Last week, Vanessa Felhauer was supposed to write a post about how to neighbor as a single person. Instead, she wrote about suppressing her desire to chuck bulletins at pastors. So, at long last, here is her post on how singles can practically apply neighboring principles and attitudes in their own lives.

When Summitview first began talking about orienting small groups around neighborhoods (and other spheres of influence) last summer, I heard from several single people that this really didn’t excite them. Singles who are younger and/or don’t own their own homes tend to be less settled in their neighborhoods. They often move once a year.

I own my home and rent the extra bedrooms to other single women. After the first sermon in the neighboring series, I was talking with one of my roommates and commented, “Well, we already know all the neighbors.” She replied, “You know all the neighbors.” This reminded me of the last rental situation I was in prior to buying my home. My roommate at the time owned that house and had lived in the neighborhood for more than a decade. While I lived there three years and had a heart to join her in loving our neighbors, ultimately they were all her relationships. As the homeowner, she was far more invested in the community than I ever was.

I think this is true for many who are on short-term leases, whether married or single. It can be hard to really be invested in your neighborhood when you know you won’t be there for long. And many singles either live alone or are in roommate situations where they might not be united in their neighboring efforts. When you are alone in your neighboring, it is significantly more challenging.

So, if you sat through our recent neighboring sermon series wondering how this all applies to you, I want to encourage you that it does. It’s just not going to look the same — and it doesn’t have to. There is a phenomenon I have noticed in our church that if it’s preached from the stage, my life must be an exact replica of whatever is posited as the mature Christian life.

In Hebrews 13:7, Paul says to look at our leaders and imitate their faith. He is not calling every person to be an itinerant preacher just because that’s how he’s living out his faith. But he is calling them to a radical imitation of faith. And in our church, as it was in Paul’s day (1 Timothy 1:14-16), a radical imitation of the faith of our leaders doesn’t start with doing. It starts with understanding the gospel.

Probably my favorite thing about the book The Art of Neighboring was their discussion of ultimate vs. ulterior motives. When we try to force neighboring simply because our leaders are telling us to and it’s not an overflow of our own heart for God, it’s an ulterior motive, not an ultimate motive. Do you deeply understand the gospel? Are you so immersed in the depth of how much you have been loved that neighboring is simply an overflow? If not, then start there. Immerse yourself in the gospel. Understand the depth of your own depravity and how much you have been loved in spite of it. Until you really get that, most, if not all, of your neighboring will come from ulterior motives — motives to be seen, to be lauded by others in the church. This is not neighboring. It’s turning your neighbors into your personal project for self-exaltation, and it will backfire because they will see it. This is an aspect of neighboring that we all need to think about and probably repent of.

But what about practical applications for those whose neighboring may not look like what was described in The Art of Neighboring or in the three neighboring sermons?

I think the first thing is to honestly examine your heart before God and ask him to reveal what your neighboring should look like and if you are in any way using your situation as an excuse to not neighbor. Even if you know you won’t be in your current home for long, it’s still good to get to know your neighbors. You may not be developing deep and long-term friendships or forming a small group in your neighborhood, but you can still give them a glimpse of the gospel in your friendliness and care.

And if you are renting, one of the most profound ways you can neighbor is by taking care of the property above and beyond what is expected of you. The landlord will see something different in your character, and the neighbors will, too. Treat it as if you own it and be considerate of how your actions affect the neighborhood — because some people are living there long term.

If your neighborhood isn’t going to be a source of long-term relationships for you, consider where you will have those relationships and begin to put some of the neighboring principles into practice there. This might be at your workplace, the gym or in some other hobby or group you are a part of. What can you be involved in that will bring peace and prosperity to the city of Fort Collins (Jeremiah 29:7)?

And don’t forget to consider your own church. Outside of your closest circle of friends, who have you talked to on a Sunday morning? You might be surprised at how many people feel alone inside our own walls. People who have been around for years, but in a church this size, they just aren’t sure if anyone would even notice if they stopped showing up on a Sunday morning. It shouldn’t be our only place of neighboring, but for some of us, some of our most effective and important neighboring will be loving the believers we see every Sunday.

Our leaders have put before us a call to live like Jesus and to love our neighbors. Regardless of your situation or stage of life, it’s going to take faith. So imitate their faith, not just their actions.