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Being a Good Neighbor

By Steven Halter
Staff Writer

CBN.comWe pass by all kinds of people every day. Some may be aspiring young professionals, confident in their talents and pursuing success. Others may be middle-aged businesspeople, disillusioned with life and wondering what went wrong. Others may be teenagers hanging out on street corners, or even grandparents feeling abandoned inside of retirement homes. Rich or poor, healthy or sick, seemingly happy or obviously sad, many people have one thing in common: They haven’t received God’s forgiveness and accepted the leadership of Jesus Christ in their lives.

The question for us is this: Will we be a good neighbor to them? Will we show them God’s love and share Jesus with them? Jesus said that the second greatest commandment is to love our neighbors as ourselves. He also showed that our neighbor is whomever we come into contact with: our co-workers, people in the restaurants we eat in, and people on the subway or in the airport.

Loving your neighbor means having a selfless concern for the complete well-being of the people around you. Many of those people are unchurched, in other words, they don’t attend any local church. And many unchurched people don’t know God’s love and forgiveness.

Whether you’re in North America, Latin America, Europe, Africa, Asia, or the Middle East, there are many people who need to know the Lord. Dr. Moore, adjunct professor at Regent University, shares that in the United States there are 195 million people who are unchurched, making it the third largest grouping of unchurched people in the world. According to Dr. Moore, polls indicate more than 60 million Americans would respond positively if someone they trusted invited them to church.

Being a Friend

The problem is, many Christians don’t have any unsaved friends. But if we really care about people, then we will reach out to non-Christians and befriend them. Some disapproved of Jesus’ method of ministry, saying that He was a friend of “tax collectors and sinners” (Luke 7:34). May we all be guilty of reaching out to those who need the Lord!

One key way to be a friend is to intercede for others. Pray that God will soften their hearts to His voice, and that He will draw them to Himself. Then be faithful to keep praying for them.

Giving It Time

As you develop a genuine friendship with non-Christians, there will be opportunities to bring up spiritual matters in a non-threatening and non-judgmental way. Also, you can invite them to Christian activities, such as a concert, or even to a church service.

But keep this in mind: Conversion is usually a process that takes place over time. It may take months or years for someone to finally make the decision to accept Jesus as Lord and Savior. Pastor Lee Strobel of Willow Creek Church and author of Inside the Mind of Unchurched Harry and Mary, writes that “many Christians and churches are only geared to treat evangelism as an event – a decision that needs to be made right now, rather than a choice that frequently comes after a period of discovery”. You may be just one of several people over a period of time who helps someone else come to faith in Christ.

A Better Understanding of God

One way we can more effectively reach out to our neighbors is to develop a better understanding of God, and then to share it with others. Sometimes our doctrinal traditions get in the way of what the Bible reveals about God. God is a loving, good, holy, and compassionate God who wants all people to come to faith in Jesus Christ. He is the author of our faith but not the author of evil. He grants people genuine free will, yet wants all to follow His will for them.

Many people have either never accepted Christ, or have fallen away from faith because of bad theology. We need to let people know what God is really like. When our doctrinal traditions conflict with the whole teaching of the Bible, then we need to adjust our doctrine. When people know the truth, it will set them free.

Breaking with Tradition

When it comes to churches themselves, we must be willing to break with how we have traditionally done church. Dr. Moore states, “God’s creative solutions often challenge our assumptions, traditions, lifestyles, and preferences. We must often learn to color outside the lines to join with what God is doing.”

Being Relevant

There are all kinds of people in this world, speaking different languages, coming from various kinds of cultures, having differing tastes in music, and differing in life experiences. We must be willing to adapt our approaches in order to effectively reach more people. As the Apostle Paul said, “I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some” (1 Corinthians 9:22).

In other words, we must reach out in ways that are relevant to the unchurched. Dr. Foltz, author of Healthy Churches in a Sick World, writes, “Barna believes churches have dropped the ball, failing to demonstrate Christ’s power in a relevant way to our non-Christian neighbors.”

