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Leaving the Backyard

05.20.19 | BLESS | by Nate Thompson

Leaving the Backyard

As followers of Jesus, we take seriously his command to love our neighbors. The command is easy to remember, “Love your neighbor as yourself,” but practically speaking, how do we love our neighbors and help them connect with Jesus. Enter the BLESS Practices. The BLESS Practices are a series of practical ways you can begin to love and serve your neighbors, friends, co-workers, or relatives who don’t have a relationship with Jesus.

Every year, nearly 250,000 people head to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area (BWCA) to separate from the pressures of their daily lives, to break from modern connectivity, and spend time in God’s creation. For many, something is invigorating about going “off the grid” and gaining a unique sense of freedom.

One of the beauties of a trip to the BWCA is the challenge. Just think, when was the last time you had to ask yourself one of these questions:

“Where can I get safe water to drink?”

“How will I cook tonight’s meal?”

“Where am I going to sleep?”

“Can I survive for seven days on the things I can carry in a backpack?”

This challenge at times leaves you with a healthy respect, even a healthy fear, for the wild and unknown places in the world. You’d lie if you said there wasn’t a little bit of timidity when first putting the canoe on the water at the entry point. In fact, this is probably a good thing.

Most of us are introduced to camping in the backyard. You probably loved every minute of it even though your experience was a little bit different than a trip to the BWCA. You’ll do some of the same things you would do in the wilderness, like eat food around a campfire and sleep in a tent, but you’ll do all of this in the relative comfort of the backyard. It’s not really strenuous, and your biggest challenge will probably be falling asleep knowing that your bed and the air conditioning are within walking distance.

Sometimes we view following Jesus like camping in the backyard when, in all reality, he’s leading us into the BWCA.

Our new vision statement (Helping people connect with Jesus) is short, sweet, easy to remember, and meant challenge us. We believe that every person who calls Constance their church has a role in helping people connect with Jesus. As Pastor Sean McDowell has said, we have a responsibility to share the good news of Jesus. This, as the Apostle Paul stated, is a matter of first importance: “that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures.” (1 Corinthians 15:3-8)

Last year we went through a series called The Art of Neighboring. In this series, we were challenged to get to know our neighbors and begin looking for ways that we can share God’s love with them. Why? Because loving our neighbors goes hand-in-hand with the greatest commandment…to love God with our heart, soul, mind, and strength. Pastor Sean even said during this series, “We cannot love God and not love people.”

We know that building relationships with neighbors isn’t the easiest thing in the world. It’s tempting to camp in the comfort of the backyard rather than cross the street, into the relative unknown, and look for opportunities to love our neighbors. But the challenge doesn’t make it any less of a responsibility. So how’s it going for you? Have you met your neighbors? Do you know a little bit of their story? Have you invited them over for a meal?

Here’s an encouragement: Our staff has started to hear and share stories about how God is establishing relationships and showing up in our neighborhoods. Last summer, members of our community began hosting Block Parties for their neighbors with the help of the Block Party Trailer. These parties have enabled hundreds of people to come together, have fun, and learn a little bit more about each other. Relationships are forming, and we’re seeing the fruit of these intentional actions to love our neighbors.

Let’s continue to cultivate our heart for those who don’t know Jesus. Let’s embrace the challenge we’ve been given as Christ-followers to share his message of hope with the people who live closest to us. We’re excited to see where God leads our church as we intentionally build relationships and strive to help people connect with Jesus.

For ideas on how you can BLESS others, check out our BLESS Resources.

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