“Many are of different backgrounds, with only two couples attending the same church.”

They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer…They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts,  praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved. Acts 2:42, 46b, 47

The photo shows five couples, but actually there are six neighborhood couples, who meet monthly from house to house for Sunday dinner and to pray for their neighbors. There are around 34 neighbors in their immediate community. Shawn and Carla Caldwell are in the center. Wouldn’t it be great if this was going on in every neighborhood around our country? Shawn and Carla’s story is reminiscent of the 1st-century Church; brothers and sisters of different backgrounds, gathering together in love in order that they might pray for neighbors who have yet to start their journey with Jesus. Let’s see how it all got started and began to play out.

Shawn and Carla Caldwell’s Neighborhood

We began our neighborhood ministry by praying for all the neighbors we knew by name. My son, Kyle, and I (and sometimes Carla, my wife) would walk our street, praying as we went along. We would pray down one side of the street, turn around, and then pray the other side. After a month or two, we reached out to a few of our neighbors who we knew to be Christians, and asked if they would be interested in meeting at our house to pray for the neighborhood. The response was very enthusiastic.

At our first gathering, we enjoyed a very simple meal (hamburgers and hot dogs), followed by a discussion that covered a wide gamut of prayer needs for our neighborhood. Everyone prayed after the meal, and it was then decided that we should try to do this on a monthly basis.

Over the course of the first year, we ran into some difficulty finding a mutually agreed upon time when all felt it convenient to meet, and at times the monthly meeting stretched out to five or six weeks. That became too irregular, so now we gather every third Sunday. Of those who attend regularly, many are of different backgrounds, with only two couples attending the same church.

I can say without hesitation that it has been both a blessing and a blast getting to know our neighbors. We all really look forward to getting together and praying for each other, and for the neighborhood. I do think the meal and fellowship has greatly contributed to the appeal and consistency of our gatherings.

Because we are all of different backgrounds and churches, we don’t all agree on everything, but we are definitely united in our belief that praying for our neighborhood is a good thing, and getting to know our neighbors is just icing on the cake.

After little more than a year of our praying together, we decided to invite our un-churched neighbors to one of our monthly meetings. As one would imagine, we didn’t observe our regular time of prayer together. Even giving thanks for the meal was a bit out of the ordinary for some. Yet God is growing us together into a very close group.

The fact is, I didn’t even know most of these people before I started down this path, but now I look forward to seeing them each month. We all enjoy a true sense of neighborhood and community . . . people whose paths might never have crossed.

We continue to pray, waiting expectantly for the Lord to move. After all, this isn’t just about making friends . . . it’s about leading people toward the Kingdom of God.

A time for reflection:

Shawn and Carla’s story is just one way that Christians are coming together in neighborhoods today. I have found what the Lord initiates with Christians in neighborhoods varies from neighborhood to neighborhood. He is extremely creative and will lead you in what He has in mind with your neighbors. Once the Spirit gives you a conviction about loving other believers in your neighborhood and a desire to love those in your neighborhood, ask the Lord to show you what He would like to do through you. You may choose to begin to pray like Shawn, Kyle, and Carla did. Remember, it is not about trying to make something happen, but praying, waiting, watching, and joining your Father when He opens doors for you in your own neighborhood.


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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