The Gift Of Neighboring & Our Gospel Witness

by Andrew Palau

hospitality, christian hospitality, andrew palauIn today’s fast-paced, stressed out, complicated world, I’m convinced that when they are honest with themselves, the majority of people are living lonely lives. For many people, community is hard. Deep friendships are rare. And new meaningful relationships are not easy to come by.

The more transient our culture becomes, the harder it is.

People are desperate for belonging, family, and connectedness. I’ve seen it everywhere I’ve been and hear it from individuals all around the world. From the busy streets of New York City to the villages of East Africa; even the rural towns around the state of Oregon where we live. People are looking for a place where they are welcome and can belong. A place where they feel that when they speak, someone might actually listen, and care, and thoroughly engage in their life.

Never has the gift of neighboring or the art of hospitality been so vitally needed for our culture, or for the gospel. We are all surrounded by neighbors (strangers and friends) who are desperate for a listening ear, a helping hand, an open door, a place to sit, and the clear gospel message.

My dad often quotes an old hymn from the 1960s. Its words are just as relevant today:

Lonely eyes, I see them in the subway,
Burdened by the worries of the day.
Men at leisure, but they’re so unhappy;
Tired of foolish roles they try to play.
Lonely people do I see;
Lonely people on my memory.

This is the world we live in. Lonely people. Burdened. Stressed. Right next door. Just down the street. We wave at them as they drive by. We say hello as they walk their dog past our front door. Yet how often does it stop there?

Whether it’s creative or not, I believe the best way most of us can share the gospel is through the simple act of being a good neighbor—building relationships, opening up our homes, and investing in the lives of others.

I love my neighbors! And I need them too. They are often a source of great help and encouragement as we do life together, volunteering alongside one another at our children’s schools, helping each other out around the house or yard, looking out for each other when a spouse is away, or just having fun together as often as we are able.

We need and love and thrive as a family when we’re living in a genuine community in the place God has definitively placed us.

As we do life together, the most loving thing we can do for someone else is to share with them the good news of God’s grace toward us. Keeping our house wide open for parties, meals, Bible studies, prayer groups, and more has brought us into relationship with many of these awesome people. Over time, as genuine needs arise and questions come forward, opportunities to share the gospel present themselves in the most natural and loving ways. In fact, it seems to me the door is more often open than it is shut.

The stories I could share of God’s open doors are many. One that sticks in my mind is that of our neighbors Sam and Kendra. When we first met, we quickly connected as friends. Sam and Kendra were intrigued with our jobs, but made it clear that they had zero interest in spiritual things.

However, we kept a prayer card for them and kept up the conversation. None of our efforts seemed to connect, so we just asked God for an open door.  A door did open, but in a sad way. Sam had been involved in an affair for many years—causing unbearable pain and separation in the family. My wife Wendy and I began praying more fervently, asking the Lord for an open door.

One morning, after praying for Kendra, Wendy ran into her in the most odd and random of ways. She knew it only had to be of God. Wendy could have easily made small talk, but she knew the Lord had given her this moment, so she stepped out boldly and shared Jesus clearly. She told Kendra how God loved her and how He was calling to her. And for the first time, Kendra listened. She admitted to a hunger for “something more.” That began the spiritual journey of our neighbor Kendra.

Could we have orchestrated this chance meeting on our own? Never! God, through the Holy Spirit, worked with us out of a genuine relationship with a neighbor and persistent prayer.

Too often, we complicate our role in delivering the gospel.  We assume our neighbors aren’t interested, or we aren’t even looking for an open door. Yet God is working behind the scenes. He is preparing hearts. Our role is simply to build relationships, pray for open doors, and obediently step through when opportunities to share Jesus present themselves.

God bless you as you pray and reach out with the good news in your neighborhood. I urge you to go for it!

andrew-palauAndrew Palau (@andrew_palau) is an evangelist with the Luis Palau Association. He has shared the gospel with millions of people, and at every opportunity he demonstrates his father’s same passion and love for Christ and for evangelism.