In Our Neighborhood
Hickory, North Carolina, is a quintessential hometown in America. It has quaint historic streets lined with brick facades and places where the paint has cracked and brokenness shows through. And it’s those places that Grace Church feels called to be.
Members of Grace Church have committed to carrying Christ to their neighbors as part of the Reviving Mission Collective, an initiative of Every Home for Christ in the United States.
Hundreds of pastors from more than 30 states have attended Reviving Mission Collective trainings where they are encouraged and equipped to lead their congregations in living out Christ’s call to make disciples. Just like Every Home’s work in global contexts, this effort is made up of ordinary, local believers.
The people of Grace Church felt a tug on their hearts to share Jesus with “people that found themselves in difficult places,” shares Pastor Marcus Dolphens, who helps lead Every Home’s on-the-ground work in the US. “In neighborhoods where drugs, violence, and abuse are common, the church visited every home to share the hope of Jesus.”
Marcus Dolphens Leads a Reviving Mission Collective Training.
While on outreach, a man approached a team of believers aggressively. He appeared to be focusing intently on the team’s shirts. Then he stopped and began to weep.
The man explained that his name was Ted, and he had been abusing drugs and alcohol for years. He had intended to do violence to the outreach team, but when he saw “Grace” printed on their T-shirts, something in his heart changed.
The team shared a message of grace and forgiveness with Ted, and that day, his heart turned toward Jesus.
breaking down these fences between ourselves and our neighbors is one of the first steps in carrying Christ
A Bible study began in Ted’s neighborhood, and, through a series of conversations, members of Grace Church got to know a young Haitian immigrant named Armstrong, who also became a believer.
The team was witnessing lives transform, but the neighborhood where they ministered didn’t change overnight. The cracks of suffering and violence remained. Just a few months after professing faith in Jesus, Armstrong was fatally wounded by stray bullets in a shooting. He was only twenty years old.
Armstrong’s faith is a comfort to his family. But his senseless death is painful to his community, including the believers who only recently got to know him. Is this what it means to carry Christ to your neighbors? If so, this calling is less about well-crafted presentations and well-organized outreaches to “needy” and “broken” people and places—foreign and separate from our own—and more about embracing neighbors as friends, feeling their joy and pain strike close to home.
It is easy to build fences and distinctions between our homes and our “mission field”—to think of sharing Christ as something that happens far away from our familiar. And there are certainly differences between Hickory, North Carolina, and a place like Benin, a small country in West Africa, but there are also similarities in how we engage our communities. And the same love resides within us. According to Sunday Avla, Every Home’s ministry director in Benin, breaking down these fences between ourselves and our neighbors is one of the first steps in carrying Christ.
“The Bible clearly says that God so loves the world. This same love resides within us.”
—Sunday Avla, Every Home Benin Ministry Director
“I participate in all the community activities: soccer matches, concerts, and holidays,” Sunday says. “We will not be able to bring Christ to our neighbors if we think that we are saints, and they are sinners with whom we have nothing in common. John 3:16 changed my way of seeing the world and the nonbelievers around me. The Bible clearly says that God so loves the world. This same love resides within us.”
The love of God, and his call to believers, remains steadfast and borderless. Indeed, the gospel has a way of stretching our notions of neighborhood. The realization of our neighbor’s belovedness that comes upon us when we see them through the eyes of Christ makes them precious to us—one of our own—regardless of their street address.
Christ’s love is needed and working closer to your home than you might think. Your neighborhood is likely bigger than you imagine. Are you ready to be part of it?