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Don Everts: Why Community is Important

Family Life Today / Dave & Ann Wilson, Bob Lepine
The Truth Network Radio
July 24, 2022 10:00 pm

Don Everts: Why Community is Important

Family Life Today / Dave & Ann Wilson, Bob Lepine

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July 24, 2022 10:00 pm

Author Don Everts knows what it’s like to feel disconnected in your own neighborhood. But he also knows why community is critically important.

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So do you remember that day when the sheriff pulled into our driveway? Oh, I'll never forget. Why?

What about it? Yeah, let's share that story. Welcome to Family Life Today, where we want to help you pursue the relationships that matter most. I'm Ann Wilson.

And I'm Dave Wilson, and you can find us at familylifetoday.com or on our Family Life app. This is Family Life Today. Well, I was trying to sell a motorcycle. A guy came with his nephew to say, I want my nephew who's a sort of mechanic to test out your bike. So he takes it for a quick ride around the neighborhood. He comes back in and a sheriff is following him into my driveway. And it's a woman and she gets out and says, she's pretty gruff. Oh, she looks at me and this guy wants to buy it. And his nephew, we're all just in there like, and I'm like looking around the neighborhood like there's a sheriff's car in my driveway.

I'm like, can we help you? And she goes, gentlemen, do you know what state you're in? And we're like, yeah, we're in Michigan. It's a helmet state. It isn't anymore, but it was at the time and he wasn't wearing a helmet. And I'm like, oh, he's just test driving my bike.

He only rode around the block. Yeah. And then she looks in my garage and I have a street sign that's not supposed to be there from one of my sons that took it. Says Wilson Street.

Yeah. And she goes, and you see that street sign? I could put you in jail for that street sign. And we're literally standing and I'm like, oh, no, I'm going to get arrested in front of my neighbors. And then she goes, but I'm not going to do it. We're like, you're not?

Why not? She goes, because I'm your neighbor and I go to your church and she starts laughing. And I'm like, what? And she goes, I live right around the block.

I've been wanting to do this for years. And I just thought, man, it's good to have neighbors like that because I could be in big trouble. Right. And it's, you know, every neighbor has every neighborhood has a lot of neighbors. And we're going to talk about neighbors today. That's why I brought it up. That's a good transition. I mean, I had no idea that. I mean, I saw a sheriff car drive around the neighborhood.

I had no idea. She went to our church. She's really great, too. And man, she had you good. She was funny. She talked and laughed about that for years.

Oh, yeah, it was funny. Anyway, we've got Don Evertz in the studio at Family Life Today. Don, welcome back. Great to be with you guys. And you've written a book about neighborhoods. Yes. It's called The Hopeful Neighborhood.

What happens when Christians pursue the common good? I can't wait to talk about this. But tell our listeners a little bit about yourself because you're not Mr. Neighborhood Man. You're actually a pastor, a dad, a husband. Tell us what you do. I did campus ministry for 14 years, working with college students.

And then ever since then, I've been pastoring in the local church, working with everyday people, you know, who drive minivans and have mortgages and are trying to figure out how to be faithful believers. So that's kind of what I do. And then on the side, I get nerdy with research. On the side, you've got 20 books on the side.

It doesn't sound like it's on the side. That's right, Dave. You always tease me about that. But they're small books. A lot of them are really tiny. But they're based on research. A lot of them are, yeah.

And I think by writing, like journaling and writing helps me think and writing things out. So the books are a product of me just trying to figure stuff out. You've been married how many years? Over 25 now. And you have three kids. Three kids, two in college, one in high school. And my mom lives with us as well. So we have a multi-generational household. And we just moved eight months ago to the 31st neighborhood I've lived in.

I was going to say, you're probably in a neighborhood. Wow. 31? I know. In 25 years? Well, no. In 25 years of marriage.

Oh, okay. Yeah, so we moved all the time growing up. And then I'm slowing down, like I'm living in places longer. But we just eight months ago moved again.

I'm pastoring a new church in Springfield, Missouri. And it's the 31st neighborhood I've lived in. So why a book on the hopeful neighborhood? What were you trying to get at? It was kind of two things. Part of it was processing some dissatisfaction I was having in my own life. There's a longer back story. But the long and short of it was I began to realize that I was living above place.

And living above place is a phrase that's used to refer to people who are living their everyday life with little to no meaningful interaction with the people in the place right around actually where they live. So I drove to my job. I drove to my church.

I drove to my kids' activities. But I actually was having very little meaningful interaction with the people in place literally like with my literal neighbors. I mean, that sounds like everybody. It does. I mean, we put offensive scores up and down.

