My congregation has been stretching and growing as a “searchlight church” over the past 5-6 years. One of the key studies for us has been Jesus’ teachings on neighbors. More recently, I’ve been asking the key question, “What is God doing and how can we be a part?” This question assumes, of course, that God is already at work in the world around us and outside the walls of the church.
A year or more ago I met a literal neighbor, Wendy Smoliak. Wendy lives down the street from the church. My recollection is that she called asking about older adult ministries… but that conversation soon turned to the neighborhood. I found that she had a huge heart for the neighborhood – HER neighborhood and OUR neighborhood. She was involved in the homeowner’s association; she took food to sick people; she was aware of the needs around her. The Lord was already working in the Swan’s Run neighborhood with this sister in the faith. And when I shared with her about our deepening vision as a church, we hit it off immediately.
Wendy has connected us to needs in the neighborhood and has helped connect the neighborhood to us. Very recently, with her great encouragement and leadership, we invited our Swan’s Run neighbors to have a potluck at the church. We also invited several of the police officers who patrol our neighborhood. And a few church members came. I asked Wendy to describe a bit more and here’s what she wrote:
Potlucks: A Call to Community
I am the co-chair of our Neighborhood Watch Committee. The purpose of Neighborhood Watch is ‘neighbors watching out for neighbors’. The motto of Neighborhood Watch is that if you know who is suppose to be there then, you know who is suppose to not be there.
So for several years, I have gone about the business of getting to know my neighbors in several ways. Neighborhood Watch has sponsored an ice cream social in 90 degree weather; a pool party with hotdogs and chili; a Christmas event where decorations were hung; a garbage day where 4 tons of refuse was removed; a National Night Out event where neighbors walked the streets with a flashlight; a beautification day where neighbors planted perennials; and many neighborhood yard sales.
This last week, Neighborhood Watch did something different. We decided to sponsor a Potluck. We invited our neighbors and we invited the local police. Further, we had this event in our local church – just ½ block from our neighborhood. The church to which I belong.
At this potluck affair, Christ brought people out of their homes to meet their neighbors, Christ brought the local police, and lastly, Christ brought people to His church. Community at its finest.
In the end, only Christ knows what seeds were planted at this event. What seeds are you planting in your neighborhood?
He told then another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his field. Though it is the smallest of all your seeds, yet when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and perch in its branches.” ~Matthew 13:31-3
This is what I mean by “searchlight church” (with a little lighthouse thrown in there, too!). We have been blessed by Wendy and the new ways in which we are learning to be good neighbors.