What if nobody comes? Even worse – what if everybody comes but nobody talks to each other? Who will bring the food? Are we hosting or just facilitating? Maybe we shouldn’t bother and just go about it a different way.
These were the questions and thoughts that were brought up when my wife and I first floated the idea of organizing a neighborhood barbecue last July. The notion came about innocently enough as we were trying to be intentional about building relationships with our neighbors over individual dinner invitations.
We should have Jason and Adrienne over for dinner! Oh and we should ask Megan when she has a free night because she seems like so much fun. What about Ross, Jill and Jake? We see them all the time and Jake and Brylie seem to have fun – yes, we’ll have them over for dinner too! What about the three people we haven’t met yet? Would that be weird to invite a stranger over for dinner? Wait – how many dinners are we planning on so far? Whew…that’s a lot of scheduling….
So in lue of planning nine different dinners with nin3 different people or families that live in our apartment complex we thought it would be fun to just do it all together! It was then that we realized that one of the prayers we had been praying ever since we’ve been married, now had an opportunity to be lived into and fulfilled. We’ve prayed for years that we could help establish a greater sense of friendship and community among the people we live in close proximity to, be it the woman across the way or the family down the street. We wanted to actually be around our neighbors so we could practice love them!
This was daunting. Mostly because we were doing the initiating. We had no idea if our neighbors had ever done something like this before or if they’d want to do something like this with us. I mean, if they all said, “No” then all we’ve done is created an everlasting awkward moment with each of our neighbors for the rest of our time living near them. But what if it went well…. What if everyone did come? What if everyone had a great time, got to know each other better and began making deeper connections with people they have always seen but never known before? What could our neighborhood look like?
For Christina and I, the possible joy of our hopeful outcome far out weighed our insecurities of our feared outcome. So we invited all eight apartments to a potluck BBQ dinner. We had five neighbors show up and one neighbor call us day of in regret that something had come up that kept her from joining.
It was a rich time full of laughter, great food, relational connections, insight, and rest. It is sad think that we would have missed all this if we allowed our fear to speak louder than our hope. I took a picture that I will keep for a long time because it is yet another tangible reminder of what it looks like for my family to trust that when we take risks on Christ, the joy of the unknown more often than not exceeds our fears of the same unknown.