We go in. Isn't that pretty common? I think it depends on the type of neighborhood.

I think in a suburban context where we commute more, it's maybe a little more common. I thought it was interesting, though, at the beginning of your book, how you shared you were going around. You were in a new neighborhood, going around meeting all of your neighbors. And then you got to one next door neighbor, shook his hand.

Yeah, boy. When we first moved into our 30th neighborhood, we were not living above place. We were getting to know, you know, my wife and our campus missionaries. That's all we know how to do is get to know people and build trust. And in my next door neighbor, I went over and shook his hand. He was I think it was watering his lawn or something like that, something with his lawn. After about 10 minutes of talking, he said, do you want to know something? And I said, what's that? He said, you're the first person in this neighborhood who's ever come over to introduce themselves and shake my hand.

I said, OK, how when did you move in? Thinking he's probably just brand new. Totally. Yeah.

Yeah. Over 20 years. What?

Over 20 years he had lived there. I said, you got and that's what I said. What?

What are you talking about? He said, I'm not kidding you. And so that was, you know, at the time it was like, man, people are lame. Like, why are you judging your neighbors? Totally.

Why aren't people? And we had people that are over at our house all the time. How old were your kids then?

My kids were all in elementary school and one who wasn't yet. The neighbors were always over. We had like basement church because we had some neighbors who were like starting to get curious about Jesus. And so my kids let a little church service in our basement for them. And my neighbors were drinking beer while it was going on. I was like, like, we're involved. Yeah. We're involved. This was us when our kids were about that age, too. Everybody's over all the time.

It's super fun. But then. But then something happened and not overnight. We just slowly started disengaging with Pierremont.

Pierremont's the name of the subdivision we were in. We're driving to my son's water polo matches and my daughter was a cheerleader and I'm going to work. And we're doing all these other things, driving other places. And I was reading a novel called Jaber Crow, which is by Wendell Berry, and he's a Christian writer. And he has a lot of convictions about what the Bible calls us to in terms of being faithfully laboring for the people in the place right around us. And I'm just reading a novel that's kind of celebrating those things. It's a story that's a vehicle for him to say, this is what we're supposed to be doing.

And I just never recovered from that moment and thinking, I don't think I like this part of my life now. And I'm not sure when it happened. And does God have opinions about how we should be relating with the people in place right around us? I know he said, love your neighbor. I know he said that, but did he actually mean our neighbor? Like, what did he mean?

Who is my neighbor? Oh, you know, so it just got under my skin. And then around about the same time, a little bit after that, we started doing a research project with the Barna Group and the Lutheran Hour Ministries on how Christians relate with their neighbors and how neighbors perceive Christians and churches and all of that. And so then I had all of this, like, research in me as well and just dove in the scriptures and never quite got over it.

How do people perceive Christians? You mentioned that. This is pretty fascinating. Yeah, so it's not great.

It's not great, which is interesting. And we can talk about church history because Christians have been known throughout the centuries like we are the neighborhood people. We are the ones who help others when others don't.

We are the ones. So one of the things that we ask people is who is best suited to help solve problems in your community? And people trust more than Christians to make a difference in their community and help solve problems in the community. They trust the government more than they trust churches and Christians. They trust just average community members more than they trust churches and Christians. They trust charities. They trust businesses more than they trust churches and Christians.

That is so sad. Especially given what's in our Christian heritage and what's in the scripture when it relates to this. Yeah, when you say our Christian heritage, you mean we were known. The church, the community of the Christ was known as the rescuers, the ones that showed up. We started hospitals. Even when plagues happened and you could get sick, we showed up.

What happened? I think a number of things happened. It's interesting how the early church, when you think about the early church, who were so known as people who radically loved others and loved their neighbors in a time when they were treated terribly by their neighbors.

Yeah. So they were being persecuted by the very people they were sacrificing their lives to love. And that's part of, depending on which historian you read, that's part of why the church grew like crazy in a 300 year period when it was outlawed. All historians are like, how in the world did the church grow like this? Because it was illegal and they were being persecuted. Alan Crider argues in his book, The Patient Ferment of the Early Church, which I highly recommend. Fascinating.

Very readable. He argues that it was because of the patience of the early Christians. One of the early church leaders said the entire world is at stage and everyone's watching Christians to see how they will respond to persecution. They didn't respond to reviling with reviling. They didn't hit back. They didn't even get bitter. They loved. Open handed, just like Jesus who said, love your enemies.

