Most people in churches today are so busy at the building with programs and/or meetings that the very thought of doing something in their homes or neighborhoods is out of the question. Just the thought of doing another thing exhausts most people in the Church today, especially the parents of active children. If the Church is going to live as Jesus did in the world, then we are going to have to reassess our priorities. We are going to have to ask ourselves, “What is really important?” This is a very significant question. Often we go through the motions of church-life without asking this important question. If we are going to take the Great Commission (“Go and make disciples”) and the Great Commandment (“Love God and love our neighbor”) more seriously, then we simply must reconsider how and where we spend our time.

When I say these things I don’t share them in a vacuum. When I was an associate pastor, I had to ask myself the very same question: “What is really important?” As I honestly answered this question, I began to say no to certain church activities so that I could give time to the things that had greater priority. Those things fall into the four essentials mentioned earlier. I know some of these programs and meetings are really good things to do, but keep in mind, good is often the enemy of the best. You may have to walk away from things that are “good” in order to spend more time with your family, in a neighborhood group, or with your neighbors.

At the time of this writing, I am teaching two of my neighbors out of the book of James. One of them had never read the Bible in English before. He absolutely loves it, and God is speaking to him when we gather together at Starbucks. He recently invited another neighbor and myself to join him at his house for dinner. And both the relationship and the conversation continue to grow. This is discipleship-making at its most basic level, and it has become my top priority. More importantly, we see that it was a top priority for Jesus as well. When Jesus entered the city of Jericho, He spotted Zacchaeus in a tree and said, “I am coming to your house today.” In so doing, Jesus modeled for His disciples the importance of one-on-one, relational ministry. He obviously saw in Zacchaeus a “person of peace,” one who would be receptive to His teaching. Therefore, He purposely took the time to break bread with Zacchaeus and forge a relationship. The results were astounding (Luke 19:1–10).

Isn’t this the type of relationship-building the Lord would have us do right where we live and work? Following Jesus’ lead, shouldn’t we be looking for our own Zacchaeus-like relationships in our own neighborhoods?

From The Incarnational Church: Catching Jesus’ Radical Approach to Advancing His Kingdom

Listen to Bruce Zachary's experience with Neighborhood Initiative.

Listen to Dallas Willard's word to pastors and leaders about Neighborhood Initiative.

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