Pastoral Backstory 11.14.13


(What is the Backstory and why?)



November 14th,  2013

The effort to become faithfully present to his neighborhood began with an apology.

His neighbor was a burly, Irish Catholic, several years his senior.  Despite living across the street for nearly two years, Ryan knew only his first name. So with part embarrassment, part trepidation Ryan approached him while he edged his lawn, donned reclusively in headphones and sunglasses.  Seeing Ryan approach did not elicit the sort of neighborly greeting you might expect. Instead Ryan was “received” with an almost irritated “yeah?” Surely with something of a lump in his throat Ryan re-introduced himself by apologizing for not trying to get to know him and his family, and then also confessed how that his indifference really indicated an implicit belief that Ryan didn’t think this man could add anything to his own life.

Talk about a conversation you don’t expect to hear among neighbors these days.

His neighbor, as you would expect, returned the comment with a befuddled look and then offered an awkward “thanks.”  Conversation over. Ryan turned back to his home.  The next day Ryan got a text from his neighbor who expanded on his tepid gratitude, and then asked if he wanted to have breakfast the next morning.

Three and a half years later, Ryan, his neighbor, and around 8 others from the neighborhood eat breakfast at least once a month and share their lives.


Ryan Hairston works for a ministry called Forge which seeks to train individuals, families, and churches in how to live in a way more consonant with true neighborliness.  I had the privilege this week of hearing his story and his vision for “neighboring” (as they’ve come to call it) during a seminar with pastors and other para-church leadership in S. Dallas.

Forge recognizes how local churches can unintentionally diminish parishioners’ interest and time for neighboring (or “living missionally,” the current buzzword) by simply dominating their schedules and consolidating all efforts to be present to the world through the direct coordination of the church.  So Forge helps believers imagine how they can become a blessing unto those they’re most proximate to.  For they recognize that a demonstration of neighborliness is often what sets up the ability to proclaim Him who taught both who our neighbor is and what it means to be neighborly–just as we argued last Sunday.

At Tuesday’s seminar, Ryan shared several anecdotes of how simple efforts to know and serve his neighbors enriched the community, and moreover, elicited the sort of curiosity as to why he and his family had taken such an interest in the whole neighborhood’s life.  The practice of faith provoked an interest in the beliefs that compelled it–another truth we learned from Peter’s encouragements last week.

Perhaps the most compelling lesson he’s learned from neighboring so far is that one of the greatest ways to be a neighbor is to ask for help from a neighbor.  Premised on the biblical notion that all are made in the image of God and therefore have something to offer that “adds value” to a community, Ryan and others like him have learned how making oneself vulnerable by acknowledging a need does as much to build community as meeting a need in the community. So he extolled all who were present this week: if a neighbor is ever headed to the store and asks if you need something, you always say, “yes.”


Each of our sermons on the vision for faithful presence has labored to provide real and practicable ways to apply the concept.  Ryan and Forge offer us a way of living in our neighborhoods that, while fairly unfamiliar in suburbia apart from the occasional cookout, opens up innumerable applications of presence to one of our most immediate worlds.  Where might the courageous and contrite apologies begin in your neighborhood?  And then, more importantly, what small efforts might you take to bless those in your neck of the woods?  There begins the application of our last two sermons on presence to our world, the last leg of our series.

"The Blacksmith's Forge," Johannes Dircksz van Oudenrogge

“The Blacksmith’s Forge,” Johannes Dircksz van Oudenrogge

We’ll conclude the series this Sunday by in one sense returning to where we started: with prayer.  Our series began with listening to Jesus’ prayer for the church’s faithful presence.  It will end (and yet begin again) with Jesus’ teaching on prayer to the church-prayer that means to refashion us from a distracted, fragmented people into those who are fully and faithfully present.  Sit with Matthew 6:7-15 and hear Sunday how this prayer no script, but something else entirely.



