March 18, 2017

Drive Through Mission

No, this post isn’t about Drive Through Ashes. Instead, it’s about how God can even use my addiction to Diet Dr Pepper.

Since I started at my parish in July, I’ve probably stopped by our local Sonic at least twice per week to grab my morning caffeine in the form of soda. It’s always the same car hop bringing me my food with a smile and a warm welcome. If some people become friendly with their neighborhood barista, I’ve got my neighborhood car hop.

I’ve been reading a lot of books about “neighboring” recently (see -1>here or -1>here for a couple I recommend). The underlying principle is that we should seek to mold our churches (and parishioners) into good neighbors. That’s the essence of the “parish,” isn’t it? To serve the local community, the area in the defined borders of the parish.

Sure, technology and commutes blur the borders of our towns and neighborhoods, but we still have a footprint. We still have a defined area in which we are called to exist. How well do we do that?

There are some questions that we, as leaders in our local congregations, should ask. Do our neighbors (literal neighbors, those people that live next door) know we care for them? Do we regularly invite our neighbors to events at our churches? Do we ever step foot in our local business (a print shop, for instance), or do we only ever order things online?

I’ve probably been to that Sonic a hundred times (I know, I know…). I always have my clerical collar on, and the car hop knows where I pastor. But something changed just last week. I asked, as I do every morning, how she was doing. Out of the blue (or perhaps based on months of being a neighbor), she asked me to pray for her. She had a job interview for a potential career change, and was nervous.

I did nothing but show up consistently and ask her how she was doing. I’ve heard countless stories from others who have struck up similar conversations with people in coffee shops, dry cleaners, post offices, and other places we frequent. Being a neighbor comes naturally for most of us, as individuals. The trick is figuring out how our church, as an institution, can be neighborly.

How does your parish engage with its surrounding community?