21 August 2014
Together we are neighbourly
Are we good neighbours?, the latest research report in our 21st Century Evangelicals series, explores exactly that question –are evangelicals and their churches really loving their neighbours?
A stunning 82 per cent of survey participants say their church partners with other churches to run projects or activities, such as money advice services and community centres.
The Alliance has been encouraged to see many churches across the country working together to bless their communities and hopes that this neighbour report will encourage Christians to engage even more with those around them.
Jesus told us: "'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbour as yourself.'" (Matthew 22:36-38). The research wanted to look at how many of us are really loving our next-door neighbours, or even know their names.
Among findings that one in four of us are regularly supporting a neighbour who is lonely, frail or otherwise in need, and a quarter are actively welcoming newcomers to their area, there is strong evidence churches are working with other churches to make a difference locally.
More than a third of those surveyed are regularly joining with others to pray for their local community, and the majority are involved in at least one church social action or community project.
All over the UK, churches are beginning to grow. New churches and fresh expressions of church are springing up and churches are coming together in new ways. Unity movements in towns and cities are forming to pray and take action together. Gather is a national network of these unity movements served and enabled by the Alliance.
Roger Sutton, who heads up Gather as the Alliance's England ambassador, said: "I'm thrilled to hear fantastic stories of co-ordinated and unified work among churches as I travel round the UK. It's not just about individual churches reaching out or doing social action but when they come together, even more transformation happens. When working together you are more coordinated and strategic and you are getting a vision not just for your church but for the place in which you live.
"The 82 per cent statistic from this report is heartening. More than ever before I believe churches are joining together for mission and reaching out in friendship to their neighbours. When we put down our differences and start to form friendships, pray together and undertake mission initiatives for the sake of their local areas, God commands a blessing."
Roy Crowne from mission movement HOPE called people to "embrace the moment –the time is now. We are stronger together than apart. Yes, we've got to demonstrate the love of God, but we are also committed to telling the story of what Jesus Christ has done and our own faith story."
HOPE encourage churches to demonstrate God's love by meeting needs in our communities;finding ways to build authentic local relationships and friendships aswell as giving people a chance to respond to the gospel.
Roy adds: "We're seeing more churches reach out into their communities than ever before, and seeing communities changed as a result."
"In cities like London, it is loving your physical neighbour which is radical," said Paul Rose, one of an increasing number of Christians passionate about community living. He is inspired by Rev Rosemarie Mallett from Brixton, south London, who is committed to building relationships locally and often walks the area, chatting with people and visiting local homes, shops and schools.
"The local Churches Together group in Brixton meets every week to pray together, and from this they've supported Street Pastors, established a foodbank, run collaborative youth activities, Alpha and 24/7 prayer throughout Lent, and are now planning to start a CAP debt advice centre. They've had a vision for a Christian community on the Angell Town estate for a while, and are so excited about our plans to move in and build relationship with people there" Paul explains.