They actually did it. Just talking about our context and our list, the people who are listening right now, one of the things that has changed, neighborhoods are changing around us. And there's gobs of research that post World War II, a lot has changed to make neighborhoods less interactive with each other. It has to do with the Highway Act. It has to do with air conditioning.

It has to do with TVs. There's like, I mean, you can actually trace in history why there's just generally less interaction in neighborhoods. But then one of the particular issues I think that we have is as we've moved from a kind of a Christendom era where Christianity was trusted and respected to a post Christendom era where it isn't, that feels a certain way to believers. And it's maybe not active persecution, but we feel it and we're back on our heels. I think we've gotten a little scared and a little bitter and a little closed off because of that.

So I think we have our own issues that we're dealing with. And the early Christians were tempted by that. That's why in this book, I like dive into 1 Peter because he's writing to those in Asia Minor who are being persecuted and they're being tempted to kind of curve in on themselves. And he writes them to go, no, no, like you're exiles, but you're elect exiles.

God has chosen you to be right where you are. And then what does he tell them to do? He says, don't return reviling for reviling. Do good.

Who's going to hate you for doing good? Like be a light where you are. He just had to remind them of how to respond. We still need that reminder. And I think we need to be reminded again. Well, I mean, it's a sad commentary in some ways on, you know, the most important commandment.

Love God with all your heart, mind and soul and love your neighbors yourself. I remember, do you remember this book came out, I don't know how long ago, Gabe Lyons, David Kinnaman, UnChristian. Yeah, sure.

So it was a survey, research, this is what the non-believing world says about Christians. And I think there were seven marks. Yeah. And I remember I picked up the book. It was not good. It wasn't good.

It was very bad. Hypocritical, judgmental. I remember picking up the book going, okay, let's see what they think. And then I read it and I read the whole thing and I'm like, they're right. So convicting. Oh, yeah. So you know what I did?

I said, we're doing a series at our church called I'm Sorry. Wow. And we're going to walk through these and say, here's what the people that live around us think about us. I'm not saying it's right or wrong. This is their perception.

What's true about it? How can we do better? So we send out little series things. Hey, the series coming up, church is going to say, I'm sorry, or whatever. I get a call or our church gets a call and say, hey, will you come on WJR and talk about this?

WJR is one of the biggest radio stations in Detroit. Secular. And they couldn't believe it. Church is saying, I'm sorry. So they think, hey, this would be an interesting conversation. I go on.

Frank Beckman interviews. Why are you guys saying I'm sorry? So I tell him, you know, this book came out and I read it. I'm like, I agree. Yeah.

And we need to apologize for this to our neighbors. I thought I was in a meeting and my assistant Debbie said, hey, it's like a five minute deal. You'll be back in a meeting. Yeah. And she calls me and says, hey, Dave's going to be on.

Make sure you listen. So I get done with this little interview and Frank says, hey, by the way, would you be willing to stay on and take some questions? I'm like, okay.

Right. And he goes, okay, station break. And I go, hey, it's going to be a few more minutes.

Won't be very long. Yeah. Comes back on. And I have no idea what's happening. He goes, hey, the place is lit up. All these people want to ask you a question. Okay, let's go live. You're with Dave.

Ask him a question. You know what it was? It's really interesting. It was church people mad at me. Yeah. Yelling at me for basically saying you are going to apologize. They need to apologize. I was like, I literally said to one person, I go, this is exactly what they're saying about us. We're not humble. We're not teachable. We're not willing to own up to our own faults. So you're saying that's what our neighbors are sort of saying about us.

So the question would be, how do we get better? That's David Ann Wilson with Don Everts at Family Life Today. We'll hear Don's response in just a minute. But first, all this week when you help reach more families with God's truth by giving to family life, we want to send you a copy of kind of a unique book about how to teach your kids when they have questions about the Christian faith. Hillary Morgan Farrer has written a book called Mama Bear Apologetics, and we want to send you a copy as our thanks when you give this week at familylifetoday.com or when you call with your donation at 800-358-6329.

That's 800-F as in family, L as in life, and then the word today. All right, now back to David Ann's conversation with Don Everts about how we get better at being a good neighbor and recognizing our faults. It's interesting because Peter talked about two things that, well, I mean, he talked about a lot.

You can read his letters and send a Bible. But apropos to this, one of the things he talked about was do good. And then he quotes from Psalm 34, which talks about be a creator of shalom. So, one of the things he talks about in doing good is, like, pursue the common good of the people in place right around you. Like, let's set evangelism to the side for just a second. And he does get back to it.

