Last Monday I was sitting at a Starbucks waiting for a friend to arrive to talk about church planting initiatives. To pass the time, I started to scroll through Instagram to see all the adventures my friends were having. It wasn’t even thirty seconds into liking photos I began to feel a bit restless. Why wasn’t I touring Scotland or on a mission trip whitewater rafting in Colorado? Maybe I should grab my family, pack up my bags and go feed children in Burundi, Africa? Guilt ran through my blood faster than my daughters opening up birthday gifts.
But then I looked away from social media and surveyed the small shop I was sitting in. There were at least seventeen people sipping coffee all plopped down on couches by themselves. A room filled with people, each with a story, and I didn’t know one of them. It was in that moment that I realized how wanderlust can lead us to miss people right in front of us.
Disconnected and Distracted
One of the fastest growing tragedies of the American church today may be that it has become so disconnected from people and distracted with an ideal Christianity. We’ve slowly grown restless in our mobile culture fearing that we’re missing out on the BIGGER story God is writing. We’ve grown busy chasing a stimulating adventure with Jesus instead of mundane faithfulness with Him right where we live. Our eyes are constantly lifting from our communities and people right around us to find the next place “God will call us.”
But what if the most transformative thing we can do is stay in one place and focus on choosing to love the people God has already sent to us?
Sustaining and Deepening
Rowan Williams once wrote that the church is “what happens when people encounter the Risen Jesus and commit themselves to sustaining and deepening that encounter in their encounter with each other.”
We don’t have to get on a plane and fly to a foreign country to get swept up in an encounter with Jesus and others, we simply need to take our next best step towards building, sustaining and deepening the relationships that are already in front of us.
So here are three easy ways to get the party started and choose to love where you are…
1. Get to Know Your Neighbors & Coworkers.
I know this can be the scariest step in the world for my introverted friends. But I’m telling you that deep down inside every person is the desire to be known. People respond to Jesus when you pursue them. Simply start by introducing yourself. You can say something like,
“I haven’t had the chance to meet you yet. My name is _____.”
“Forgive me, I should have formally introduced myself by now. My name is _____.”
Take a risk and watch God show up.
2. Care For Your Neighborhood.
Could someone in your neighborhood benefit from regular help (elderly, disabled, single parents, etc.)? Unite with other neighbors to mow their lawns, rake leaves, paint fences, get groceries, etc.
3. Share a Meal With Your Neighbors.
It doesn’t matter if you live in a dorm room or a two-story house, the dinner table is a place for connection, communion and co-mission. Nothing creates the opportunity for building friendships like enjoying a meal together. It doesn’t need to be formal. You’d be amazed at what Jesus can do when you provide guacamole and tacos.
Choosing to love where you live allows the kingdom to break through right where you are. You don’t have to fear missing out on the life-transforming story of Jesus because it’s right in front of you.
Thomas Blevins is the Connections Minister at Northland, A Church Distributed and Founder and Lead Advocate of The Zoe Project, a radically diverse community bringing hope to everyone. With a deep passion to equip, encourage and express the love of Jesus Christ, Thomas believes that every one of us has the capacity to be the church everywhere, every day. Thomas is originally from Kalamazoo, Michigan, and currently resides in the metropolis of Oviedo, Florida. He and his beautiful wife, Tyler, are privileged to be deep in the parenthood trenches of craziness with their children, Emma Grace and Ella Jay. You can connect with Thomas on FACEBOOK or INSTAGRAM.