Community quick hits:

  • A congregational meeting has been called for December 1st during our 2nd hour for a vote on elder candidates and the pastoral call.  Refreshments will be served. All are encouraged to come.
  • Pending the outcome of the vote on December 1, CtK will have a service of Particularization on December 15th during which elders and pastor will be installed, and both leadership and congregation given their respective charges from officers of our presbytery.  Immediately following the service we’ll celebrate with a catered reception in the Fellowship Hall.  Mark this milestone in the young life of CtK.  
  • Those interested in coming for membership in CtK should save the date, January 10-11 (Fri-Sat) for our next membership class. A time to dig deeper into what membership means, how we plan to live out the vision of CtK. It’s also a time to ask questions about faith, community, and our leadership.
  • 51UpnSLU5xL._SY344_PJlook-inside-v2,TopRight,1,0_SH20_BO1,204,203,200_We made mention last Sunday of an upcoming seminar on how to prepare in advance a “defense of the reason for the hope that is in you.”  Here’s a few more details.  Prof Mike Rasmussen will return to lead the seminar Saturday, February 1st, from 8:30-noon at FBC. (Yes we’ll have good coffee brewing). Copies of the book for the seminar, John Stott’s Basic Christianity, are on order and will be on sale for $5. Save the date and get to reading.





And would you pray:

  • for Phil and Sheila Steven’s daughter, Sara, and her family in Indiana
  • for the weary, the disillusioned, the shocked, the confused, and the afflicted among us and on our minds
  • for those suffering the ravages of the Philippine typhoon and for the relief efforts now underway–including the Mission to the World (MTW) efforts to which CtK made contribution this week
  • for Justin and Amanda Isaac as they welcome little Aliah Victoria into the world (born November 5th)

See you Sunday at 9:30,




Author: Glenn Machlan

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  1. “neighboring” . . . I like that term but wouldn’t limit it to the half dozen homes adjacent to our own. A feature of neighboring I think is “listening”. Every person has a story and most of the world doesn’t have time to hear. Just by listening wherever and whenever we make the opportunity will mark us, the listener, as someone different (in a positive way).

    A recent experience that I had was in a laundromat on Illinois not too far from our home several weeks ago. Saturday morning . . . children running back and forth around wheeled laundry baskets and under tables heaped with clothes being folded. Two televisions on different channels (one sports, one cartoons) hanging from the ceiling with volumes sufficient to be heard over a stainless steel wall of 80 commercial dryers helping out the global warming effort. With 30 minutes of drying time still remaining I started visiting with a fellow probably about my same age across a plastic table that we were sharing . . . he had worn work boots, worn blue jeans, and a well worn jacket. He had a well formed straw hat (that had probably seen more than a few Texas summers) atop a moustachioed face that had experienced just about every possible type of outdoor weather available to folks that are steered towards that type of a career path. His name was Juan. He had three children, two teens and an eight year old. He came from Oaxaca 24 years ago. He lived in Oklahoma, but he likes Dallas better. We covered a dozen or more topics as he finished his foiled tacos. At minute 15 he told the laundry monitor that I spoke pretty good Spanish (I was the obvious candidate amongst the clientele that might NOT speak Spanish) but at minute 40, when Rachel had all the folding done, my “take-away” arrived as I was preparing to leave. Juan said that it was the first time that an Anglo had ever engaged him in a conversation that wasn’t work related.

    And I thought I was only trying to avoid folding clothes.

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  2. Husband Larry & I have been so blessed to have lived in this neighborhood. We learned early what neighbors were, and they taught us so much. When we first moved in one summer, any neighbor who saw us outside would come and introduce themselves and tell us they were glad to have us in the neighborhood. Even the precinct chairman from an opposite political party than ours, would call every election day to say she surely hoped we came to vote that day. Another lady would ask if the children could come to her church’s Bible School; the children could walk with her, if I wished.
    Even now, through many changes over the years, old neighbors greet the new neighbors. Since many neighbors walk their pets, they will notify other neighbors of a broken, leaking water pipe or a screen off of a window, etc.
    Yes, as Mark says, listen. You may find concerns of your neighbors that you can help address.
    Although we have no animals, we keep doggie treats. If we are outside, and a pet parent is walking their dog, we can offer a doggie treat and/or bowl of water. Neighbors feel much more comfortable talking with you if they know you like their dog.
    Neighbors are our”first responders.” They are the ones who hear the crash, see the fall, or hear the cry.
    Bless them!

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  3. Mark and Suzanne, these are fantastic examples of just how uncomplicated it is to be present to our immediate surroundings and beyond. It just takes time and interest and it’s premised on the idea that each person possesses an inviolable dignity given them by God. Thank you for sharing. We need these stories to move us off our inertia and toward others with simple kindness.

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