“Who is my neighbor?” is the question a lawyer asked after Jesus had shared the essence of the law: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” (Luke 10:28) We have so many neighbors with different needs that we are overwhelmed by their cries. What can I do with so many neighbors?
Every church in the North Texas Conference either has or supports a mission or ministry in a local community that helps people with clothing, food or some other physical need. No shortage of Christian compassion exists in our churches.
But do you wonder why our neighbors still struggle? With all of our compassion, it seems that either nothing changes or that change is too slow. Change is slow when our compassionate efforts are transactional rather than relational. Giving students school supplies is kind and compassionate, but forming a relationship with a student has greater power to impact a student’s life.
One + One, a mission of the NTC, asks churches to place 5 percent of worshippers in each congregation in a public school this fall. Each person will tutor and mentor one child each week. We will teach children to read so that they can read to learn. Each church will choose a public school that is low-performing or has students with unique challenges. The church will work with the school to fashion how volunteers can mentor and tutor children.
In the early days of the Methodist movement, the early Methodists taught children to read by using the Bible. That instruction took place on Sundays because the children were working in factories, mines or on farms on the other days. The early Methodists saw children who could not read as their neighbors. And today’s children are our neighbors.
Continue all the other missions and ministries of your church, but together let’s recover the early movement with each church sharing in the common mission. Let us see this as not social service but borne out of our faith in Christ who has called us, clergy and laity, to ministry with our neighbors.
To our neighbors, what would it say about the church that we left our buildings and came to them? Would they ask, “Who are these good people who come each week?” Would they ask if they could come to church with you? We will be surprised. Encourage your pastor and lay leader to become involved in One + One.
God wants to change the lives of our neighbors and our lives as well. Our neighbors are waiting.