Pastoring Your Cul-de-Sac: Collaborative Living

Author Reggie McNeal invites us to get off our ass (biblically speaking) with a focus on the Parable of the Good Samaritan:

25 On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

26 “What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?”

27 He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”

28 “You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”

29 But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”

30 In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. 31 A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. 32 So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side.33 But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. 34 He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. 35 The next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’

36 “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”

37 The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”

Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”

Luke 10:25-37 (NIV)


We’re living in a bizarre polarity of unprecedented connectedness and unparalleled isolation.

When we finally get home, joining countless others in our cul-de-sacs or subdivision streets, we want to be home.

The Great Commission may carry you to the ends of the world, but it starts on your street. God has given us a perfect environment for demonstrating the gospel and advancing His mission, if only we would open our eyes to it. It’s that place you probably consider your personal and private fortress – your home. Hospitality is one of the simplest – and most exciting – ways to engage in God’s mission.

If we are ever going to join all our lives to God’s mission to change the world, we need to reclaim all of our ordinary pieces as a part of that gospel mission. We have to reject the notion that something has to be big or unusual to be significant. We will have to view the ordinariness of our lives as significant, and allow God to use our homes as a seed to be planted and grown, not something to be discarded or devalued.

We need to practice neighboring.

Just who is our neighbor? And, how can we serve our neighbors?

SOLUTION #2: Create collective overlap in your relationships with others

THE QUICK SUMMARY – Staying is the New Going by Alan Briggs

Do you get tired sitting in a pew? Have you ever fantasized about traveling to the other side of the world, telling people about the good news of Jesus Christ? Wake up and look around: The world is right here, waiting for the Good News to make itself known.

For too long we’ve outsourced God’s work in the world to missionaries “out there” at the ends of the earth. In reality, God wants us to love our neighbor right next door. He wants us to pray for the welfare of our zip code, to witness to the world outside our window. He wants us to be the church, the people of God, in conversation and meaningful engagement with the people God loves outside the walls of the church.

The stories in this book will change the way you look at your city and provide insights into how you can be an authentic Christian.


How well do you know the neighbors on either side of you? What about the ones across the street, or behind you? Live in an apartment complex? How well do you know your neighbors across the hall, on the floor above, or on the floor below?

As Christians, we most certainly have been commanded to “go unto the world,” but most of us forget that “the world” begins at our doorstep.

The place you already live is the most obvious, but most overlooked, place to start ministry. The church was born to a Spirit-filled group of disciples who expected to see the gospel spread from their place to the whole world.

People seeking to live a Jesus life and those who don’t know him alike are feeling the tug to put down roots in places and space again. I happen to think Christians need to hear this message the most, however, because cities are quickly becoming the lifeblood of mission. Our current places are becoming the next frontier, and neighborhoods are becoming parishes again, where churches anchor their communities and every Christian can live out our first vocation as a follower of Jesus eyeball to eyeball.

This is a return to something people understood before the global and digital age distracted us. Something in all of us wants to be connected to a place and the people who live in it. Those in our neighborhood and city are longing for it.

A key element of incarnational ministry is intentionally creating collective overlap where all those we call friends can gather – Christian and non-Christian – in one common space.

Finding collective overlap not only addressed the primary problems of an insular Christian community and a lack of exposure to the gospel among my non-Christian friends; it helped me to close the gap between outreach and relationship. My non-Christian friends were no longer projects; they were friends. The gospel became not something I was selling, but something I was living and weaving into every aspect of relationships.

Intentionally creating collective overlap for people who do know Jesus and those who don’t is a risk, but it’s surprisingly simple: our front yards, living rooms, and social gatherings are great, natural spaces for collective overlap to occur.

Alan Briggs, Staying is the New Going


Recreate the drawing below on a chart tablet.

Author Alan Briggs believes that “God’s people become translators of the Good News when we are rooted in relationships and places.

With the above diagram in mind, read through the following questions for reflection from Alan Briggs. As you ponder each question, add names and answers to the questions to the diagram on the chart tablet.

  • Write the names of both kinds of friends.
  • What are some specific things you can do to develop collective overlap between friends who know Jesus and friends who do not? Write these alongside the names in a different color marker.
  • What are some ordinary ways you can start the practice of faithfully loving those around you?

