Easter season has arrived. How do I know? Mixed in with the usual pile of recyclable junk mail came my first snazzy church invitation to an Easter service (and in this case their new building). The postcard had my address on it, however was addressed to “Residential Customer”.
I have a name. A first and last name. And it is not Residential Customer.
OK true confession, I’m not a big fan of the telemarketer call, the surprise knock at the door by a religious cult, the cleverly placed Gospel tract on the men’s urinal, or the slickly produced junk mail piece meant to entice me to buy a product or service. I call them the one percenters. Marketing folks will tell you this shotgunned approach, blitz the zip code with a mass marketing mail piece only produces a one percent return. It’s costly and ineffective. (not to mention environmentally unfriendly)
I gave up mass mailings for Lent (that’s a joke)! But no really let’s be honest. Am I alone in my disdain for being merely a “Residential Customer” on a marketing mailing list? I don’t think so.
I have a name. A first name and a last name. And it isn’t Residential Customer. My neighbors have names as well. And I believe the Jesus model of the Gospels (the good news) is built upon actually doing life with my neighbors. Knowing their names, their stories, their hopes and dreams. A mass mailing generically addressed to Residential Customer falls woefully short.
In Eugene Peterson’s The Message, he writes, “The Word 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
How do you get to know people’s names and stories? You move into the neighborhood! You become a literal neighbor. And this is far more than merely purchasing a building in which to do ministry from. That’s why this particular (well intentioned I’m sure) postcard caught my ire. The raised font and all caps money line said — “WE’VE MOVED INTO THE NEIGHBORHOOD”.
Respectfully, I don’t think so. I live in the neighborhood. And unless I’ve missed something, I’ve not seen you out walking your dog. Not at our community picnic, or the neighborhood pool. You may have been masked in costume as your kids rang our door bell at trick or treat. I could’ve been in the dessert line, you in the salad line at our neighborhood Thanksgiving meal. Different volunteering schedules I presume, at our local elementary school.
So have YOU really moved into the neighborhood?
In his book The Road to Missional, Michael Frost writes that proximity matters. We must truly “move into” the neighborhood and daily rub shoulders with our literal neighbors in the places we play, shop, go to school, and well, do life! IF NOT, the church runs the great risk of merely becoming “an impersonal center for the delivery of Christian services, not a collective of incarnational neighbors".
May it not be so!
So this is awkward. I’ve kinda called you out. Where do we go from here? What about in the spirit of Christian love and Easter, we hit the reset button and start our introduction over. My name is Jim. Jim Mustain and I’d like to welcome you to the neighborhood.