LIFE IN THE ‘HOOD (Part II)
Last week I told you about how I am working with a few of my neighbours to throw a block party for our cul-du-sac. I mentioned that nurturing good relationships with neighbours opens doors for the Gospel. This is true and is super important! This week, however, I would like to talk about the larger Kingdom vision out of which we serve our neighbours.
When we pray, “Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven,” we are asking God to bless people with all of the good things He intends for them. Remembering this larger vision causes us to see all of the needs of our neighbours and keeps us from looking at our them as mere targets for evangelism.
Consider just a few of the many benefits that come from developing relationships with our neighbours:
· It combats loneliness: Did you know that loneliness has been identified as a health risk that is as serious as smoking, high blood pressure, obesity, and lack of exercise? People who feel connected with their neighbours will likely live longer than their lonely counterparts.
· It is good citizenship: A few years ago MacLean’s magazine ran a lead article that documented the social disintegration taking place in Canada. The article’s author opined that our increasing insularity from one another is eroding our country’s social fabric. For any country to remain unified, it citizens need to have a level of understanding of, and toleration for, one another. That kind of social cohesion can be built as we talk to one another in our neighbourhoods.
It creates a safety net. The Bible says, “Better [is] a neighbor nearby than a relative far away” (Prov 27:10). Having good relationships with your neighbours, means that you can give each other rides to the hospital when you are in a jam, watch over one another’s homes when you are away, and even care for one another’s pets, if necessary. There are a lot of practical mutual benefits that come with “neighbouring”.
For all of these reasons I have begun to take time on Thursday mornings to pray the “BLESS” prayer for each household in my neighbourhood. The letters of “bless” suggest the multifaceted needs of my neighbours:
B. Body – Physical needs, health
L. Labor – work, income
E. Emotional – inner life, joy
S. Social – relationships, family
S. Spiritual – Faith in Jesus! Salvation!
CONNECT WITH YOUR NEIGHBOURS THIS SPRING!
Despite initial appearances, there are strong indications that spring will actually arrive this year. That means that we can look forward to everything from walks in the park to gardening to golf.
It is also a great time to connect with neighbours. I have been talking with the people in my cul-du-sac about having a late spring barbeque. In fact, I applied for a grant from Strathcona County so we can go a little bigger this year than the last time we had a barbeque. I’m hoping that a block party with music will coax some of our more reluctant neighbours to come out .
I always look at spring as a unique window of opportunity for this kind of connection. This is because people are emerging from their hibernation, after a long, cold winter, and are willing to socialize. At the same time, the summer months have not hit when people’s vacation plans will make it hard to coordinate schedules.
I have really enjoyed the process involved in planning this get together. Since we needed a minimum of three signatories to get funding for the event, it meant that I had to interact with my neighbours to get them to sign on. This led to some fun and unexpected conversations. For example, Janet and I talked at length with our heavy metal, lead vocalist next-door neighbour and learned that he has fans around the world. (I am happy that he has fans somewhere in the world, because he doesn’t have fans of his music next door.)
Most of these neighbours have happy memories of the last barbeque we had and are looking forward to spending time together. This year I hope to arrange to block off the cul-du-sac to traffic so we can hold the barbeque in the middle of the street, set out some games, and create a festive atmosphere within close range of all.
Our time together will be good for our neighbourhood. I hope it will also open doors for relationship, since relationship is the best context for caring for others and, possibly, sharing the Good News of Jesus with them. --Pastor Tom
At 6pm on Monday April 16th Bethel’s World Missions Team will be screen a documentary entitled “Poverty Inc.” You are invited to watch and then discuss this critically acclaimed, award-winning documentary. This documentary, which features the work of CRC-affiliated “Partners World Wide”, explores the modern poverty industry. It asks questions like “Is what we are doing in the west to alleviate poverty around the world actually working?” and “Who profits the most from our efforts?” It effectively and provocatively presents a new empowering paradigm for missions work and relief work, which does not create a culture of dependency or paternalism.
The documentary “Poverty Inc.”, along with the book “When Helping Hurts” have been critical in bringing Bethel’s World Missions Vision to where it is today. Before the movie, at 6pm, you are invited to join us for a spaghetti dinner. It has a suggested donation of $25 and all proceeds go towards this years El Salvador trip. Our missionary from El Salvador, Roland Vanderburg will be leading a discussion after the movie.
If you have any interest in missions, in helping the world’s most vulnerable people, or just want to be part of an evening with good food and conversation – you do not want to miss it!
PRAYING ALL WEEK LONG
We’ve got the craziest idea. As crazy as it is, we are convinced it is God’s idea. (The Bible is full of big, crazy ideas God came up with).
The idea is to have a full week of non-stop prayer. That’s right - a full week in which someone, or some group of people, would be praying at the church at any given hour, day or night. A week in which we would pass the baton of prayer from Bethel member to Bethel member for 168 hours in a row, asking God to release the power of the Holy Spirit.
Where did this crazy idea come from? It started with me last summer. I was reading the book Dirty Glory by Pete Grieg and learned about the 24-7 prayer movement that is sweeping the globe. Churches in every nation are dedicating weeks at a time to prayer, sometimes with stunning stories of life-change to tell at week’s end.
I shared the idea with our Prayer Planning Team, and they too came to believe the Spirit is leading us to take the plunge. Then we learned that the Archbishop of Canterbury is calling Christians worldwide to a period of 24-7 prayer starting May 10 (Ascension Day) and ending ten days later on Pentecost Sunday. We decided to start our prayer week on May 10 to align with this worldwide movement.
“Thy Kingdom come” and “Come Holy Spirit” will be the central prayers for the week. This twin theme will guide us as we pray for one another, Bethel’s future, the church plant, our nation, and much more.
I believe God will be very pleased by this communal outpouring of love for Him. I also think that He has surprises for us that we will only discover after the week is over.
This idea may excite you. On the other hand, you may be a little dazed. (I did mention that this is a crazy idea.) If you are in the latter camp, you may be asking yourself, “How could I possibly pray for a full hour?” I encourage you to join this adventure in prayer. I predict every hour you spend in prayer will speed by and that it will lead you to a new discovery of the power of prayer.
Stay tuned for more details. –Pastor Tom
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