As the calendar puts Thanksgiving and Christmas behind us, and we move into the New Year, we move from loving others and cheer to cultivating discontentment and feelings of insufficiency. We were not good enough last year, we think to ourselves. We’ll be better this year. Within this attitude of self-improvement lies a risk of missing the...
My husband and I have lived at our current residence for 25 years. When we moved in, God placed a desire in my heart to eventually study the Bible with my neighbors so they could know the Gospel.
Natural connections formed with many of my neighbors: our kids played together, our husbands walked to the train together, our dogs barked at each other. I loved these interactions, yet I really wanted to find a way to invite them to my home and study the Bible together. It seemed like a big leap.
It’s not easy. If I want to study the Bible with my neighbors, I have to “impose,” They’re living their lives, and I’m living mine. I like my privacy and want to respect theirs too.
Jesus told his disciples to “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation” (Mark 16:15). I had been on mission trips to different states and far away countries. I had shared the gospel with strangers in Chicago.
Why would I not do the same on my block?
Here are seven things you can do as you work toward opening the Bible with your neighbors. My prayer is that your home will become a place where hospitality and deeper spiritual conversations merge. Where love and listening are active. And where hearts are encouraged and souls fed.
1.) Form Relationships
Neighborhood relationships happen when we share a short conversation here and there. Ask questions and take the time to listen to their stories. New neighbors recently moved in across the street and one day we saw them outside cleaning up the yard. We were heading out somewhere and we were running late.
But my husband wanted to welcome our new neighbors so across the street he went. I was a bit annoyed but also joined them as introductions were being made. We quickly learned so much about them in that two-minute conversation. It was a great first encounter that will set the stage for more conversations in the future.
2.) Care for Needs
Relationships are vital because we need each other. It’s hard to admit in suburbia where we can pull into our garage and down comes that large door before anyone has a chance to notice us. But in every house, at some point, there is need.
When a neighbor shovels the widow’s driveway, when the flashing red lights of an ambulance draws everyone out, or when an unsupervised teen party is going on and it’s time to text the parents. These are the moments neighbors need each other.
Genuine care for the needs of our neighbors establishes trust and grows relationships. And always keep the greatest need in the forefront of your heart and mind. The greatest need we all have is to be saved from our sins and be in right standing before God.
If we want to love God and love our neighbor, we are going to think seriously about ways we can share Christ with them. Maybe you invite them to church with you or maybe you’re ready to invite them to a neighborhood Bible study.
Before you invite your neighbor over to study or read the Bible together, pray. Pray for each household, and each person you are planning to invite.
Pray for their hearts to be opened to the idea of joining you in this adventure. Ask God to stir in their hearts a desire to know more about the Bible. Have your friends and church praying with you. If you have Christian neighbors, meet with them, share the idea and pray together. Pray about what you want to focus on and study.
Ask God for wisdom and guidance through each detail.
…according to the person.
Plan this study with each neighbor in mind. Be sensitive and aware of who is in your study. Maybe they have a religious background. Maybe spiritual conversations are completely foreign to them. Or, maybe they are going through a major family event, whether good or bad.
…a time that works.
Think through your neighbors and their schedules. A neighborhood of young moms will be available at a different time than a street of empty nesters. You won’t be able to accommodate all schedules but choose a time that could work for most. I found Sunday afternoon from 4-5 was the best time for most schedules. You’ll likely need to be flexible with your own schedule.
As you pray and talk to others who have done neighborhood studies, come up with a simple and clear curriculum. My neighbors and I have studied or will study Psalm 23, the “I AM” statements of Jesus, and the book of Ruth. If you have the time, a good idea would be a study that allows you and your neighbors to get a grasp of the over-arching story and theme of the Bible.
Yes, you need to invite your neighbors. Be honest and transparent in your invitation. Your neighbor should know exactly to what you are inviting them from the information on the invite.
Once I planned a Christmas Brunch for my neighbors. What I did not mention in my invite was that we would be having a short Christmas devotional during that time. I thought I would just slip it in since I had everyone sitting around my family room. As I read this devotional, I remember the look on one neighbor’s face. She clearly was surprised and uncomfortable with my sweet little talk about baby Jesus.
I offended her, not with the Gospel, but by “trapping her” to hear the gospel. I had been misleading in the invite and it caused a rift between us for months to come.
When you invite, don’t be ashamed of saying it’s a Bible Study. The Bible is God’s word with riches beyond measure (Psalm 119:14), so invite them to learn along with you!
For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. (Hebrews 4:12)
6.) Prioritize God’s Word
Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth (2 Timothy 2:15).
Hosting and leading a Bible Study requires a sense of responsibility – a joyful one but still a responsibility. We want to represent God and his Word well. And we want to proclaim God’s truth, not our opinion.
We don’t want to add or subtract to God’s Word. God’s Word stands perfectly on its own.
Our role is to present it, share it, and proclaim it. Be prepared and hold fast to the word of truth and trust God for the results. He will work in and through you and your guests.
7.) Rely on God
I was super excited to host and lead a Bible study until I stepped outside and started walking toward each house to invite them. Suddenly, I felt foolish. What I was doing felt foreign. This was the first time I was relating to them differently than I had in the past. I felt alone and insecure.
But then God drew near and renewed a right spirit within me. He reminded me that I was doing this for him! It was an act of obedience. I was doing this because I had the best news in the world to share. I was doing this because I really liked my neighbors and cared about their eternal state. God had prepared me and equipped me – in his power and strength, I pressed on to the next house until all the invites were delivered.
I invite you to share Christ, and study the Bible, with your neighbors for their good and his glory.