4 Practical ways to love your neighbour, block by block
by Gemma Koh // January 20, 2021, 2:25 pm
Loving your neighbour starts with building a relationship with them, said Ps Jeff Chong of Hope Singapore, who provides tips to those who may have been daunted by past efforts to evangelise, or who do not know where to start. Photo by Muhd Asyraaf on Unsplash.
Three days after his mother fell in the bathroom, fractured her hip and was hospitalised, Senior Pastor Jeff Chong of Hope Singapore got a phone call from his helper. She was crying for help. Ps Jeff’s 89-year-old father had also fallen in the bathroom and she couldn’t lift him.
Ps Jeff’s wife, Claudia, also a pastor, frantically phoned the neighbours in their block. She managed to reach a man who lived below them, and who had attended a life group at their home. The neighbour and his daughter were able to help carry Ps Jeff’s father back to his bed.
“(Loving our neighbours) is a task that God has given to every single church in this little nation we call Singapore”.
Ps Jeff, who was speaking at Day 2 of the LoveSingapore Pastors’ Summit (January 13), drew two lessons from this incident.
“Number one, always keep your toilet floor dry,” he said, to laughter from the audience.
“Second learning: There are great benefits in having loving neighbours.”
He cited the Mandarin saying, 远水救不了近火, meaning that water from afar is not able to quench a nearby fire.
Ps Jeff’s talk set the stage for a Zoom panel discussion with two other pastors later that afternoon. The three shared their churches’ experiences on what works – and what does not – in reaching out to the community around them as a form of evangelism.
The churches practise what is known as community pastoring. For churches under the Love Singapore network, this is formally known as Loving Singapore Block-by-Block. The nation-wide call was launched in November 2004.
“This is not a task given to one church, or a group of churches. This is a task that God has given to every single church that resides in this little nation we call Singapore”.
Who is my neighbour?
Ps Jeff cited the example of the expert of the law who tried to test Jesus by asking: “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” (Luke 10:25-29), and Jesus answering with the parable of The Good Samaritan.
Unpacking what it means to “love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind and to love your neighbour as yourself” (Luke 10:27), Ps Jeff said: “It is to love God passionately and to love people compassionately.”
As for the “the million dollar question” – who is my neighbour? – “Jesus is saying our neighbours are anyone that we encounter”, said Ps Jeff. “Anyone that God has placed in our spheres of influence, anyone that God has brought into our spheres of connection, regardless of how well we know them, or how much we are like them. Neighbours come in all shapes, all sizes, all colours, all socio-economic status and all spiritual beliefs … Jesus is saying, ‘Everyone is our neighbour.’
“We begin to see that our home address is no accident. God has positioned us there for a purpose.”
“Certainly the neighbour, as spoken by Jesus, must surely contain the actual neighbours that live on our left, on our right, on top of us, below us,” said Ps Jeff, drawing on the fact that 90% of Singapore’s population lives in HDB flats or private condominiums.
“What if Jesus truly lives in every HDB block and every condominium project? The lost will be found. The young and the old, the rich and the poor, the men and the women, the boys and the girls, the simple and the very educated … they will all have an opportunity to come before God to name Jesus as their personal Lord and Saviour. They will get to hear the good news that their sins have been forgiven, they can now live in complete freedom in Christ.
“Those who are already in the Kingdom will not see our homes as not just a place of rest and relaxation. We begin to see that our home address is no accident. God has positioned us there for a purpose … and it is not just about living near the school where we want to send our kids to. And it’s not just about socio-economic capacity that determines whether we live in Bukit Timah or Bukit Ho Swee. It is not coincidental that the neighbours that we have right now just happen to be around us. God has positioned them there.
“And why? Because the greatest life group, the greatest church, has yet to be built … God has called us to be His light, and to bring His light into every arena of darkness.”
How do we begin to love?
Many don’t know how, or have not been trained, to love our neighbours, acknowledged the pastors participating in the afternoon Zoom session. These people may have been discouraged by failures from unsustainable and possibly over-zealous past efforts at evangelism, that may have included methods such as cold calls and giving out tracts.
The key to loving neighbours is to build relationships without the pressure of getting conversions.
To guide its members, Ps Jeff’s church came up with four steps that are spelled out in a simple manual, Hope Singapore: Block Pastoring Guide.
“It does not have to be done in a linear fashion. It depends on the receptivity of the people you are trying to reach out to. It could be all four steps at once.”
Within the framework of the four steps of BFMP (Bless, Fellowship, Minister, Proclaim), Ps Jeff referred to Luke 10:5-9, and gave practical examples for putting them into practice. He also showed a 2021 video by LoveSingapore, that gave additional tips:
The first step in blessing is to connect and engage your neighbour.
“We need to take the time to intentionally connect with them – when we see them in in the carpark or in the lift. Say hello and smile. Don’t remain as familiar strangers. But move on to become friends.”
Ps Jeff often asks neighbours what they do. So that in return they are also able to ask what he does, opening the door to speak about his faith.