Seeker Services

A powerful way to be more relevant to non-Christians is to have separate church services for the unchurched. This way, the whole service can be strategically tailored to the needs of people who are seeking spiritual truth. Many churches have started doing this very successfully.

In such services, sermons can be directed at questions that seekers have, such as: Is there really a God? Why believe in the Christian God? Did humanity just evolve? Can I really be forgiven for all of the things I’ve done? Can God really change me?

There are many other ways that seeker services can be tailored to the unchurched, such as having a shorter worship time, letting visitors remain anonymous, limiting the whole service time, and even having the service on a different day or at night.

It is important, though, to keep seeker services separate from the regular church service. While seekers need one type of service, believers need another type. They need one that will help them grow to maturity in Christ. They need a different kind of sermon, and different kinds of worship and prayer times.

A tremendous advantage in having a separate seeker service is that Christians who do not feel very gifted in evangelism can help others come to Christ by being part of a seeker service. For example, they can be part of the music team or greet visitors in a seeker service. They can also invite friends to a seeker service.

Embracing Diversity

Dr. Moore says that we must move from cultural uniformity to unified diversity. We must stop expecting everyone to conform to traditional church culture and allow for greater diversity in our churches.

One way to do this is to offer services with different styles of musical worship. Many churches have more than one Sunday morning service, yet offer only one style of worship as if all the people in their communities are the same. Instead, churches could be all things to all people by having one service with a Vineyard style of worship, another with a more traditional hymn style, and yet others with Hosanna or Hillsongs styles. Some areas may wish to offer country music worship. Offering different styles of worship is not about division, it is about reaching out to people with differing musical tastes so that they may more readily enter into the worship of God. It is about recognizing and respecting people’s varying tastes and making it easier for them to connect with God.

Another way to emphasize unity without uniformity is to celebrate the diversity of a church’s members. One such church is Mosaic, in southern California. Its website states, “The name of our community comes both from the diversity of our members, and from the symbolism of a broken and fragmented humanity which can become a work of beauty under the artful hands of God.”

Also, there are new styles of churches which seek to reach a certain part of their communities, such as skateboarders, bikers, or surfers. This approach simply recognizes that people often feel more comfortable around people that are a lot like themselves. For instance, someone who is a surfer may be more comfortable going to a surfer church. This is just another way of being all things to all people in order to help them come to know Jesus.

Today’s Good Samaritans

One time, when a lawyer asked Jesus who his neighbor was, Jesus replied with the well-known parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37). Though Samaritans were looked down upon or even despised by Israeli society, the good Samaritan was actually the hero of the story because he showed genuine concern for the well-being of another.

Like the Samaritans, in today’s world Christians are often looked down upon. Communist governments see them as a threat to be eliminated, as do radical adherents of some other faiths. And the religious pluralists of western society preach tolerance while being intolerant of Christians. Yet, like the good Samaritan, we Christians can show compassion for those that are hurting. We can let the love of God flow through us to bring healing to many. May we all, like the Good Samaritan, love our neighbors as ourselves, and share the light of Christ.

Do You Want a Relationship with God?

If you want to have a relationship with God, and know that the shed blood of Jesus will cover your sins, pray this prayer right now:

Lord Jesus Christ, I believe that you took the pain of the cross to give me new life. I ask you to come into my life and to give me your peace and joy. I confess that I am a sinner -- that I have gone my own way and have done wrong. Please forgive me for my sins. I receive you now as my Lord and Savior. Please fill me with your Holy Spirit. Help me to follow you and to serve you all my life. Thank you, Lord Jesus. Amen.

If you prayed that prayer, you are now a child of God. The things of your old life have passed away and He has made all things new.

We want to join you in celebrating your new life. Please send us an e-mail to let us know that you prayed to receive Jesus as your Savior. Or you can call our Prayer Counseling Center at (800) 759-0700. A caring friend is available to talk with you and send you some resources to help you begin your walk with the Lord.

Learn more about new life in Jesus Christ

Watch the Video Gordon Robertson: What does it mean to be 'born again?'

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