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Friday, October 12, 2012

"The Art of Neighboring" (Jay Pathak & Dave Runyon)

TITLE: The Art of Neighboring: Building Genuine Relationships Right Outside Your Door
AUTHOR: Jay Pathak and Dave Runyon
PUBLISHER: Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2012, (208 pages).

This book begins with a sharp observation of something that we often pigeon hole ourselves into when going house hunting. We check out the location, we look at the quality of the house, the size, the age, and the land area. We even check the structures for stability, the roof for leaks, the walls for moulds, and the interior. In terms of proportion, if we are honest, we tend to be more concerned about the inside of the house instead of the outside. This book shows us farther than mere house hunting into neighbourhood building. Jay Pathak and Dave Runyon, pastor and leader of a church and a non-profit respectively bring us on a journey of building friendships and relationships through neighboring. The question looks like this: "What if loving our neighbour is not simply a concept but a literal application of actually connecting with our physical neighbours?"

The "neighboring movement" begins with the question, "Who is my neighbor?" The sad reality is that far too many people do not know their neighbor. They live like strangers. They do not even know the names of their neighbors. The idea of neighboring comes about through the author's discontent with simply weekly Sunday services, where reaching out to fellow members seem too limited and restrictive. Surely, God has called believers to do more. If anyone is serious about the Great Commandment to love God and neighbor, surely we can turn isolation and loneliness into community and sharing; fear of the unknown toward understanding of one another; and foster relationships that prevents misunderstanding and increase goodwill among neighbors. With initiative, one can start a strategy of reaching the people next door to us intentionally. Time will not wait for us. We need to make hay when the season is ripe. In order to be a good neighbor, we need to learn to move from stranger to acquaintance, from acquaintance to relationship. Through block maps, we can do the former. Through block parties, we accomplish the latter. Giant steps are not needed. Baby steps often suffice. Talk to people. Get to know them. Be ready to share of oneself. Bake cookies. These and many more are building blocks to make the neighborhood a great place to live in. The authors also anticipate uncertainty and fear among readers with regards to boundary setting and scope of relating.

My Thoughts

This book is a quick read, but slow practice. We can accumulate knowledge rather quickly, but the art of neighboring takes time. In fact, it requires one to take initiative and to keep trying, knowing that not only is our time limited, our neighbors' time is also valuable to them. Being respectful of one another remains a key attribute in learning to neighbor well. Sometimes, books like "The Art of Neighboring" seems so common sense and logical, that we can start to question ourselves, "Why didn't I think of it first?" True. Neighboring begins with ourselves. We begin a good neighborhood by being a good neighbor first, and then extend a hand of friendship and goodwill when God opens the opportunity. By taking initiative, we help to break the ice through genuine desire for friendship. By being intentional, we avoid becoming discouraged when we fail to meet our neighbors the first few times. Over time, as long as we be consistent, and not give up the habit of neighboring, there will be a time in which our neighbors will be ready to talk. By investing our limited time into neighborly relationships, we are building for the future, not just for ourselves but for our neighbors. Not just for our kids but for our neighbors' kids. Not just for our friends and visitors, but for our neighbors' friends and visitors. That said, I believe that being a good neighbor and building a good neighborhood will bring not only dividends for our relationships among one another in the area, it is good for society at large outside and our souls inside.

This book will not only ease you away from your fears, it emboldens you to take the first step, not to merely ask: "Who is my neighbor?" but to take the initiative to say, "Hey, would you like to try some cookies I've just baked?" Most likely, that neighbor will smile with a big yes!

Rating: 4 stars of 5.


This book has been provided courtesy of Graf-Martin Communications and Baker Books in exchange for an honest review.

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