September 28: National Good Neighbor Day–a challenge to churches to be a good neighbor

Be a better neighbor than a fence

They say “good fences make good neighbors” –here is how our churches can do better!

They say, “good fences make good neighbors” and we certainly hope that doesn’t mean our churches. This celebration gives us an opportunity to look at how neighborly we are as a church and as followers of Jesus.

First a little bit about the holiday itself: Becky Mattson from Montana initiated the idea, three presidents (Nixon, Ford, and Carter) issued proclamations, and finally in 2003, the U.S. Senate passed a resolution making Sept. 28 National Good Neighbor Day.

You don’t need to be a citizen of the U.S. to celebrate, as the concept of being a good neighbor is an integral part of what it means to be a follower of Jesus, as the following passage reminds us:

And behold, a lawyer stood up to put him to the test, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” He said to him, “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?” And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” And he said to him, “You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live.” (Luke 10:25-28, ESV)

To celebrate National Good Neighbor Day, here are two suggestions for communications,  blogs, tweets, ministry actions that will help us grow to be like Jesus:

Be a good church neighbor

Many churches are in neighborhoods and to celebrate National Good Neighbor Day, think of what you might do for your neighbors:

  • Consider a trash pick-up, fixing up a local park or other area, starting a community garden.
  • Take time to evaluate if you have been a good neighbor as a church.
  • Look at the noise, trash, parking issues and other inconveniences the church causes your neighbors.
  • Take time to apologize and do what you can about problems and work with your neighbors and congregation to solve them.

Take a survey of how many people who are within walking distance of the church and who attend your church or any church. If a large number of them are unchurched, be intentional as the fall holiday season approaches on how you might invite them to church activities. (CLICK HERE for Fall Holiday Outreach ideas).

Help your hurting neighbors

An immediate response to this suggestion is most likely the same one that the lawyer in the story above responded to Jesus, “and who is my neighbor?”

Just as Jesus answered by telling the story we know as the Good Samaritan, it is so easy to forget how repulsive a bleeding and bloody man by the side of the road was to help. The obvious application to us is: Who in our world is the repulsive neighbor we don’t want to help?

  • Is it the dirty, homeless person pushing their grocery cart of clothes and cans?
  • Is it the immigrant we wish would go away?
  • Is it the person at church whose sin is obvious and morally offensive to us?

The Samaritan stopped on his journey and got involved at significant personal cost to someone he didn’t know, who religious people ignored, and whose race hated him. He had every physical, religious, economic, and racial reason to walk by—but he didn’t.

And how would Jesus have us take these challenges as we celebrate Good Neighbor Day? We know his answer:

Jesus said to him, “You go, and do likewise.” (Luke 10:37, ESV)

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