We can also bless our neighbours through acts of service.
“Don’t remain as familiar strangers. But move on to become friends.”
Ps Jeff related an anecdote of a female church member in her 20s who was returning home from school when she saw an elderly woman struggling with her groceries.
She remembered the church’s teaching of blessing her neighbour. So she approached the lady and offered to help.
“In doing so, not only did she end up carrying the groceries from the MRT station to the old lady’s home, she ended up carrying this old lady into the Kingdom of God.”
The elderly neighbour is now connected to a church and connected to a group of Christian friends. “This is Kingdom grocery carrying,” he quipped.
What is significant is that the girl is an introvert who doesn’t talk very much, and the elderly lady at that point was considering going into another religion, Ps Jeff shared in the afternoon’s live Zoom chat, after his wife reminded him about it.
We can also bless our neighbours with gifts, during Chinese New Year, Easter and Christmas. Last Christmas Ps Jeff and his wife, Ps Claudia, bought loves of banana bread for every household in their block.
“Also bless the people with prayers. Ask God to reveal their needs and fears to you.”
More ways to bless: One couple left a snack pack with handwritten notes of encouragement – along with their unit number and mobile numbers – on the doors of neighbours living in their block. From the 130 units they distributed the snacks to, they received 13 responses of thanks.
They managed to build a rapport with some neighbours when they subsequently blessed the block with mangoes and later, dragonfruit. In return, many turned up at their doorstep to return the blessings. The couple have been living in the block for four years.
“It is encouraging to know some of our neighbours in a more personal way beyond ‘hi’ and ‘bye’. We hope we can share the love of Christ in the entire block eventually.”
“Everyone has struggles, pains, fears, disappointments. When you get to know your neighbours better, they will open up to you,” said Ps Jeff.
While the pandemic may have put a stop to large-scale church events to invite neighbours, Ps Jeff asked his members to host their own Christmas parties. A guest accepted Christ through a party hosted by Ps Jeff and Ps Claudia.
Ps Jeff also provided suggestions for different activities to fellowship with different groups of people:
All neighbours: Connecting and chatting over social media (such as WhatsApp, Instagram or Telegram),
Singles: Hanging out at cafes; sports and walks; movies and concerts; food hunts and supports; shopping tours; talks and seminars.
Parents with young kids: Playdates, high tea, sports, block parties, attending classes together.
Elderly: Helping to buy groceries; spending time with them by visiting them often; checking if they need help with housework or going for medical appointments; buying meals or coffee for them.
More ways to fellowship: One young man wanted to start a youth connect group in Pasir Ris. He spent two hours every Friday on the streets, knocking on doors of HDB flats, sharing the good news with those who were interested. After a few months, he had two interested contacts; one brought along a friend. From an initial group of four people, his small group grew to 13. Since then they have raised three new leaders and launched three new groups.
The goal here is to meet your neighbours’ needs and point them to Jesus.
One of the most effective ways to minister to others is to pray for them. “We are putting them in a position where they are able to be touched by God.”
Ps Jeff shared about a neighbour, a young grandmother, they had not seen for sometime because of Covid. Three months ago, they were shocked when they ran into her and saw that her husband carrying her. She had had a stroke.
“We are trying to create a curiosity that there is truly a God who touched her and healed her.”
Ps Claudia would text her, and the couple would remind her when they ran into her in the lift landing: “We are praying for you. We believe Jesus will heal you.”
“A few weeks ago, we saw her in the carpark, and she was walking well. And she was so happy that we were praying for her.”
She has sent food to the couple at least two times since she recovered, giving Ps Jeff and Ps Claudia an excuse to ring her doorbell to thank her and encourage her by saying that they are praying for her. “We are continually ministering to her. We are trying to create a sense of curiosity in her mind that there is truly a God who touched her and healed her.”
The couple also share their conversion stories, and stories of others who have encountered Jesus.
More ways to minister: One cell group reached out to residents in Hougang and built friendships through mee siam parties, breakfast gatherings and tuition programmes. One day, one of the residents, a Mrs Tan, approached the tuition teacher to ask about Christianity. Two pastors were dispatched to visit her home. Unknown to them, Mrs Tan was having a family gathering. When they shared the Gospel, Mrs Tan and her family jumped up to receive Jesus as their Lord and Saviour. Mrs Tan is now a cell leader. She and her cell members are actively involved in visiting her neighbours, sharing the Gospel and praying with those who are interested. She has won over about five households to Christ.
“Look at the last part of verse 9. After you have healed the sick, you tell them: The Kingdom of God has come near to you.
The goal is to proclaim the Gospel.
Ps Jeff encouraged pastors and leaders to train each and every one of their members to know how to share their testimonies and the Gospel.
“It is like training every Singapore soldier to use the M16 rifle,” he quipped.
Check Salt&Light next week, January 27, for what Hope Singapore and two others churches are doing by way of community pastoring or Loving Singapore Block-by-Block.