Having grown up in Downs, a small rural community in Illinois, I learned the beauty of neighbors helping neighbors. I experienced firsthand how each member of the community, regardless of background, had unique gifts to share.
If you needed your car fixed, you took it to Chuck’s dad; if your wiring went bad, you called Russ. This art of neighboring was practiced everywhere in my community. I can't count the times I watched my dad, known around town as Fuzzy, put on his boots and Carhartt jacket and jump to the aid of a neighbor in need. A number of years after leaving my small town, I became a pastor. And even though I no longer lived in my town of 600, the lessons I learned there remained. But I soon discovered that the Christian community wasn’t always like the farming community I knew. There was a temptation for Christians to huddle, isolating themselves from (and even being dismissive of) their neighbors and neighborhoods. In 2017, I began to dream about the church in America. What would it be like if Christians participated in their neighborhoods like my neighbors back in Downs? What would it be like if Christians pursued the common good with their neighbors right where God had placed them? To explore these questions, I assembled a team and together we created a research project with Barna called Better Together: How Christians Can Be a Welcome Influence in Their Neighborhoods. We discovered that while both Christians and non-Christians were hungry to make a difference in their neighborhoods, they needed help. Out of this important finding The Hopeful Neighborhood Project was born. The Hopeful Neighborhood Project is a collaborative network committed to increasing neighborhood well-being around the world. It is founded on the conviction that even in this increasingly polarized age, every human being is knit together by the same God and, as such, is of worth: a gift from God with gifts to share.
This project affirms God as the giver of all good gifts and encourages people to voluntarily and collectively use these God-given gifts, even if they don’t recognize their source, for the common good of their neighborhoods. Simply, it is about loving our neighbors as ourselves and working together to imagine the God-given possibilities. To this end, The Hopeful Neighborhood Project will be offering books, courses, the EveryGift personal inventory, neighborhood assessments, and this website. These tools are designed to help you and your neighbors discover the gifts, imagine the possibilities, and pursue the common good in your neighborhood. I hope you find encouragement for your neighborhood here at The Hopeful Neighborhood Project. I would love to learn from your ideas, insights, and stories about your personal hopeful neighborhood. For in the end, we are better together.
From the forthcoming title The Hopeful Neighborhood, copyright 2020 LHM. This is not the final form, please do not distribute or quote.
Photo Credit: By Smuckers It has to be good - Own work, Public Domain, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=19008024