Excerpt taken from SUMS Remix #88-2, released March 2018.


This is part of a weekly series posting excerpts from one of the most innovative content sources in the church world: SUMS Remix book excerpts for church leaders.

SUMS Remix takes a practical problem in the church and looks at it with three solutions; each solution is taken from a different book. Additionally, a practical action step is included with each solution.

As a church leader you get to scan relevant books based on practical tools and solutions to real ministry problems, not just by the cover of the book. Each post will have the edition number which shows the year and what number it is in the overall sequence. (SUMS Remix provides 26 issues per year, delivered every other week to your inbox). 

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Bob Adams is Auxano's Vision Room Curator. His background includes over 23 years as an associate/executive pastor as well as 8 years as the Lead Consultant for a church design build company. He joined Auxano in 2012.

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comment_post_ID); ?> This is fabulous material! In fact, it’s life changing for a church navigating a mid to post-Covid reality! Thank you.
— Wendell Hutchins II
comment_post_ID); ?> I agree 100%, you can tell if a church is doing this it grows, if there's no growth there's poor leadership..
— Dennis Whiterock
comment_post_ID); ?> Great work Bubba! Its exciting to see how God has blessed your faithfulness over your lifetime into remarkable, fruitful, Kingdom expansion! Jesus DID say, "without Me you can do nothing!" (John 15:5). No surprise that He rewards "thick and thin" prayer with great fruitfulness! :)
— Mike Taylor

Clarity Process

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The Journey from Being a Stranger to a Missionary in Your Neighborhood

The day before I left for Haiti, I hastily posted my “from strangers to missionaries” article. Had I known it would be read so much, I would have taken longer than 30 minutes to write it! Oh well. Since then, I have received a lot of feedback from folks–some asking questions and others wondering what it would look like in their context. This post is dedicated to think through practical application and fleshing it out in practice.

1.  Leverage the Limits of Our Relationships

Have you ever heard of Dunbar’s Number? According to Robin Dunbar, there is a maximum number of relationships a person can have due to cognitive limitations and social group sizes. According to Dunbar, the average person can have a maximum of 150 meaningful relationships with a broader range of 100-230 relationships. The larger the number, the more restrictive or superficial the relationships become.

I would venture to say that most of us don’t think very strategically about the limitations of our relationships. Of course we have our immediate relations to our family and extended family. Beyond that we have our friends and church family. Once you factor in the “given’s”, the number of available meaningful relationships is relatively small. That means we need to be careful in how we invest our lives cognitively and missionally for the sake of the gospel.

Knowing these limitations, why not come up with a plan on how to leverage your relational margin for the sake of gospel advance? How many relationships could be acquaintances? Neighbors? Friends? You can’t change the world with 500 relationships, but you can change a neighborhood with 10. I fear the problem with most of us that we have failed to consider these limitations and leverage our relational margin at all for gospel causes. To correct that, we need to begin with examining our relationships and make efforts to demonstrate personal hospitality, receptivity, and availability for God to use us in the lives of others.

2.  Assess Busyness and Make Missional Margin

A key factor with many of us is that our lives are too complex and too busy. We simply don’t have time. Does life have to look like a rat race or exhausting treadmill? I don’t think so. Five years ago I wrote about being too busy not to evangelize, and I followed up with some ways to create missional margin in your life. Woody Allen once said that 80% of success is just showing up. We need to be present, and present with a purpose to live with others, love them, and lean into the kingdom under the leadership of the Spirit to magnify Jesus.

3.  Create a Practical Way of Measuring Movement

In the sphere of 150 possible relationships, I hope that there would be people who are neighbors, acquaintances, friends, family, and missionaries. In every relationship, I hope to see movement toward knowing and becoming like Jesus. All of my “relationship investments” should be stewarded for pointing people to Jesus, to beholding Jesus, and to becoming like Jesus.

One of the most practical ways I try to chart movement is through my missional moleskine. This is my city travelogue in which I journal my way into the lives of others, asking God to use me through rhythms of life in ordinary ways to impact ordinary people with the amazingly good news of Jesus Christ. It could be a prayer, a gospel conversation, learning their story, or simply being present and letting them know I want to be a part of their life (and doing so not in a hurry or looking at my cell phone!). Whatever you use, it is important to measure movement in the same way you journal prayer requests and how God answers them. Looking back, you will be filled with gratitude that God uses little things, little moments, and “little people” to accomplish His work.

