• Will Spink
    Senior Pastor
  • Wyketa Shipman
    Executive Assistant
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    Chief Musician
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    Assistant Pastor, Youth/Families
  • Christine Betts
    Assistant Director, Youth/Families
  • Ty Commons
    Youth & Families Intern
  • Kim Delchamps
    Administrative Assistant
  • Derrick Harris
    Assistant Pastor, Shepherding & Young Families
  • Angela Sierk
    Director, Children's Ministry
  • Niña Banta Cash
    Director, Nursery
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    Director, Community Development
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    Director, Facilities/Finance
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Who is My Neighbor?

At this year’s C4 Conference hosted by the Cornerstone Initiative, we examined the question, “Who is my neighbor?” The conference focused on our call as believers not only to serve others but also to pursue authentic relationships.

This reminds me of back when I was in high school. I had realized that the best place to play basketball wasn’t out in the country where I lived, but in the neighborhood of a city that was unfamiliar to me. There, I found myself the only white guy in an African-American community where I wasn’t known or trusted. I did a lot of standing on the sidelines during those first few pick-up games! It was pretty awkward. But once I proved that I could hold my own, I gained access onto the courts…and eventually into their lives. Through mutual, authentic friendships I started seeing—and caring about—the issues that affected them.

In the church, we often think of being a good neighbor as squeezing volunteer work into our busy schedules. Three themes surfaced in the C4 Conference that challenged this idea of “neighboring” as an extracurricular activity:

- We cannot say that we honor God and NOT love our neighbor (in other words, loving our neighbor is not an option).

- Loving our neighbor means relinquishing idols of apathy, fear, and comfort.

- Loving neighbors across socioeconomic and racial lines is often awkward and costly, but essential.

Crossing the Street
We interact with countless people on a daily basis—in our neighborhoods, at our schools, at our jobs, or even in the coffee shop. But actually “crossing the street” to get to know these neighbors takes effort and intentionality. Who are the neighbors God might be calling us to engage through a kind word, invitation to coffee, or simple act of service? Let’s challenge ourselves to be on the lookout for these opportunities as they occur, and really notice the people that the Lord has placed in our midst.

Crossing the City

Our neighbors are more than those who live in the same cul de sac. City council member Devyn Keith challenged us to embrace both the Huntsville known for PhDs and progress, as well as the parts in our city dealing with higher levels of crime and violence. If we only know these communities by what we see on the news, we miss the richness and resilience of our entire city.

Southwood partners with a number of ministries that serve people of diverse ethnicities and socio-economic backgrounds. This affords us an opportunity to come alongside our neighbors all over the city. Doing so requires us to shed perceived positions of power and take on a posture of humility. What might this look like practically? It means meeting people on their terms. We listen more than we talk. We learn about why new friends might make certain life choices rather than judge. We open ourselves to having our opinions, attitudes and lifestyles transformed as we gain a broader perspective of people in our city. This type of mutual discipleship leads us to bear each other’s burdens as fellow citizens of Huntsville and, in some cases, co-laborers in the kingdom.

Good Neighboring as a Lifestyle
Perhaps your stage of life doesn’t allow you to volunteer in a ministry or host parties for your neighbors. But I’d challenge you to seek out avenues to practice good neighboring in ways that fit into the natural rhythms of your life, as well as to pray for neighbors both near and far.

Who is my neighbor? Image bearers of God whom He calls me to love.