Jesus’ life, ministry, and teaching are profound and marvelous. They are full of life, and intended to inspire a revolution. Revolutions are always sparked by an idea. An idea that is so clear, compelling, and catalytic that people are inspired to overcome the status quo. His death, resurrection, and Spirit are what give life to the revolution. The essence of the revolution is, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind … And … You shall love your neighbor as yourself” [Matt. 22:37-40] [the Great Commandments].
Yet, in the fast-pace of life we may have neglected to actually love our neighbors. I have been serving Jesus for twenty-five plus [25+] years, and I’ve been blessed to be part of a healthy, thriving, church community that I love and am exceedingly grateful for. But I have to confess, until recently I neglected to love neighbors, and was therefore rebelling against God without even realizing it.
As I contemplate my own experience as a pastor and teacher, as well as countless peers, I’ve become increasingly aware that we need to rediscover the Great Commandments. As I look back at my teaching, I realized my unintended error. For years, I would describe traits of a disciple (follower of Christ) that focused on attitudes and behaviors such as: Bible learning, prayer, service, contemplation, fasting, worship, giving, and sharing of the faith. I’ve been faithful to urge people to love God and others, but I neglected to call God’s people to love their neighbors. And the Lord revealed the need to repent, and ways to change. Let’s rediscover and live the Great Commandments, and passionately love God and neighbors.
Calvary Nexus’ long-term vision to rediscover and live the Great Commandments is Geographic Saturation of a Community with Neighborhood Groups [NG]. This model seeks to saturate a community with Christ-centered NG where people learn to love God and neighbors better.
What is a Neighborhood Group? Neighborhood Groups are established by connecting people in relationship where they live, work, study, and play. The groups generally meet weekly, and are the primary place where we learn how to be Christ’s disciples. Groups discover God’s love and learn to love God and their neighbors better (within and beyond the group where they live, work, study, and play).
What it will look like when we get there: Our desire is for every person who is part of the Calvary Nexus community to participate in a neighborhood group. At the end of ten years (2026), we see over 200 Christ-centered Neighborhood Groups [NG] saturating every neighborhood of our community. These groups will magnify Jesus and experience God’s presence during the week, and as we gather to worship as a large community of faith on the weekends. We will demonstrate the love of God as we befriend and build relationships with our neighbors where we live, work, study, and play. Loving neighbors is not a project or program, but a value Christ commanded.
When we connect with Christ and others, and learn to love God and neighbors better, we will be transformed disciples. People will experience: personal restoration, thriving marriages, families strengthened to pass their faith to the next generation. There will be a workplace and school witness for Christ. People will discover and experience their calling to advance God’s kingdom. Neighborhoods will be transformed communities for Christ! We believe that God has given us a large enough church community that we can saturate the community around us and beyond with Jesus and His gospel in the next ten years.
What’s the difference between a NG and other small groups?
Scripture-based study guides help us love God and neighbors together: Each week we distribute a study-guide that includes commentary, and discussion questions from the portion of Scripture that we studied on the weekend
[http://calvarynexus.org/neighborhood-group-resources]. It allows the group participants to dig deeper into the text and engage in active learning. It helps to align all of our groups, and thus the majority of our church, to a common focus and growth trajectory. We have discovered that the study guides are very easy for leaders to use. This helps to give opportunities for additional people to help lead the group. Thus more people are developed to be future group leaders.
Encourages the values of loving God and neighbors better: we learn to be mature disciples who love God and others better. The study-guide provides a weekly framework where group participants reinforce and encourage the values of loving their neighbors inside and outside the group better. This portion of the study guide can be used even if your group does not adopt a Scripture-based model following the Sunday sermon text.
I confess, six months prior to rediscovering the Great Commandments, I wasn’t a good neighbor. I wasn’t a bad neighbor in the sense of loud music, crazy parties at all hours, unabated dog barking, junk piled in front of our condo, etc. On the other hand, I rarely took the time to talk with neighbors. I found it all too easy to use my garage door opener, after a friendly wave to a neighbor with my car window rolled up, pull the car into the garage and close the door without actually engaging my neighbors. But I quickly learned how to be a better neighbor after rediscovering the Great Commandments.