4. Remember Your Identity in Christ and Union with Christ

This may not sound practical, but it is probably most practical of all. You see, we know who we are when we are in a church gathering. We are worshippers of Jesus. But our identity as a worshipper, disciple, servant, and missionary does not end when we are not in a church gathering! The reality, however, is that we have an evangelical norm where our identities in Christ are nonexistent in the normal course of life so that we go about our daily living forgetting who we are. When I’m in a cross-cultural context like I was last week (Haiti), I am reminded constantly that I am a missionary and a servant. It’s obvious. But why isn’t that so obvious in my hometown with my own people? Could it be that I’ve adopted a way of living that recognizes Jesus in emergencies or mountaintops but forgets him in the daily grind? Isn’t that where I need Him most and need to be reminded of who I am because of what He did for me?

Let’s face it. The world is an intimidating domain of darkness. It lies in the power of the evil one. We are faced with temptations from within and trials from without. The easiest thing to do would be to find a “safe” place and hunker down until Jesus returns. The unfortunate reality, however, is Jesus does not present that as an option for His people. We are a city on a hill whose light cannot be hidden. We are His ambassadors with the message of reconciliation. Instead of fearing the world’s influence on us, we should carry on in faith, constantly reminded of the Father’s providence for us, the Son’s purchase of us, and the Spirit’s power in us every step of the way. The Lord is my light and my salvation! Whom shall I fear?

5.  Be Prepared to Be Disappointed and Heartbroken in the Mission

Jesus knew what it was like to be on mission and experience heartache, disappointment, and betrayal. Paul knew what it was like to make it his ambition to preach the gospel where Christ is not named only to end his life confessing that everyone there had turned away from him. Jesus finished His mission. Paul kept the faith and fought the good fight. We cannot think that investing our lives in others for the sake of the gospel will come without pain, hurt, and heartache. It’s going to happen, but we cannot shut our hearts and shut down the work. Persevering in the mission comes when we understand how much and how deeply we have been loved by God. Only the gospel can fuel you with motivation to pick up the pieces of a broken heart to love lost, broken, rebellious sinners the way God loved you. In your kindness, God works to bring them to repentance.

In my next post, I will offer some more thoughts on fleshing it out and answering specific questions that I’ve received. If you have questions or struggles, please share. We are all learning together. I need to live this out more than anyone else. May God help us to put feet to these aspirations and use us for His glory!

Read more from Timmy here.

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Timmy Brister

In the “real world,” I am the founder and president of Gospel Systems, Inc, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization focused on creating and sustaining delivery systems for the advancement of the gospel around the world. In 2010, I started a delivery system called PLNTD – a network for church planting and revitalization focusing on resourcing, relational community, residencies in local churches, and regional networks. In 2012, I started an international delivery system call The Haiti Collective which focuses on equipping indigenous churches through church partnerships in order to care for orphans, make disciples, train leaders, and plant churches in Haiti. In addition to serving as the executive director of these organizations, I have served for 12 years in pastoral ministry with churches in Alabama, Kentucky, and Florida. My passion is to see healthy, growing churches take ownership of the Great Commission to the end that disciples are making disciples, leaders are developed and deployed, and churches are planting churches here and around the world. This is the driving passion of my life and prayer that God would be so glorified in making His name great in our generation.

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What say you? Leave a comment!

Recent Comments
comment_post_ID); ?> This is fabulous material! In fact, it’s life changing for a church navigating a mid to post-Covid reality! Thank you.
— Wendell Hutchins II
comment_post_ID); ?> I agree 100%, you can tell if a church is doing this it grows, if there's no growth there's poor leadership..
— Dennis Whiterock
comment_post_ID); ?> Great work Bubba! Its exciting to see how God has blessed your faithfulness over your lifetime into remarkable, fruitful, Kingdom expansion! Jesus DID say, "without Me you can do nothing!" (John 15:5). No surprise that He rewards "thick and thin" prayer with great fruitfulness! :)
— Mike Taylor

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.