Love Your Neighbor

Dear Church,
Welcome to 2023! I don’t know about you, but 2023 looks like it’s going to be a big year for me! Casey and I are presidents of this year’s Northwest Christian Convention, which is exciting but also a lot of work! To be honest, however, the convention is not the most exciting thing about 2023 for me. The thing I’m most excited about this year is my new year’s resolution—or, should I say, our new year’s resolution. For the past 18 months I’ve been doing a lot of reading about evangelism, and I’ve reached a conclusion: evangelism is only part of the picture. As important as evangelism is, it’s only one part of the ultimate mission God has given his people:
“The most important [command],” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:29-31, NIV)
Evangelism is part of the great command we have been given by Jesus: to love God, and to love our neighbors. This leads me to our new year’s resolution. I was struck by the fact that Turner Oregon labels itself “the good neighbor town.” If that’s who Turner is, then who should be the best neighbors in this “good neighbor town?” Shouldn’t it be the people who have been commanded to love their neighbors? So that’s my new year’s resolution for our church: we will become a congregation of people who are dedicated to loving our neighbors.
Now, notice how I phrased that. We are not going to be a congregation that loves its neighbors. We are not going to create a bunch of new programs so the whole church can love its neighbors as a group. We are going to be a congregation of people who love their own neighbors. Each one of us is commanded to love the people we live and work with. This is not about a church program—it’s about your everyday life.
We are going to pursue this resolution in several ways:
  • Sermon Series: this year our sermons will be dedicated to uncovering everything the Bible teaches us about why and how to love our neighbors. We’ll start in January with a series called “The Blessing” that will follow the first generations of God’s family (Abraham, Isaac, Jacob & Jacob’s sons) in their struggle to love their neighbors.
  • All Church January Class: during the month of January, we will spend the Sunday school hour gathering as a church to cast a vision for this new mission. On January 8th we’ll hold an all-church prayer service, then on the 15th, 22nd and 29th we will gather together to talk about what it could look like for the members of Turner Christian Church to have a real impact on their own neighborhoods.
  • Sunday School classes: our new Sunday School classes will launch on February 5th. We will be reading and discussing two books: The Art of Neighboring by Jay Pathak and David Runyon, and Placed for a Purpose by Chris & Elizabeth McKinney. We will divide into two smaller classes, but both will cover the same material. (If you’re wondering why we aren’t offering another class, it’s because this topic is so important that I want our full focus on it this winter. In the future we’ll go back to offering multiple options).
  • All Church Gatherings: during the winter semester we’ll take several breaks in our Sunday school classes in order to gather as a church and discuss our mission to love our neighbors. We hope to bring in speakers from our community who can talk to us about real, practical solutions to challenges in our town.

There’s more coming down the pike, but that’s enough to get us started into our new resolution. I hope you will embrace this new focus with me—I truly believe that this is the direction our church has been moving in since before I ever got here, and I am so excited to see what our congregation can do as we go out and love our neighbors!
Happy New Year!

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