I have lived in neighborhoods. I have been a neighbor. I try to be neighborly. Not sure that this makes me an expert in neighborhoodisms but I do observe things. I have come to the conclusion that a lot of churches are like decent neighbors in a comfortable community. A good neighbor (church) cares for its own property and wants it to be presentable on the street for all who pass by. A lot of churches, like a lot of neighbors, will pull into their driveway and hit the down button on the garage door and slide into their warm house with little interaction with the other neighbors (churches). They wave and smile from a distance but do little to engage. Of course, if an emergency comes up, they’ll jump to it. The church, figuratively speaking, will help Mildred find her lost puppy, will bring dinner to the Smiths when mom is recovering from surgery, will bring the slightly odd family of six from down the street into their own living room for temporary shelter while the fire department does their thing at the kitchen fire. They will even rake leaves and mow some grass if it keeps the community looking sharp and attractive, but even then, they might not know the name of the family they are assisting and rarely would know their story. We will loan and help and would like a return on the generosity. Churches, like neighbors, have borders and boundaries and often clear, even high, fences. We are not sure we want others to trespass on our nice property. Well, except for a holiday barbeque with others once or twice a year so that we can claim we are united and engaged together.
For the most part that is not inherently evil or horrible. Yet I would long that more of our churches would be like teammates than like neighbors. We are one team (church) in many locations; not many churches separated from each other by lines and fences. We have unique roles, positions, skills, passions but we see ourselves as a collaborative collection of Christ-centered churches. We are about the team victory, not our own stat lines. We are “all for one; and one for all.” We share in a unified goal and a big picture perspective. We know that the world does not revolve around us, but we revolve around the team owner (Abba) and work to accomplish his goals together. As teammates we embrace that we win together or, if needed, we regroup and press forward again…together. We rejoice with those who rejoice; we mourn with those who mourn. We take our cues from the coach (Jesus) and run the plays together to move in partnership down the field. Teamwork is bruising and challenging but ever so worth it.
I certainly like my own home and my neighborhood. However, when it comes to the bride of Christ advancing the Kingdom, I would like to see us more as teammates than neighborly acquaintances.