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05 September 2014

Are we really good neighbours?

Are we really good neighbours?

By Dr Rebekah Brettle, a former GP and executive director of Neighbourhood Prayer Network

Neighbours in Modern Britain

In the last 50 years, our society has undergone a seismic shift in the way that we live. In today's Britain, we are more likely to have fewer close relatives living near us and to travel a reasonable distance to work or even church. Many young people find themselves frequently moving home to accommodate employment or housing needs as they struggle to get on the property ladder.

Social media such as Facebook and Twitter also mean that we can speak with the click of a mouse to someone half-way around the world, yet many of us may not really know the neighbours on our street.

When Jesus said to love our neighbours as ourselves, he had a broad definition in mind, but I am certain that this definition does include the neighbours living on our street.

The Alliance's latest research Are we good neighbours? presents a mixed picture, with examples of many of us being good neighbours, but others struggling to relate with those around them.

Two-thirds thought people in the UK are not as good neighbours as they used to be, with most feeling that despite the busyness of life, it is still reasonable to expect to know your neighbours well.

And only three per cent said that they didn't want neighbours involved in their lives and that neighbours should mind their own business.

Neighbourhood Prayer Network aims to see every street in the UK covered in Christian prayer, with people also caring for their neighbours and sharing Jesus.

In the last two years, we have seen 2,500 people sign up to pray for their streets. We have testimonies of lonely people finding friendship, healings and a sense of community returning to our streets. Lives have been transformed as people follow Jesus for the first time. In all the cases, regular prayer and genuine friendship have played an important part in building community.

The question we all need to ask, is how we can be neighbours that transform our street?

Getting to know your neighbours

Reflecting on what the Neighbourhood Prayer Network has seen over the last two years, here are some suggestions of ways you can get to know your neighbours:

1) Pray for them

The Alliance survey showed that three in four have prayed for a neighbour in the last three months, with two-thirds telling their neighbour that they were praying for them.

On your street, there may well be people living lives of quiet desperation;struggling with loneliness, drug and alcohol addictions, depression, health problems, debt, relationship breakdown or employment issues.

Are you praying regularly and with faith that your prayers can change things? Regular, specific and expectant prayer, together with genuine friendship with our neighbours can make a difference!

2) Care for them

The research found that one in four give regular support to a neighbour who is lonely, ill or otherwise in need, one in four welcomed a neighbour in for a cuppa in the last week and another quarter are actively welcoming newcomers to their area.

If you'd like to get to know your neighbours more, have you considered organising a street party as part of the Big Lunch, or at Christmas, or perhaps inviting a neighbour round for some food? Do you smile at your neighbours and make time to chat over the fence?

3) Share Jesus with them

The Alliance's research found that although two in three made it clear to a neighbour in the last three months that they are a Christian, two in three say that most of their friends are Christians and another one in five say that half their friends are Christian.

Perhaps you can consider making a deliberate effort to develop a genuine friendship with a neighbour who is not a Christian. Stories make a difference and all of us have a story about how God has impacted our lives. Perhaps if we all share our stories with our neighbours, this would lead to some very interesting opportunities to invite our neighbours to also have a relationship with God.

Read the research report Are we good neighbours?

Read more about Neighbourhood Prayer Network.