Neighbors4Most every pastor wants to help people grow and multiply their missional effectiveness as much as they possibly can but what if we flipped the script and tried to help them the least amount possible in order to maximize their chances of living missionally? So what might we do?

In Chip and Dan Heath’s best-seller, Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard, they talk about “scripting the critical move.” The critical move is the one smallest thing we can do that if done consistently leads to big changes. BJ Fogg might call these “tiny habits” (See BJ’s TEDx talk here).  So what is the smallest thing we could do to help followers of Jesus live missionally? What if it was a simple as knowing the names of your neighbors?

In Better Together: Restoring American Community, Robert Putnam writes,

The more neighbors who know one another by name, the fewer crimes a neighborhood as a whole will suffer. A child born in a state whose residents volunteer, vote, and spend time with friends is less likely to be born underweight, less likely to drop out of school, and less likely to kill or be killed than the same child—no richer or poorer—born in another state whose residents do not. Society as a whole benefits enormously from the social ties forged by those who choose connective strategies in pursuit of their particular goals (p. 269).

Art of NeighboringMy friends Jay Pathak and Dave Runyon have written a wonderful book called The Art of Neighboring: Building Genuine Relationships Right Outside Your Door. The book began when the mayor of their Colorado city told a group of pastors, “All problems in our community could be eliminated if we could be a community of great neighbors. If you pastors could teach people how to love their neighbors as themselves, all of our problems in this city would be solved.” The pastors of the greater Arvada area took the challenge and asked their congregants to get to know the 8 people around them and sometime in the next 5 months to host a block party. And they did! Jay and Dave came up with a simple illustration—a diagram (and refrigerator magnet) that serves to identify the names of the people around them.  Pastors who do a preaching series will tell stories of meeting people across the street from them for the first time and ask congregants whose name they can put on the grid diagram that they didn’t have on the grid last week. If you want to look at a map of people who have identified themselves as wanting to be a good neighbor, click here. We cannot love who we do not know.

My friend Brian Mavis from LifeBridge Christian Church in Longmont, Colorado puts it this way: “Just taking that small step to know our neighbors names is like taking a small step on a moving sidewalk…and the magic begins.” Evangelistic campaigns fail because believers have no one to invite. Church planting efforts fail because believers are not in relationship with non-believers.


The science and theology of generosity

by eric swanson on April 5, 2014

Generosity, December 11, 2011A couple days ago two young couples came over to our house for some Bible study—nothing too profound. Each time we’ll be together we’ll read through the Proverb that corresponds to the day of the month (in this case Proverbs 3) followed by the study we’ve done on the parables of Jesus (in this case the parable of the sower). Earlier that day I came across an article from the New York Times called “Why fund-raising is fun.” The short article is totally worth the time to read but here’s what Arthur C. Brooks wrote:

In 2003, while working on a book about charitable giving, I stumbled across a strange pattern in my data. Paradoxically, I was finding that donors ended up with more income after making their gifts. This was more than correlation; I found solid evidence that giving stimulated prosperity. I viewed my results as implausible, though, and filed them away. After all, data patterns never “prove” anything, they simply provide evidence for or against a hypothesis.

But when I mentioned my weird findings to a colleague, he told me that they were fairly unsurprising. Psychologists, I learned, have long found that donating and volunteering bring a host of benefits to those who give. In one typical study, researchers from Harvard and the University of British Columbia confirmed that, in terms of quantifying “happiness,” spending money on oneself barely moves the needle, but spending on others causes a significant increase.

Now back to Proverbs 3:

Honor the Lord with your wealth,

with the firstfruits of all your crops;

then your barns will be filled to overflowing,

and your vats with new wine

Here’s the way I think the science / theology works. There are so many broken things in the world that God cares about and (my conjecture here) so he looks for people through whom he can bless others. He singles out those who give first rather than give out of their surplus and he makes sure the pipeline stays full so the cycle of generosity can continue. The more we give the more God supplies so we can keep giving. God seems to have little respect for person or their religious persuasion. He would rather supply a generous Samaritan than a stingy, small-hearted Priest or Levite (Luke 10:25-37). So I suspect that even folks who lay no claim to faith, like Bill and Melinda Gates…who have given away billions, will continue to generate huge new sources of income. Jesus put it this way, “Give and it shall be given unto you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap” Luke 6:38


Thinking about cities

April 5, 2014

As of May, 2007 more people live in cities than live in rural areas and that trend is never going back. God begins his work in a garden but his work ends in a city. More and more Christian leaders find themselves thinking about…and writing about cities and their place in the city. Some call […]

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The adjacent possible—the shadow futures around us

March 29, 2014

Imagine, if you will, a simple 9-piece set of Legos that forms a small car—4 wheels, a chassis, a windshield, two axels, and a steering wheel. Try as you might to re-arrange these parts, its hard to form anything but a car. But what could you create if you had 20 pieces…a hundred pieces…a thousand […]

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Nir Eyal and spiritual growth

March 26, 2014

I just finished spending one and a half eye-opening days with Nir Eyal. On Tuesday Nir hosted the Habit Summit with a stellar line-up of Silicon Valley rock stars from Facebook, Airbnb, Twitter, Expedia, etc. Nir is an expert in human behavior and recently published Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products. In my mind it […]

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Guest Post on Obscurity

March 16, 2014

Centuries ago, in the deserts of Egypt an early Christian mystic scratched a prayer in the sands of the Scetes Dessert. He prayed this powerful prayer but one time and walked away, trusting that the gentle desert breeze would wash the words from this abandoned wasteland. The name of this godly mystic has faded from […]

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Good ideas in disguise

March 11, 2014

This week at LunchNLearn we watched an insightful 23-minute presentation by Chris Dixon called “Good ideas that look like bad ideas” (GITLLBI). Dixon was speaking to the 2013 class of Y Combinator, a creative start-up funder and incubator in Silicon Valley. Dixon is an entrepreneur and a partner at the venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz so he sees thousands of […]

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BJ Fogg and evangelism

March 2, 2014

One of the recent breakthrough ideas in human behavior comes out of Stanford University. In 2007 Professor B.J. Fogg began teaching what became known as “the Facebook Class.” Students in Fogg’s class developed apps for Facebook and Zinga resulting in products that made students wealthy overnight. These nouveau riche Stanford students could now live a lifestyle that […]

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My books on

March 1, 2014

Cutting for Stone: A Novel by Abraham Verghese Change or Die by Alan Deutschman The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas Blockbusters by Anita Elberse The Way We Live Now by Anthony Trollope Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand The Audacity of Hope by Barack Obama Nickel and […]

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My books on Kindle

March 1, 2014

Campus Renewal by Justin Christopher Center Church by Tim Keller Change Anything: The new science of personal success by Kerry Patterson et al Cool, Gray City of Love:49 Views of San Francisco by Gary Kamiya David and Goliath by Seth Godin Don’t Shoot: One Man, a Street Fellowship, and the End of Violence in Inner-city […]

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