But just set it aside for a second. What he says to them is pursue the common good of the people around you. Be a blessing. And he even says, like, that's not illegal.

That's how he puts it. It's not illegal to, like, be a blessing to other people. And so one of the things that we can do is apologize.

What a great thing to show that posture, you know, and to share that. And the other thing is to say, well, let's be a blessing. I mean, that's what we're called to do. We're called to love our neighbors.

Jesus says, let them see your good works so they'll give glory to your Father in heaven. Like, do good works. Clean up garbage.

Bake cookies and bring them to people. Welcome the person who just moved into the neighborhood. Go over to the guy you've lived with for 20 years and you've never shaken his hand.

And go and shake the guy's hand. Right? Things that we can do just to pursue the common good.

So there's lots that we could talk about there. And Peter, I mean, that was his encouragement. And the early church did that. I mean, they had pandemics. They stayed. And when everyone else was running, they stayed and they cared for people who were sick. They were the ones who were taking these babies that were abandoned on the edge of town and they were adopting them.

The babies are the very people who were persecuting them. They just were pursuing the common good. We could just stop there. Full stop. That's something we could do. And boy, would it change.

You know, Kinnaman and Lyons would have to write a different book. If we really did that. I know, you know, we live in Michigan and we have snow. And we got one year head back surgery and I wasn't going to be able to shovel. So I bought the biggest stinking snow blower you've ever seen. Because I knew Ann was going to do it.

I wanted to make it easier for her. Well, we still have that thing. I'm not kidding. Every time I snow blow our driveway, I'll be bringing it back to the garage. Hey, Dave. Is that what you got?

No, that's me saying that. Ann's in the garage going, go do Dean and Nancy's. Go do Nick and Pam's. I'm like, every time I look at her, I know. And every time I do.

But Dean hurt his back and he needs. It takes 15 minutes. They end up walking out.

We have a conversation. Thank you so much for doing this. It's just being a blessing for the company. A blessing for the company.

In little ways. Dave, the reason I do that is because we had a neighbor who was in her 80s, Mrs. Hoover. When you were growing up.

Yeah. Every single time. It was my mom. My dad was usually at work.

My mom would go out and shovel and I would help her. And then Mrs. Hoover made a plate of cookies every single time. And those cookies were so amazing. My mom didn't care about the cookies. She cared about Mrs. Hoover.

But it was just a great example for me. And those are easy things we can do. In our research, it came out that a quarter of people in the United States live alone. Live by themselves. A number of people say that no one comes over to their house ever. Wow.

Ever. So in the medical field, they talk about there's a chronic loneliness is sweeping the country. And the interesting thing is in the medical literature, the people who have chronic loneliness, because it breaks you down. They prefer to call it depression. But the doctors are like, it's chronic loneliness. Like you have no one in your life. And humans aren't meant to live that way. So even like save the snowblower.

Don't even have to cook it. You know what I mean? Like just to knock on someone's door. Just to say hi. In our current context, it does not take much to be heroic. It does not take much to make a difference in a neighborhood. I mean, if people are listening, they're like, I don't know how to help my neighbors.

Just say hi and talk with them and take an interest. There are so many people who are alone in their homes. Yeah, when they go out to the mailbox, walk out. That's right. You know, when we had a blackout, it was like, wow, I get to talk to my neighbors. Nobody was in their house.

The air conditioner was off. Have you read Bob Goff's Everybody Always? Yeah, I'm familiar with it. You remember, I'm going to read part of the story. Let me read it, Dave. Bob Goff, he's such a fun author to read. Oh, we saw him speak. He's the most whimsical, crazy. He makes me laugh so much.

But he tells the story, and maybe some of our listeners have heard this story, but I'll just read parts of it. But he begins and says, for the last 22 years, we've put on a New Year's Day parade to celebrate our neighbors. Our parade starts at the cul-de-sac at the end of our block and ends at our front yard. Our whole family wakes up early every year, and we blow up over a thousand helium balloons. Before we start taking the balloons out of the house, we give thanks for our neighbors and for the privilege of doing life for them. And then he goes on, he says, our block has only 20 houses if you count both sides, so our parade isn't very long. In our first year, there were only eight of us standing at the beginning of the parade route. We stood together at the end of the cul-de-sac trying to look like a parade. And someone said, go. And we started walking down the street, waving to our six neighbors who were watching. And now there are probably four or five hundred people who come now each year. Kids pull wagons full of stuffed animals and pet goldfish.

