Reading Your Neighborhood

By Luke Edwards

“To answer before listening– that is folly and shame.” (Proverbs 18:1, NIV)

Stock people holding hands in a circle

A few years ago, a five-year-old boy in Boone, North Carolina, walked through the campus of Appalachian State with his mom. He looked up to his mother, who was holding his hand, and said, “Mom, what is college about anyways? Do you just walk around with a backpack on looking for a girlfriend?”

You could not describe my freshman year of college any clearer. That child, with one walk across campus, understood what was happening beneath the surface.

Far too often, churches start ministries and programs in their community without first taking the time to understand their neighborhood.

In 2018, I was a part of the Lewis Community Leadership Fellows, a cohort offered by The Lewis Center for Church Leadership. At one gathering, Rev. Dr. F. Douglas Powe Jr. invited us to read our community like a biblical text. In reading scripture, we take great care in understanding the context and meaning of the passage. Shouldn’t we use the same care in trying to understand our community?

My mind immediately went to lectio divina, a four-step process of prayerfully reading scripture that was first used in the sixth century. I wondered if the process of divine reading could work in the neighborhood. I gave it a try, and it did!

The following is an activity based on lectio divina designed for church leaders who want to listen deeply to their neighborhoods. It can be used to discern God’s call for your church to relate to your community in a new way. It is designed to be done while walking through a neighborhood or driving through a rural community. We encourage church teams to practice this individually and then to compare experiences.

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Verses marked NIV are from New International Version (NIV) Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

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