Feeling Isolated? Why Not Turn To Love?
By Christina Butterton
I am positive everyone has felt isolated at some point in their life, maybe because they were physically or emotionally alone. The Coronavirus pandemic has made the pain associated with isolation even more prominent in our lives. Even in better times, many Christians felt isolated. Often, it seems these feelings are the result of fear, specifically the fear of getting involved in each other's lives. Lynn Cory’s book, Neighborhood Initiative and the Love of God, teaches us a way to move away from the weight of isolation in our communities.
What is a neighborhood initiative?
Cory describes the neighborhood initiative as the whole church having, “an opportunity to participate in a mission trip together,” except without all the expenses. He later goes on to say that the neighborhood initiative, “provides a simple, accessible, and powerful way for every Christian to become involved in loving those around them with God.” Here are the logistics, Pastor Cory’s church decided participants from the church would “adopt” eight homes in their neighborhood. Meaning, the church participants would go out and learn who at least eight of their neighbors are. He encouraged them to, “pray for their neighbors by name and to take an interest in their lives.” After the initial neighbor relationship begins, it can then naturally morph into knowing more about their lives and being able to pray specifically for what they need.
This process helps to alleviate the neighborhood’s prejudices. It is natural to feel skeptical of people who live close to you if you do not know who they are or what they do. Through neighborhood initiative, everyone forms relationships with each other which spreads understanding and caring versus ignorance and gossip. Cory explains that through this process, “God not only transforms our neighbors, but uses them to transform our lives as well.”
In the book Cory makes you a spectator to his life. In doing so he provides many examples where small and selfless actions lead to closer relationships between people and even many different churches. As I read the stories, I felt reassured by the many tangible ways that he has done this within his own community
Why is neighborhood initiative so important?
The answer is simple, it is how Christianity began. Cory quotes Matthew 10:11-14 where Jesus says, “whatever town or village you enter, search there for some worthy person and stay at their house until you leave. As you enter the home, give it your greeting. If the home is deserving, let your peace rest on it; if it is not, let your peace return to you. If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, leave that home or town and shake the dust off your feet.”
Cory makes some good points about why the church in the United States is declining. Here are two of my favorites: “One prominent reason the church today does not look like the church in the book of Acts or like Jesus’s ministry is that the home does not exist at the center for ministry. We have made the church building the center of ministry, and that leaves us with an impotent church. We are not reproductive. We’re satisfied with adding people to our buildings, but not making and multiplying disciples.” If we want to expand our church, the answer is not just bringing people in the building but to bring people into our lives through love.
Secondly Cory writes, “We are not making disciples. We have invested so much of our time with those in the church that we have little time left over for those outside of the church. As a result, we have lost touch with our culture, we have become marginalized and trivialized, and we have very little influence. We need to do what missionaries do.” Besides being an excellent assessment of why the church is declining, I also like this second quote because it captures another great but simple principle that Cory emphasizes: the way you spend your time is so important.
Throughout the book, Cory makes it clear that we need to spend our time on others. Specifically, by sharing the everlasting love and trust we receive from our union with Christ upon our neighbors. Cory argues that one of the primary ways we can share Jesus with others is by showering them with his love through hospitality, generosity, and kindness. Cory’s neighborhood initiative is important because it provides a strategy for making disciples in such an isolated age.
Why should I read this book?
Everyone who wants to share the love of God in a natural and effective way should read this book. In the introduction of Neighborhood Initiative and the Love of God, Cory addresses the reader as if they are the pastor of a church, but I do not want you to be dissuaded from this excellent read if you are not a pastor. I believe anyone can be a leader, and the things Cory specifies in this book are things anyone is capable of doing! The last couple of chapters in Neighborhood Initiative and the Love of God are dedicated to helping you outline what your community needs. Cory gives a handful of great references to get your neighborhood initiative plan started. Cory emphasizes, “what works in one neighborhood or community may not work at all in another. You can’t create a one-size-fits-all plan.” He encourages us to keep our plan flexible enough that others can adapt it to fit their own neighbors.
This idea of having a flexible plan is key in light of our current predicament in the world. We not only have the normal kind of distance between us described in the book, but we also have mandates from our government to socially distance from each other. I am not exactly sure how to create a neighborhood initiative in this Coronavirus time. Yet, it is my firm conviction that the love of God which presides in us will help us to find a way to abolish isolation in our neighborhoods if we will but only step out in love toward our neighbors.
I hope this review has encouraged you to read Lynn Cory’s book. I also hope you will go forth into your community in whatever way you can to share divine, unselfish love.
Cory, Lynn. Neighborhood Initiative and the Love of God. Neighborhood Initiative, 2013.