There are no fancy floats. Bicycles with baseball cards in the spokes are the norm. And hey, here's why we do it. We can't love people we don't know, and you can't either. Saying we love our neighbors is simple, but guess what? Doing it is to just throw them a parade. We don't think Jesus' command to love our neighbor is a metaphor for something else. We think it means we're supposed to actually love our neighbors. So engage them and delight in them and throw a party for them. When joy is a habit, love is a reflex. Yeah, I got to read this next part.

I just thought it's so powerful. He says, because we've been putting on the parade for decades, we know all the people who live near us. I don't know if they've learned anything from us, but we've learned a ton about loving each other from them. God didn't give us neighbors to be our projects.

He surrounded us with them to be our teachers. A week before the parade each year, we knock on a few of our neighbor's front doors and pick a grand marshal and a queen from among them. Being picked as the queen is a big deal in our neighborhood. My neighbor Carol got the nod one year. A decade later, people still bowed to Carol when they saw her at the corner market or the gas station and called her Your Majesty. It was just beautiful. One year, because of the battle raging inside Carol, she didn't think she would be able to walk the parade route from the cul-de-sac to our house where the parade ends.

I have an old Harley-Davidson motorcycle with a sidecar. That year I put Carol in the sidecar and gave her a ride. She was the hit of the parade because all the neighbors knew about the cancer she had been staring down. Carol, elegant as always, waved to everyone and they waved back. Just before we got to the end of the parade route, Carol turned to me and took a deep, thought-filled breath. It was as if she was going through the highlight reel of her life when she said, You know, Bob, I'm really going to miss this parade.

I looked at my neighbor in the sidecar next to me and said, Me too, Carol, me too. Even as I did, I asked God if he would let Carol have at least one more parade with us. One year later, on New Year's Day, Carol was clinging to life by a few threads and was far too weak to get out of bed. She had made it to the day of the parade she had once presided over as Queen.

This was an ambition I think had sustained her during the last months of her courageous battle. Just before the parade started, my sons Richard and Adam went across the street and carried Carol from her bedroom to a chair they placed in front of her living room window facing the street. Carol could hear the music and knew the parade was coming soon, but she couldn't see past the corner of her window. What she didn't know was that we had changed the parade route and within a few minutes, all 500 people walked right through her front yard. I sat next to Carol holding her hand as hundreds of her friends and neighbors walked to her window, pressed their noses against it and waved to her in bounced balloons.

As they did, through her tears, Carol lifted her weak hand slowly to her mouth and blew each one of them kisses goodbye. A few days later, Jesus lifted Carol up to heaven. It would be her second parade of the week. I don't know if the streets of heaven are paved in gold, but I'm kind of hoping they're lined with balloons. And at the end of the parade, I bet we'll find Jesus blowing us kisses, rubbing our noses, and welcoming us to our next neighborhood.

I just hope I get a house somewhere near Carol's again. I mean, I knew I was going to cry when I read that. It's just so touching of what you're saying, Don. That's a Christian being a blessing to an entire neighborhood. An interesting thing that the research showed us, because some people may be thinking, well, you know, I want to focus on growing my faith or, you know, I'm focusing on those things rather than, you know, loving others and putting energy there. After hearing that story, this won't surprise you that the research told us that people who are pursuing the common good in their neighborhood say that doing that has made them feel closer to God. So it's false that there's like this dichotomy, you know, do I want to invest in my own growth or do I want to like blow snow for people or, you know, bake cookies or whatever it is.

And that's not a dichotomy. I mean, the research tells us that your faith grows as you do this. It's almost like Jesus knew what he was talking about.

When he said, if you want to find your life, lose it. Yeah. Yeah, that's a beautiful way to be a Christian and a good neighbor.

Yeah. You've been listening to Dave and Anne Wilson with Don Evertz on Family Life Today. His book is called The Hopeful Neighborhood, What Happens When Christians Pursue the Common Good. You can get your copy at familylifetoday.com or when you call us at 800-358-6329.

That's 800 F as in family, L as in life, and then the word today. If you know anyone who needs to hear today's conversation, be sure to share it from wherever you get your podcasts. And while you're there, a simple way you can help more people discover God's plan for families is by leaving a rating and review for Family Life Today. Now tomorrow, Dave and Anne Wilson will continue their conversation with Don Evertz and go into practical ways to love and engage the community around you. That's tomorrow. On behalf of Dave and Anne Wilson, I'm Shelby Abbott. We'll see you back next time for another edition of Family Life Today. Family Life Today is a production of Family Life, a crew ministry, helping you pursue the relationships that matter most.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-03-20 00:35:57 / 2023-03-20 00:48:29 / 13

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