Can You Relate?

In ”Rooted in Christ,” I raised the idea of "rooting" in a neighborhood using the acrostic ROOT: Relate to everyone; Openness to the reality of your place and the presence of the Holy Spirit; Organize around existing assets; Trust God. To root in a neighborhood shouldn’t require adding activities to an already busy life. Yet it might require a radical shift in the way we live our lives.

Let’s focus on the “R.” What does relating to everyone mean in a practical sense? Obviously, we can’t relate to everyone, everywhere. But we can work toward having genuine relational encounters with the people in our geographical space.

How do we make an effort to know our neighbors? This starts with an introduction and with remembering their names. When Iris and I moved into our neighborhood, we made a map of our townhouse complex and the two blocks surrounding it. We made it our goal to meet everyone living in the homes on our map. When we met people, we wrote their names on the map and began to pray for them. The exercise had the added benefit of helping us remember people’s names the next time we encountered them.

We are committed to walking in our neighborhood. This accomplishes several things: it’s good exercise,, we often pray as we walk, and we encounter people as we are out walking. We greet everyone we pass and try to make a personal connection. It really is amazing how taking these little steps consistently over a long period of time can make a huge difference.

We also make lifestyle choices that are relational. We get our haircuts at the same neighborhood barbershop, where we connect with the same people. We frequent a coffee shop and a favorite restaurant in the neighborhood. In each of these locations we continue to see the same people and take small relational steps with them. We also connect to our neighbors through and other social media sites.

We focus both relationally and locally. The apostle John says that Jesus “became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighborhood. We saw the glory with our own eyes, the one-of-a-kind glory, like Father, like Son, generous inside and out, true from start to finish” (John 1:14, MSG). It was the closeness of Jesus in the neighborhood that allowed people to see the glory of God with their own eyes. May that be true of us as we follow Him.

What are some ways you can start (or grow in) relating to everyone? Where are some key activities or places that would allow you to start making meaningful connections with those around you?
Al Engler serves as director of Nav Neighbors, a Mission of The Navigators. You can learn more about the Englers' Navigator ministry or email Al here.