Since our arrival to Columbia City we have sensed the gentle whisper of the Spirit of God giving us permission to engage in God’s Kingdom imagination…more specifically in our role as Pastor/Minister in the neighborhood. To put it simply, our neighbors have become our congregants and we can’t get away from our church. We have a small faith community that worships in our home but the reality is most of the 11,000 people in our neighborhood will never come to a gathering. And yet, they have spiritual longings that have gone unfulfilled. They have unexplainable desires that have not been quenched. Many Columbia City residents may not know it, but they were made to live in deep communion with the triune God. For some crazy reason God has asked us to help pastor these beautiful people regardless of whether they come to our gatherings.
Below are five ways we have been pastoring our neighborhood:
1. We live life deeply in our place:
We try our best to remember the names of people we meet. We do life locally (Even if it’s more expensive, or not as nice, we shop, play, and socialize mostly within a few blocks of our house). We accept invitations whenever possible. We even engage our neighborhood’s unique personality creatively (our latest was a 3’ x 7’ blackboard placed in the front yard with an intriguing question)
2. We pray by name for our neighbors:
We believe in the power of prayer and when it’s appropriate we let them know that we are interceding for them. We also pray for the streets themselves, and the businesses.
3. We practice extreme hospitality:
We have two guestrooms, an open-door policy (literally, if it’s warm enough weather), and are frequently throwing bbq’s or parties. For us, hospitality is deeper than being friendly…it’s about creating space where people are comfortable and healing can happen. We have even gone as far as making a prayer room in our basement where people can come anytime to pray, or to be prayed for. It has been well-used.
4. We look for and defend the marginalized:
For us in our neighborhood, that has meant adults with disabilities, the recovering addict, and the underprivileged student. It has meant creating awareness, advocating for them, and being a friend to those who trust us.
5. We simply walk with our neighbors in the realities of every day life:
Doubts, loss, career transition, children, marriage, and play. We encourage them to live more fully into who they were created to be. We also open ourselves up to be pastored by our neighbors. Genuine relationship doesn’t run one direction, it is an act of mutual submission that frees us to fully share and receive love…even if from the most unexpected people and places.
In a neighborhood where change is slow, and the soil for the good news is hard, hope is offered. For Amy and I, taking hold of hope has meant embracing God’s Kingdom imagination by seeing our neighborhood as our parish. We sense a subtle shift happening in the spiritual landscape as we move deeper into this posture. People who would normally want nothing to do with God are coming to us for prayer and some are beginning to reconsider the person of Jesus.
What about your neighborhood?
The truth is we are all called to be ministers on some level. Each of you has an area of influence. It might be your family, your work, or your neighborhood. The reality is change is often slow and we are quick to disengage. Yet hope is always linked to God’s Kingdom imagination. You are needed. Your task is vital. Your light was meant to shine. What might it look like to be an unofficial pastor in your area of influence? We would love to hear what you’re up to and learn from you.