Doing What the Father is Doing

“This is God’s rodeo not mine, I will just be obedient.”

“My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I too am working…Very truly I tell you, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does. For the Father loves the Son and shows him all he does. Yes, and he will show him even greater works than these, so that you will be amazed. John 5:17-20

If Jesus could do nothing by Himself, then certainly we must become equally dependent, joining with the Father where He is already at work, if we truly want to see something happen with our neighbors.

Our Lord lived out His earthly ministry as His Father presented Him with one divine opportunity after another. Jesus wasn’t out to make things happen, but joined with His Father in what He was doing. The activities of Jesus’ life were driven by His relationship with His Father, His sensitivity to the Spirit, and His loving service to the people around Him. This is Kairos and such a freeing way to begin to love your neighbors. This story by Lin beautifully exhibits how the Father worked to engage him with his neighbors.

Lin and Daryl Franklin’s Neighborhood

My wife and I were thinking about attending Together 2016, a Christian revival gathering on the National Mall in Washington D.C. But, it was a long way to travel for a one day event, so we put the decision on hold. A few weeks later, we discovered that there was an evangelism conference in D C. the day beforehand, so we decided to make the 6-hour drive and attend both the revival and the conference. And that’s where we met Lynn Cory. The conference room layout was a bunch of round tables for discussion and Lynn was at our table. He had a chance to share with our table about his ministry and I was intrigued. I thought to myself, the concept is so simple – our most natural opportunity for evangelism is right in front of us, our neighbors. And I realized that even though we live in a neighborhood that is perfect for frequent contact with our neighbors, we don’t really know any of them. Lynn gave us a copy of his book, “The Neighborhood Initiative,” before we left.

We returned from Washington and I got busy and forgot all about it. But God didn’t! A few months later He suddenly put it on my heart to find the book Lynn gave me and to read – and I did. And I knew God didn’t nudge me to read the book just for enjoyment – he wanted me to take action – to implement the suggestions in the book.  So, for the next few months I began praying for opportunities to meet our neighbors and prayer-walked the neighborhood a bit. Probably just as important, I actually made an effort for the first time to look for opportunities to meet them. And over several months God arranged some divine meetings. The first was during the winter. I had finally finished snow-blowing my driveway and sidewalk and I put the snow blower away in the garage and started walking back to my front door, exhausted. And God put this thought in my mind, how about the neighbor’s sidewalk? And I kept walking until I suddenly realized that this could be an answer to my neighborhood prayer-walks. So, I walked back to the garage, started the snow blower and did the sidewalk in front of our next-door neighbor’s house.  And I’m thinking, what a waste of time – sure it’s a nice thing to do, but I don’t think our neighbor is even home. But, as I got to the end of his sidewalk, I ran into the neighbor two houses over and asked if he wanted me to do his sidewalk too. He said he had a snow blower, but it wasn’t working – so I did his sidewalk too and we got a chance to meet and chat. A month or so later, my wife and I were walking down our street and we saw a husband and wife trying to lift some heavy furniture out of a truck and into their house. We asked if they wanted help and the wife eagerly accepted. It was a difficult task, with one piece needing to go up a tight stairwell, but we persevered. The wife whispered as we left, “I think you just saved my marriage.” I was really excited that God was showing up, but I had still only met a few neighbors. There was a young couple with a baby that had recently moved in and for some reason my attention was drawn to that house. But nothing happened! These people were like ghosts – I never saw them.  But one day I drove into our driveway and looked over at their house and she was getting out of the car with her baby. I almost sprinted over to meet her and we had a nice conversation.

And only a few days later, God suddenly said to me, when are you going to have the party? He knew I had been thinking about inviting the neighbors over at some point so we could all connect with each other. In my head, I came up with an excuse, which was true – the timing was not ideal since we had a lot going on. And God said, how about the Saturday 10 days from now. And I thought, well yes, that date is open, but it’s too close – we need to get invitations, send them, give time for responses – and even if we do all this, no one will come anyway on such short notice. God repeated, how about the Saturday 10 days from now. And I thought, this is God’s rodeo not mine, I will just be obedient. I went out the next day, bought the invitations for a two-hour snacks/drinks get-together in our backyard from 4:00 to 6:00 pm. I invited six couples and their families, put the invitations in each of their mailboxes and waited for the email RSVPs. And guess what, all but one couple responded and all the responses were yes! And the weather the day of the party was perfect! We had 14 adults and 9 of their kids. And yes, the couple that didn’t RSVP also showed up – so God arranged 100% attendance. It was a great time of getting to know one another and we even were invited to one neighbor’s Christmas party. And I thought, wow, this all started many months ago with a conference we never really wanted to attend, and look where God has led us. It’s not clear exactly where he’ll lead from here, but it’s clear that God is using us to help bring the neighborhood together and we look forward to his next nudge.

A time for reflection:

Lin’s story allows us to listen in on a dialogue between him and the Father. So often the Lord is speaking to us, like He did with Lin, and we write it off as being our own thoughts, but the Lord truly communicates with us today and will direct us to do something with a neighbor or even to put on an event like Lin did. We may find ourselves hearing the Lord’s voice, but we just don’t want to do what he is asking us to do. It may be too threatening. I have found if we stay in the comfort zone we miss out on experiencing the best life. Faith is spelled R-I-S-K. When we begin to respond to His voice in obedience, we begin to hear Him more clearly and more often. Begin to ask the Lord to speak to you about your neighbors and what He would like you to do. Has He already been speaking to you about a neighbor? What is He asking you to do? Are you now willing to join Him in His work?


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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