Encourages margin to befriend and build relationships: Most of us feel that we are too busy to develop relationships. Sometimes we are so involved with ministry and programs that support the church that we have no time to get to know neighbors. NGs encourage us to create margin and intentionally invest time to get to know our neighbors – the people where we live, work, study, and play. Building relationships with those who don’t yet know Christ will be one of the most effective ways to advance God’s kingdom. We want to love neighbors, because it is a value that Christ commanded us to live. These relationships are not a program or a project.
Recently, I was at a noodle house enjoying a bowl of ramen after a fifty-plus mile bicycle ride. The guy at the counter next to me seemed to know all about ramen and soon we were talking. When I shared with him that I had been thinking about eating ramen for the last twenty miles of my bike ride he shared with me that he also rides a bike. Soon we were talking about food, riding bikes, and then work. I shared with him that I was a pastor at a nearby church, offered my card, and invited him to be my guest some time. He looked at my card and said, “I’ll probably never come to church, but I’ll give you a call and we can go for a ride some time.” And I had to wrestle with the idea of whether I would invest hours of my valuable time with someone who declared he was unlikely to ever receive Christ, simply because Jesus has commanded me to love this neighbor as a value. And by the grace of God, I was able to affirm that I would love my neighbor, not as a project or program, but as a Christian value.
Geographic proximity and affinity: Most small groups are currently based on affinity. This includes common life-stage and/or common interests. These tend to be less challenging for people based on the high degree of commonality.
We want to also encourage groups to form based on geographic proximity. Geographic proximity can encourage a greater connection with neighbors where you live. For example, my neighbor Phyllis lives in the condo next door and attends a NG we host. She is older, and is a widow. One night she shared that she wanted to visit another widow nearby to offer comfort, but she wanted someone to join her. It was natural for me to offer to go, because the person she wanted to visit was my neighbor too. Groups based on purely geographic proximity are likely to be more diverse, intergenerational, and find their primary connection as a common neighborhood. This type of group may be more challenging to some who are used to basing relationships on affinity rather than geographic proximity.
A hybrid of geographic proximity and affinity is the type of group we host. The group is comprised of people from our local church who live near our condo, and some of my neighbors in our condo complex who do not attend our local church. In addition, some of the group live in different neighborhoods, but have joined as friends of folks in the group. We have found that this type of model provides the advantages of both the affinity and geographic proximity models.
Please see the Appendix for a summary of small group [NG] models.
Frequently Asked Questions [FAQs]
Does our existing group have to adopt the Scripture-based study from the Sunday sermon? No. New groups will start using the Scripture based format and study guides. We ask all groups to utilize the weekly study-guide portions related to encouraging the values of loving neighbors within and beyond the group better.
Do we have to start inviting neighbors to our group? No. We do hope that as your group intentionally builds relationships with neighbors where you live, work, study, and play that over time you’ll discover the blessings of inviting these neighbors to your group.
Do we have to share our faith with our neighbors? No. We hope that as you befriend that you share life. Listen to your neighbors, play together, serve them, have a meal, pray for or with them, and over time God will open doors to share your faith.
Are we seeking to establish house churches? No. Our Calvary Nexus community of faith will gather on weekends to learn to love God and neighbors, to worship, study the Bible, and experience God’s presence together. And we gather during the week in our NGs to learn to love God and neighbors better.
More FAQs are available for review: http://calvarynexus.org/neighborhood-groups-faq.
What’s your next step? We want to encourage every person who is part of our church community to create margin in your life to love God and neighbors better. Start by praying and seek God’s direction about these possible steps:
Belong: participate in a NG,
Become: grow as a disciple and/or as a leader prepared to lead a NG,
Befriend: pray for your neighbors, befriend and build relationships with people where you live, work, study, and play.