God Next Door: Spirituality and Mission in the Neighbourhood
Simon Carey Holt
Winner of the Australian Christian Book of the Year Award – 2008
Also available in eBook format (eISBN: 9781617504877). To find out how to order online, visit our eBook page. You can also follow these direct links:
What if God lived next door? Would you recognise him? Would you talk to him at the fence or avoid catching his eye? Would you love him as you love yourself?
Simon Carey Holt has listened to the experiences of numerous men and women of faith living in a variety of urban and suburban neighbourhoods, and uncovered the spiritual possibilities of our neighbourhoods. His inspiring stories open up exciting new possibilities for 21st century mission.
Simon Carey Holt is the Senior Minister at Collins Street Baptist Church in Melbourne. He lives with his family in the city of Melbourne, a place for which he has the deepest affection. Previously a church planter, Simon works actively with faith communities seeking a more authentic connection with their local neighbourhoods.
Everyone is called to be a good neighbour
We are called to seek, live and breathe the redemptive peace and presence of God in the neighbourhoods that are immediately before us, according to Simon Carey Holt in this book. The book, which was the winner of the Australian Christian Book of the Year award for 2008, describes a spirituality of neighbourliness in which:
* Love of God and love of neighbour are a package: our neighbourliness is directly connected to our relationship with God;
* To love the neighbour is to act justly, compassionately and selflessly: love of neighbour is embodied in action;
* Real neighbourliness is inclusive and offered without prejudice: God’s neighbourly love extends to all regardless of race, class or moral standing;
The neighbourhood is a place of God’s presence: neighbourly relationships play host to the presence of God;
* The neighbourhood is an important place of ministry: neighbourhoods are primary places of mission;
* Neighbourliness and neighbourhood continue to have an important connection: our call to global mission does not negate the primacy of our immediate environments.
Part one of the book describes modern neighbourhoods including rural communities, urban communities and suburban communities. Part two describes the call of God with respect to neighbourhoods, including the Biblical mandate, the example of Jesus and the relationship between neighbourhood and church. Part three describes mission in neighbourhoods including disciplines of engagement which the author calls “naming”, “celebrating”, “nurturing” and “inviting”.
Most churches in the Western world are not very effective in engaging with their local neighbourhoods. Larger churches often cater more for members who live some distance away than for neighbours who live nearby. Smaller churches are often too inwardly focused. The author does not say that churches should be of any particular size or style; he merely says that they should have a strong missional focus on local neighbourhoods.
Many readers – perhaps most – will find the book uncomfortable to read. The pressures of modern life and the strong preference most city-dwellers have for privacy make local neighbourliness and neighbourhood mission very difficult to do effectively. But the author refuses to excuse anyone; we might be called to serve people far away or in the workplace or within the walls of the church, but we are also called to mission in our local neighbourhood.
I was surprised by how much of the author’s advice is simple and non-ththreatening. I highly recommend the book to church leaders and to any Christians who are seeking practical and achievable ways of engaging with their neighbours.