Monday, September 12, 2011

Incarnational Living: Block Party

Since I have been at my current church, Bridge church, my views on church have changed a lot. Like, what church looks like, what my role is in church etc. One of the biggest changes has forced me to look at myself and say, "Am I just attending church, or am I BEING the church?"

 Last summer, I went through an AMAZING study with a group of fellow Bridgers called "The Tangible Kingdom." It was an eye opener for sure and made me really rethink my way of thinking about others and how much I value or don't value other people. We are going through the study again this year and I am continuing to learn more and reassess how I live my life (not on just Sundays but EVERYDAY). I had to question if I was being intentional about loving others, because honestly, most of us know, if we are not intentional, we aren't that great at truly loving others (especially those who are not like us).

One thing that the book talks about is something called "Incarnational Living". Incarnational means "to take on flesh." Missional means "to go." So, Incarnational is about how you go and what you see as you go. It encompasses your posture, your tone, your motives, and your heart. It is critical because it will eventually determine whether or not people will want to know you or your God.

I have been very blessed to be part of a very Incarnational church. A church who literally takes on the flesh of Christ. Rather than waiting for people to come to our church, we bring "church" to them. Basically, we just try to show love and help others, especially those who may not get it otherwise, therefore sharing the gospel through our actions, not just our words.

There are 3 couples in our neighborhood (us included), who have decided to really be incarnational/intentional in our neighborhood. Our neighborhood is a mix of different people from different backgrounds and income levels. It's not exactly the kind of neighborhood where you know your neighbors very well and everyone is definitely not getting together for social events. With that being said, we felt a real need to get to know and show love to those who are just beyond our doors. Sometimes it's harder to do that, than it is to go far away and share love with those you may never see again. It means allowing people to see you, get to know you and get involved in your life and vice-versa. It can get messy, especially when they can come knock on your door anytime.

The 3 couples decided that we would start throwing neighborhood block parties as a way to build relationships with those around us and just love on people. We started last year in the Fall doing Outdoor Movie Nights. Our first one was a small turn out. We were not surprised as many people around here questioned what our motives were and had never attended something like that in this kind of neighborhood. We had lots of cars drive by slow out of curiosity. By the next movie night, we had LOTS of neighbors, especially kids. The lawn was packed.

This past weekend we threw our 4th Block party in the neighborhood with hot dogs, chips, popsicles and an inflatable water slide. I was BLOWN away by the turn out! Within a 2 hour period we had over 50 people show up. There were kids coming out of the wood work from every direction. We were able to meet lots of neighbors, several who were repeats, lots who came for the first time and even a few who just moved here and said they were excited to come down and hang out. People were thanking us for doing this. It was a GREAT day to just get to hang out and get to know those around us and do something fun for them.

The truth is, at the core of every one of us, is the need to be loved and accepted, and hey, have some fun! Once people realized that we had no alterior motive, (we are not trying to get them to come to our church or sell them on anything..we just want to love on them) they completely opened up and came down to share their lives with us over a hot dog and a water slide, on a hot day. There were lots of different people there from all walks of life. There was even a lady who came, who is known as the "sketchy" neighbor. She literally has an 8 foot fence built all around her property to keep people out. Our first block party, she sat in her driveway across the street to watch the movie. This time, she was at the party, making conversation with her neighbors. It was really neat to watch.

We are doing the block parties once a month and hoping that over time they will continue to grow and good solid relationships will be formed between neighbors. I think sometimes as Christians, we are so excited about telling people about Jesus (which don't get me wrong, we should be), that we forget that we need to love people, build relationships and earn their trust sometimes first. That's when people are more likely to come to know Christ, when they can "see" it in you, not just hear you talk about it.

I write this not to say, "oh look at me, what a good little Christian," but to challenge you and myself to ask ourselves if we  are living an incarnational life? Are we taking on the flesh of Christ daily, even when it is inconvenient with our time schedule. Are we missing opportunities that could be used to show other's love? Jesus didn't always wait for people to come to him, He went to them, especially when they couldn't go to him. He loved on and hung out with the people that no one else would. He didn't care if others thought less of him because of it.

I have to question myself daily if I am "putting on the flesh of Christ." A block party is just a start to incarnational living for me. It's a planned event, a little easier. The real challenge comes when you are just "on the way" of life.  Will I make it a point to go out of my way for others in the little opportunities that come along, or will I let them pass me by? I continue to be challenged in this, but on those occasions when I do rise up to meet that a difference it makes!

Here are a few tangible and easy ways to show others love:

-Bring baked goods to a neighbor for no reason or to police and fire departments to say thank you.
-visit an old folks home (most of those people don't get visitors)
-pay for someone else's: coffee, meal, etc and do it anonymously (like the car behind you or the table across the room)
-cook a meal for someone who could use a break or help
-use your talents: our church has built lots of wheelchair ramps for elderly people who can't afford it.
-babysit for someone free of charge and offer to do it
-leave an AMAZING over the top tip for your server
-write a kind note to someone

Those are just a few ideas...there are soooo many opportunities to give of ourselves EVERY day, it's just a matter of DOING IT!

Here are a few pics from this past Block Party

Brooke and Dixie ready for the party
My handsome little Knox having 



amberV said...

God really used you and this blog post to speak to me. Recently, God has surrounded us with an amazing group of friends and I think this may be the whole reason we can serve together. I can't wait to see what God has in store!!!

Angela H said...

thanks so much for your thoughts! they are very encouraging and are definitely challenging me to make this a priority in our life.