Through the next ten weeks I’ll be teaching a Sunday school class at my church (North Fresno Church) called “God in the Neighborhood.” I’ll try to provide summaries from week-to-week so that those who attend will be able to find the resources we discuss. Other readers are welcome as well. The following is a wrap-up of today’s session.
NFC has been on a journey for a couple of decades. We have been learning to know the neighborhood around our church campus and asking how we might interact with and serve that neighborhood. This has all come very intuitively for our medium-sized group of Mennonite Brethren (a branch of the Reformation known as Anabaptism), but in the last few years we have begun to think more intentionally and have identified ourselves on a missional journey. As a result we have mobilized and equipped the congregation to serve the community. Some of the projects we have engaged in include tutoring and helping at the local elementary school; providing support, Bible study, counseling and other services at a nearby apartment complex; offering sports clubs in our gym; hosting community nights and meals; and much more. This has provided great joy and given our church family mission and purpose. Members of our congregation are engaged in ministry and growing in their commitment to God and each other. And we have seen many people begin a relationship with Christ and be baptized.
But a question has emerged: How can we help transfer these kinds of practices to the neighborhoods of NFC’s congregants? We have begun to ask, “What does it mean to be missional, not just where we worship, but where we live?” These are the questions I deal with in the doctoral dissertation I just completed, and these are the questions that led to the formation of a group of people that covenanted together to experiment missionally in their own neighborhoods last year. The lessons learned from that group are now being brought to this Sunday school class. The participants of that covenant group will help me teach the sessions.
Each time this class meets over the next ten weeks we will do three things. First, we will share about and pray for our neighborhoods. The goal of this class is to help each attender ask, “What is God up to in my neighborhood and how can I join him?” As people begin to see their neighborhoods with new eyes they will be invited to share what they see. Second, we will engage in a group form of lectio divina. A Latin term, this is a sacred or “divine” reading of Scripture that involves reading and praying through the passage (for a description of lectio see an earlier article I wrote here). We will be focusing repeatedly on Luke 10:1-12. Finally, I will present a resource each week that will help members of the class return to their neighborhoods with new skills. I won’t tell people what they should do in their neighborhoods, rather I’ll give them some skills for deciding what God is calling them to do.
We are expecting a great time as we share and pray with each other. I know that we will all be better friends once we’ve walked this road together. Our goal is not to limit ministry to random cold-contact witnessing with a tract, four questions and a packaged prayer. Seeing God in the neighborhood is so much bigger than that. I can’t anticipate what God will call each member to do where he or she lives, but I can promise an adventure with God, a deeper understanding of ministry and place to process what’s being learned with other brothers and sisters.
Along the way, please leave comments, please try new experiments and please, please ask, “What is God up to in my neighborhood and how can I join him?”