I just want to share a bit of my story.
I was radically transformed and saved by Jesus. I was reading the Scriptures in my room one night, and I had an encounter with God. I hadn’t been raised in church. The only thing I’d known about church is I went to a funeral in sixth grade. I remember asking, “Why is there a naked man hanging on the wall?”
(If you didn’t think that all the way through, that was Jesus.)
So that’s how little I knew. I was radically transformed through this encounter. Fast forward, I ended up in a growing church, where a job I had was to throw big parties. Get people to come, get friends to bring friends, and then you try to Jesus them. That’s what I did for a living.
One night we were set up for a couple thousand, and we had somewhere in the neighborhood of 108. It was jarringly bad. As the day was finishing, I remembered I had to go home to do a Bible study at my apartment. I’d done a funeral for a child in the morning, and I was exhausted. I remember calling my wife and saying, “Babe, we’ve got to cancel.” And she goes, “Jay, you can’t. We’ll have people bring food. We’ll hang out.”
The Night That Changed My Life
Anyway, I come home. The door’s open. I walk into my apartment, and it’s full of people I’ve never seen before. There’s some guy playing my guitar. Here’s what had happened. As people were coming in from work, my wife casually said, “Hey, we’re going to have some friends over. You should come.” And all the folks in my complex went, “Okay!”
As we got to know them, they said, “We watched people shuffle in and out of your apartment week after week. And we always wondered how we’d get invited because they seem to have a good time.” That night changed my life because it occurred to me that I didn’t even know the humans around me. I couldn’t pick them out of a lineup. I’d get in my car to drive and do ministry, but Jesus showed me something about the people who lived right near me.
I’d get in my car to drive and do ministry, but Jesus showed me something about the people who lived right near me.
Luke 10 is the parable of the Good Samaritan. A teacher of the law comes to Jesus and says,
“What must I do to inherit eternal life?”
Jesus says, “You’re a lawyer. You answer.”
He says, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength. And love your neighbor as yourself.”
Jesus says, “Good. Do that.”
Full stop, awkward stare.
Lawyer says, “Who’s my neighbor?”
Jesus tells the story: There’s a man beat up on the side of the road. Three people pass by, religious types who should know better. Then along comes the bad guy, takes care of him. Puts him on his donkey, brings him to the equivalent of a hospital. Pays for everything.
Jesus turns back to the lawyer and asks, “So who was the neighbor to the man?” The guy can’t even say the word Samaritan. “I suppose the one who took care of him.” Jesus says, “Go do likewise.” Jesus takes the definition of a neighbor and expands it. Anyone in need is your neighbor, even an enemy.
Jesus takes the definition of a neighbor and expands it. Anyone in need is your neighbor, even an enemy.
Jesus takes us to graduate-level neighboring by including an enemy in this list. We need to start in kindergarten and consider our actual neighbors.
Know Your Neighbor
I want you to write the names of the people in the homes around you—real names, not “cat lady” or “red car guy.” What makes them tick? What do they hope for? What do they fear? What’s their spiritual condition? In those layers, from their name to things about them to what motivates them, you move from a stranger to an acquaintance to a real relationship.
Love your neighbor as yourself. First, can you know and retain someone’s name? That’s the starting point to a relationship that makes a difference. Can you imagine how your city would be different if every believer knew and retained the names of their neighbors, prayed for them, connected to them, served them, and cared for them?
Can you imagine how your city would be different if every believer knew and retained the names of their neighbors, prayed for them, connected to them, served them, and cared for them?
If we turn our neighbors into a metaphor, the metaphoric gospel will change our metaphoric cities. You have real neighbors who need Jesus Christ, and you have been placed there to love them and serve them and know them and pray for them. Love your neighbors. Before we go do all the other things, we should start here.
Join us for Exponential West and Exponential Central. We will be diving deep into the theme Lost Cause: Reviving Evangelism. Learn how you can bring your team to be inspired and equipped to create a culture of evangelism in your local church and network.