BY TIM SVOBODA
“Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.”
This is what we call a theology of place.
Often times missions are seen as crossing the ocean which can be called a theology of going. In Jeremiah 29:7, God challenged the Jewish people to cross the street and mix with the pagans around them in a common goal of seeking together the peace and prosperity of the city to which they were living. This was no friendly Jewish city, it was a pagan stronghold, yet God challenged the Jewish people to jump in. It is in the pursuit of the common good with others that we can build relationships, rub shoulders with those that don’t know the love of Jesus, work together with them on a common goal and let our light shine.
Someone once said, “If you want to love your neighbor sometimes you have to start with loving your neighborhood.” To love your neighborhood you have to go out and get involved in the things that the neighbors are concerned about. For me, one of the places where I get to know the problems and the peoples of my neighborhood is my monthly police-community meeting. At this meeting, the captain of the police station talks about the problems that we are encountering in the neighborhood, and the neighbors share their concerns. It's a great place to meet with other people who share a similar concern in seeking the peace of the place where God has put us.
You might not have a monthly police meeting like I do that you can go to. But what about a neighborhood association that looks over the good of the place where you live? Or it might even be joining on the committee of the local park. Ask God to show you.
Let me share a story with you.
One of my pastor friends moved into a very progressive non-Christian neighborhood to revive an old church. He was praying and asking the Lord how to meet his neighbors. He felt the Holy Spirit tell him to go knock on all the doors in the neighborhood and introduce himself. He resisted what he thought he heard God saying, thinking that was just too crazy of an idea. Instead, he came to me and asked me what he could do to engage with his neighbors. I told him about my attendance at the police station meetings on a monthly basis. He did not have a police station meeting to go but he did have a neighborhood association that he started attending. He attended faithfully, gave valuable input and made many friends. After some time, the President of the Board asked him if he would join the board. My pastor friend asked the President of the Board, “If I join the board what is required of me?” The President told him they were looking for a new board member that could go to all the houses in the neighborhood, knock on each door, introduce himself as the pastor and reach out on behalf of the neighborhood association. What an opportunity to go as the Pastor of a church that needed reviving, while he was under the cover of a neighborhood association - and all for free! God is amazing!
Why not take some time and ask the Lord how He might want you to engage with the people in your neighborhood? Or maybe at your place of work by getting involved in something that seeks the common good? If you don’t know how to do this, perhaps you could start by taking a prayer walk around your neighborhood or workplace asking God to show you the open doors.