The Art of Neighbouring
Dave Runyon, Jay Pathak, Baker, 2012

£8.90 (Approx)
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Overview

What does it say on the tin?

Building genuine relationships right outside your door. What if Jesus meant that we should love our actual neighbors? When Jesus was asked to sum up everything into one command, he said to love God with everything we have and to love our neighbors as ourselves. Most of us have turned this simple idea of loving our neighbors into a nice saying, putting it on bumper stickers and refrigerator magnets and then going on with our lives without actually putting it into practice.

What would happen if every follower of Jesus took the Great Commandment literally? Is it possible that the solution to our society’s biggest issues has been right under our noses for the past two thousand years?

What do you get?

Book with 12 chapters, study questions for 6 sessions at the end; backed up by website with videos, sermon outlines, etc. 6-session study also available via download from www.theartofneighboring.com.

  1. Who Is My Neighbor?
  2. Taking the Great Commandment Seriously
  3. The Time Barrier
  4. The Fear Factor
  5. Moving Down the Line
  6. Baby Steps
  7. Motives Matter
  8. The Art of Receiving
  9. The Art of Setting Boundaries
  10. The Art of Focusing
  11. The Art of Forgiving
  12. Better Together

Who is it for?

Adult, small groups, beginning and growing. Each member of the group would need a copy of the book.

Review

  • What is the overall quality of material presentation?

    Smart A5 book, easy to read, which inspires us to put loving our ‘actual' neighbours into practice. Practical, biblical, honest and doable.

    How clear are its aims and outcomes?

    The study sessions are grouped into two chapters per session. They are designed as a ‘loose framework' for discussion. Downloadable sheets have more material, and follow the chapters' themes selectively.

    How accessible are the leader's notes?

    Designed for each group member to read the relevant chapters before the group meeting (two chapters per session if using the questions at the back of the book; less for the downloads). Overall, the format is Starter question, Bible reading, Reflection/Discussion questions; Action steps. The download version reshapes the material slightly, and includes suggested directions for ‘answers' to the questions. It also suggests links to www.artofneighboring website for video clips (around four minutes). The book version of the studies seem perfectly adequate and well-focused; but some leaders may prefer the expanded version in the downloads. Take your pick.

    Who could lead it?

    Someone enthusiastic about the theory; easy-to-use material.

    How helpful are the participants' resources?

    Having the questions at the back of the book qualifies as functional rather than special; but both this and downloads would have room to write on.

    How good is any digital material?

    Good video clips promoting the idea of loving our neighbours because Jesus said so; and stories from those who are doing it.

    How much prep will I have to do?

    Familiarise with material, read chapters, find videos if using. Paper and pens.

    Is there website support? Links?

    Straight-forward and encouraging website with videos, sermon outlines, neighbourhood party instructions, map for immediate neighbours (block map), notes for starting a ‘Joint church' initiative, summary for church leaders.

  • How well does it encourage interaction with the group?

    Good starter questions and discussion encourage honesty and helpful wrestling with some of the implications of loving the people we live near.

    How well does it cater for a variety of both learning and delivery styles?

    Videos add to the read/listen/discussion style – and each session ends with very practical suggestions for action.

    How adaptable is it to my situation?

    We all have neighbours so the principles apply across the board. The book assumes an American context, but most of the material is directly transferrable. Where it is not, this would encourage discussion as to how to apply it elsewhere.

    How well does it encourage people to work together in applying the material?

    Very well – action points are suggested for every week, some for group time, some for between the sessions. This is not just theory – the idea is to do it, but in bite-sized chunks.

  • How much of the material is Bible-based?

    Each chapter and study has a key passage (not very long) or biblical story, around which the theme rotates.

    How well is the biblical material presented and used?

    Targeted material for each chapter/session. Simple response invited – what we might like about it, what our questions are. Download version adds to some of this – though probably doesn't really need to.

    How well does it apply biblical material to everyday life?

    The project has grown out of obedience to biblical material: Jesus' command to love our neighbours. The passages in each chapter may be short, but are targeted to investigate the themes. All of these are essentially connected to everyday life.

    Is there a particular theological perspective?

    Evangelical but would appeal across the board.

  • How well does it inspire people towards whole-life discipleship?

    From humble beginnings, over 1,000 churches have used this initiative. Transformation of neighbourhoods is resulting. This is a practical and challenging outworking of discipleship.

    How well does it encourage and enable people to grow in their faith?

    No stones are left unturned in exploring our worries, fears and possible resistance to loving our neighbours, both through the chapter material, and the questions. Action points encourage immediate responses, but in small, achievable steps.

    How well does it stretch faith and vision of God and his purposes?

    Good consideration of the rationale behind Jesus' command, and encouraging stories about adventures of faith that ensue from taking him seriously.

    How well does it connect with real life issues?

    Extremely realistic about the variety of reactions and responses to beginning to reach out to neighbours – both in oneself, and from others. Boundaries and expectations are included.

  • How well does it encourage personal evangelism?

    The authors are at pains to distinguish between loving people because we are ‘called to love our neighbours unconditionally', and not seeing neighbours as pet evangelistic projects. Honest sharing and genuine love and care are the recommended hallmarks. ‘The goal is to faithfully tell your story, God's story. Then listen to their story and ask God to lead you.'

    How well does it encourage local or network-based community involvement?

    Probably the best resource I have ever reviewed for this one. Huge potential.

    How well does it connect with global issues?

    Website records the potential and encouragement of loving our neighbours in real ways, no matter where we are.

    How well does it encourage global mission?

    The book concludes with: ‘start by doing the small things well, and commit to good neighboring as a lifestyle. You have been invited to begin a sacred journey, one that has the potential to change your block, your city, and possibly the world.'

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