By: Joe Anderson
A friend recently asked me what I love about living in Englewood. The question came as a surprise to me. I really do love living here, but I’d never really thought about why. There are good things about this city: a lot of diversity, it has a small-town, close-knit community feel... but those aren’t the reasons that I love Englewood.
When Becca and I first moved to Englewood, we ended up living within walking distance of both of our jobs and it became a regular habit for us to walk the streets of our neighborhood. After our first child was born, we found that she slept best in the stroller while we walked, so the habit continued. Over time, we had walked all the streets within a reasonable walking distance numerous times. We knew where the sprawling maple grew; we knew which blocks had children living on them, we knew what our neighborhood felt like in all kinds of weather. We got to know the houses, some falling apart, some glorious. We felt the wet grass on our ankles as we walked through the park in the morning. As time passed, we felt that it wasn’t just that we were walking in our neighborhood; our neighborhood was walking in us. We don’t love Englewood because it’s particularly lovable, but because it’s ours.
Likewise, we don’t love our neighbors because they’re lovable, though they may be; we love them because they’re our neighbors. Jesus said to love your neighbors. I am convinced that doing this can change the world, but that’s not exactly the point. Loving your neighbors will change you first. To say it another way: God has put you and me in our particular places for both the good of that place and for our own sanctification.
Over the last year, we have had the joy of seeing both sides of this dynamic in action as we have met monthly with our Neighboring Life Group. We started this group for a simple purpose, to encourage each other to get to know and love our neighbors and help each other out wherever we can. When we gather together, we spend time sharing stories about our relationships with our neighbors. Usually the stories are encouraging; we celebrate those. Sometimes they are challenging or sad; we pray about those situations. And we always leave motivated and encouraged to take the next step of faith in our own neighborhoods.
On several occasions in the last year we’ve teamed up to do a project on someone's block. We’ve trimmed trees and moved rocks, and through that, we’ve developed relationships with our friends’ neighbors. We’ve even seen one neighbor come to know Jesus!
On May 15th we’re going to offer a neighboring workshop that will take you through three simple exercises to help you figure what God is doing in your neighborhood and how you can join Him. If you’d like to get involved in a neighboring group, we’d love to help get you plugged in there too.
Contact Joe Anderson at firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more and get involved!