbors we began loving in April 2013.
But as Jay Pathak writes,
The man wanted to define this word neighbor in such a way that he could not be found blameworthy. If his neighbor was someone he could choose, then he’d be okay. By asking Jesus to define the word neighbor, this man was looking for a loophole. (p. 33)
I can easily fall into the “loophole” trap by making a global statement like this without living it out and to be honest, I have been guilty of seeking definition of “my neighbor” without realizing that I was. I have the great privilege of having relationship with my neighbors. We have gone out to dinners, discussed family, Jesus, shoveled each others driveways, celebrated each others milestones and more recently our neighbors loved on us when my wife lost her wonderful mother this past September. We are not done and still have a lot more to learn about each other but our relationships are getting stronger every week, and every year intentionally. There are families I am still getting to know and letting them get to know me. We are building loving and caring relationships as neighbors. Here is the take away.
The chapter challenges those desiring to plant in small towns and rural areas where being neighborly is still an important attribute.
The exercise, (pages 36-38), helps you gauge how you are doing loving your literal neighbors (next door, across the street) I encourage you to complete it, analyze it and respond accordingly. It may be the best “on-site’ church plant training you’ll ever experience…
Taking the Great Commandant seriously means you love the people next door, across the street as well as a small town community. How’d you do?
About the author
Ronnie Higuera is a pastor at Canyon View Vineyard Church in Grand Junction, Colorado. He served as worship pastor for 12 years. He has been a catalyst for multi-sites for a number of years and currently serves as Campus Pastor for Canyon View’s first video venue located16 miles away in the agricultural small town community of Palisade, CO. He and his wife Karen have 6 children and 6 grandchildren. Ronnie began following Jesus at the Vineyard Christian Fellowship of Grand Junction in 1994. He serves on The Small Town USA team partnership. You can find him on Facebook and Twitter.