Redefining Community

Whether we like it or not, the boundaries that define neighborhood are changing rapidly in our world. People now feel less neighborly to those who live around them and many times are more connected to people they work with because of the time spent there. I don’t think that this is a postmodern problem. Rather, it is the result of living in a world where we just don’t live and work in a small town where every-one knows everyone. People are relocating more often now because of job or changes in their life.

The word neighborhood has been replaced in the U.S. with subdivision. Interest-ingly, neighborhood speaks of a connection we can have with each other in an area. On the other hand subdivision is a cold, calculated term that defines our independence and isolation from each other while living in the same area. The newest style of neighborhoods being built currently brings another angle to community. They are communities connected to an amusement park, recreational area, or next to major shopping malls. Maybe we should call them shoppinghoods or amusinghoods.

We are even hearing people in high positions talk about Global Community or Neighborhood. This is probably due to the fact that the world seems closer. You can get information about people across the ocean and their culture as quick as you can get information about the people who live across the town where you live. The cultures of the world have become more tied together within the last 15 years due to internet and travel. Interestingly, we have such quick access to people almost anywhere in the world and yet the idea of community or neighborhood has become more global and less local.

Even our local churches are not very local anymore. Most people do not live in the same neighborhood as the church they attend. Many of them drive several miles beyond their neighborhood to go to church. We have heard people in FCAP talk about their workplace as more of a neighborhood than where they live. We cannot ignore the signs that there is a very real shift in how we define community. So, in a world where identifying your neighbor and neighborhood is very complicated, how are we to face these new

challenges as God’s people? As Christians, we cannot escape the words of Jesus’ found in Mark 12: 30-31.

They are profoundly practical and real, speaking about where we meet people every day. He stated first of all that we are to love the Lord our God with all our heart, mind and soul. Then secondly, we are to love our neighbor as ourselves. Jesus’ words summon us to ask and answer the question: Who is my neighbor? But also, they require us to ask ourselves: How can I be a neighbor to others? I must admit the second part of that question is much more challenging to me. Just seeing a person in need doesn’t necessarily mean I have shown them that I will love them as I would myself. We often don’t see the needs of people around us because we haven’t trained ourselves to look for them or because we ignore them knowing they may disrupt our schedule. Being a neighbor to your co-worker will require time and resources. Even in our churches, we somehow feel the time and energy it takes to be a neighbor is a disruption to the ministry. Well according to Jesus, THIS IS THE MINISTRY! Yes, it’s about people around you being touched by your life in a very real and practical way.

I will go one step further to say that maybe Jesus is telling us that the best ministry agenda or program to have is the one where personal ministry is in someway building a neighborhood. Not a neighborhood of houses and land, but one where God’s people have made themselves a place of refuge where hurting people can come to receive love and care. Scott Bowman, who has lead workplace groups for years, says “When God is working through His people; your workplace will become a place where the sweet fragrance of God will be seen and heard by all. When Christians show kindness to the unkind, help those who need help, forgive others when offended, and speak truth in times when it is rarely heard, they are doing their work as unto the Lord.”

Sounds radical and too good to be true? Well, it is not, and it is happening. When Christians show their connection as a community of people, God dwells in their midst whether they have a place to meet or not. His glory does not dwell in a building made with hands, it dwells in His people. How about your workplace? Do the Christians there see themselves as a neighborhood? Do they see themselves as a community of God that displays a genuine love for God in the way they perform their work and in the way they show a real love for the neighbors they work with? Our prayer is that God would increase His community in the airlines!

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