Jesus’ instruction in the great commission to go” is often met with good intentions, even zeal. Sadly, that enthusiasm can soon go out with a bit of a whimper in the face of the question, but how?”.

According to a recent survey by the Evangelical Alliance, the biggest barrier to witnessing is that so many Christians lack significant relationships with non-Christians. In theory, however, the command to love your neighbour’ could provide the answer. We may not feel that we have significant relationships with non-Christians but very few of us live in total isolation; we are surrounded by people wherever we live, shop, work, exercise, travel, and enjoy our hobbies.

Imagine if neighbours typically lived in relationship with one another, if we all knew dozens of people on our street and if there was an ease of friendship in our communities. What would it look like if we all had a chance to love, serve, encourage, pray with and minister to our neighbours? If this was the world we lived in then we might have more idea of where to go’ with the good news of Jesus that that we carry.


For all the hardship of recent months, the pandemic has actually started to positively shift something in our neighbourhoods. There is more of a sense, as we pass someone walking down the street, that we are part of the same story and therefore somehow connected. I have noticed far more smiles, hellos, eye contact and a recognition of the other’, which is not before time, since a major social problem before social distancing was, well, social distance. A life without relationship is not God’s best for any of us, and yet it’s a lived reality for far too many.

The task now – and where I believe the church can lead – is to give shape and longevity to this new community spirit, so that it doesn’t just evaporate as the crisis lifts. How might we do this? Well, at As One’, we’ve been working for 10 years on Street Associations’ that provide an informal framework for a street to come together in community. The strap-line is friendship, fun, belonging, a helping hand”. The emphasis is on social events to bring people together, with a steering group of residents putting on things like a kids’ party, picnic, quiz night or street party — Platinum Jubilee next June, anyone? The result is a new sense of ease between neighbours, loads of offers of help, smiles and chats on the street, and a long-term solution to social isolation. And, of course, it’s a real answer to the disconnectedness of Christians, enabling them to be salt and light’ right where they live.


Before the pandemic, we forged a partnership across the city of Birmingham, incorporating churches, faith communities, the council, schools, businesses and others to mount a high-profile Permission to Smile’ (‘P2S’) campaign. The city was filled with large banners and then churches were able to use the well-known P2S brand to invite local people to a tea party to boost friendliness. A table was reserved for each street invited, so that near-neighbours could get to know each other, and then we shared the vision for how each table could be the nucleus for starting a Street Association. It worked really well and provided the template for what we can do more of as the pandemic lifts.

The plan is this: first, banners saying Fill your street with friendliness’ go up all around the town, city or county with the As One’ logo clearly visible. Then, when restrictions allow, churches can work alongside the council and others under the As One’ partnership to invite local people to a tea party. It’s a brilliant opportunity to celebrate being back together, allowing us to reignite something of the lockdown spirit and achieve a long-term legacy through Street Associations.

Dudley team with banner 2
"What would it look like if we all had a chance to love, serve, encourage, pray with and minister to our neighbours?"

These partnerships all start with a network of local churches gathering together to make it happen in their local area. So far, in about a dozen council areas, such a group of churches has approached their council with the As One’ vision and, in every case, the answer has been yes, please!”. Councils are excited that churches are working together to combat loneliness and isolation, and making these community-boosting events happen with an army of volunteers who really care.

If you’re part of a network of churches who want to see something like this happen in your community then As One’ would love to hear from you, so please do get in touch via our website. The vision is ambitious, but we’ll do all we can to support you as we respond together to the great commission’s call to go and make disciples”, realising that sometimes we don’t have to go very far at all!