"Love thy neighbor" is one of the most well-known verses in the Bible, but sadly is one of the misunderstood - and even ignored - of Jesus' commands.
According to Pastor Doug Logan, author of On the Block: Developing a Biblical Picture for Missional Engagement, far too many Christians today don't have a proper picture of missional engagement; they are unsure of how to truly step out of their comfort zones, enter their local communities, and share the Gospel with cultural sensitivity.
"As an inner-city planter, I saw in recent years a movement of churches gathering Christians together to plant churches and grow churches - but they were filled with people who were already Christians," Pastor Logan told The Gospel Herald. "I felt like the unchurched and hurting were being ignored, and churches were more concerned with growing in size than actually growing the Kingdom. Living missionally means reaching out to your local community, reaching the lost and crossing racial, social, and denominational lines with the truth of the Gospel. I wrote this book because I wanted people to catch a vision for reaching the lost."
Pastor Logan knows a thing or two about mission work: He currently pastors a multi-ethnic church in Camden, NJ - a city that was in 2015 named the "Most Dangerous Place to Live in the U.S." Riddled with homelessness, drug addiction, prostitution, violence, unemployment and poverty, Camden is a city yearning for the hope and truth found only in the Gospel. And, every day, Pastor Logan and his team immerse themselves in their community, meeting needs, engaging with the unreached and neglected, and proclaiming the name of Jesus Christ.
"I planted a church in Camden trusting the Lord that He was going to do something, but, listen, I'm a regular dude that loves Jesus - I had doubts," Pastor Logan said. "I'm living in the murder capital of the US - how does the Gospel work on these streets? In the midst of my doubt, God is saving people. I'm worried about getting shot, and He's saving people. I'm worried about my house getting broken into, and people are getting healed. I'm worried about the best food for my children, and marriages are being healed. God has continued to demonstrate His power and shown that He can work in the most rugged of places. He does it with ease, because He's sovereign and He loves sinners that call His name."
Based on Scripture and his own experiences, Pastor Logan proposes a strategic missions outreach where church leaders can shepherd and disciple their congregation while also instilling a drive to pursue their "blocks" - whether it be an inner city, suburb, or rural America. He encourages sharing the Gospel through unconventional means, such as repairing homes, distributing food, or even hosting a community block party.
"The basketball court by my house was destroyed, so we rebuilt it and made it beautiful. While we were there, we shared the Gospel," he recalled. "I try to synchronize community development with Gospel mission because I want to bless the city, but I want to exalt the Lord. I make my neighborhood pretty, and make Jesus gorgeous."
He added, "These are just biblical techniques that Jesus and Paul used, and I just tweak them and contextualize them to my city of Camden. All of those techniques are tweakable to wherever you are, because it's a Gospel mission that every context is called to."
In his book, Pastor Logan also addresses barriers - what he refers to as "crippling agents - to living missionally: "One is fear of rejection, of course, and another thing I say within my inner city context is fear - fear of death, robbery, break-ins, vandalization," he said. "And, in the midst of that rejection, there's a fear of doing ministry in urban centers because you could die and get killed in the middle of a gang war. It's important to remember that God reaches into the deepest crevice of least likely people, and He saves people. But He calls us to lead them."
Throughout Scripture, God calls us to be missional wherever He has placed us - and it's up to us to answer that call. On the Block is a powerful resource for church leaders who want to develop their own missional engagement and reach their neighbor with the love of Christ - whatever the context.
"We have to go hard for the lost souls because that's what Jesus calls us to do," said Pastor Logan. "He tells us to take the Gospel to the nations, baptizing them, teaching them what He's taught us. As Christians, we have Great Commissioned hearts, and that leads us to people like we once were: unsaved, far from God on our way to hell. Somebody spoke that Good News to us, and God lit us up with His grace and gave us a new heart and a new life. I love the joy of seeing somebody who doesn't know Jesus meeting Jesus."