Several years ago, I read the book Dwell: Life with God for the World by Barry D. Jones. The author of that book challenged every reader to live a question-stimulating life. What is a question-stimulating life? It is a life that those around us notice and are drawn to ask us why we live that way.
Live a Question-Stimulating Life
Several New Testament writers give us ideas what a question-stimulating life is.
Jesus described it to his listeners.
In the same way, let your light shine before people, so that they can see your good deeds and give honor to your Father in heaven. (Matthew 5:16)
Be a light shining to those around you so they will notice your good deeds and may even be the recipient of your good deeds. That’s being intentional. Noticed. Question-stimulating.
Paul wrote in Colossians:
Conduct yourselves with wisdom toward outsiders, making the most of the opportunities. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you should answer everyone. (Colossians 4:5-6)
That’s thinking through what you might say in a conversation about popular topics or most asked questions or frequently shared concerns. That’s being intentional. What you say is noticed. Question-stimulating.
Peter wrote in his first letter:
But set Christ apart as Lord in your hearts and always be ready to give an answer to anyone who asks about the hope you possess. (1 Peter 3:15)
We usually focus on the “be ready” part, that we should be prepared to answer. But the assumption is that questions are being asked. Questions should be asked if you are living a question-stimulating life in view of your neighbors (those around you wherever you are). Neighbors see something attractive. Neighbors ask why and what.
Your Neighbors Are Your Personal Parish
In Dwell: Life with God for the World, the author says if you and I are going to live question-stimulating lives in the view of our neighbors, we need to think of the places we live (and work) and the people who live there as our own “personal parish,” the geographical place God has planted us and the people He’s called us to love in Jesus’ name. [The concept of a “parish” usually refers to a church location and those who live near enough to attend it.]
The neighbors who live (or work) near us are usually not people we’ve chosen (we may not like them at all), but they are those who have been given to us and those to whom we have been given. And we thought we were just shopping for our own living space — not our “personal parish!”
Yet, our busy life patterns don’t make it easy for us to be good neighbors. And our preference for comfort with our like-minded Christian friends can leave little time or inclination to care for our “personal parish.” I’ve experienced that!
Intentionally Relate to Your Personal Parish
If we are going to be obedient in living question-stimulating lives in view of our neighbors, we just might need to rethink how we relate to them. The same book I referenced above gives some practical ways to pursue connections with the people in our neighborhoods. These could be adapted for your work neighbors as well.
- Be present. Examine the choices we make and look for ways we can prioritize being more fully present in our personal parish. I know someone who chose to not do a church midweek activity in order to do a weekly connection time with his neighbors instead.
- Spend time outside. Sit in the front. Play in the front yard. Or it might be a different spot in your neighborhood. Take regular walks and see who else is out. Be visible to your neighbors when they might be looking. In Texas’ summer heat, that means in the evening or very early in the morning! Do it whenever it works for you AND the ones you want to see. Be intentional about being present with them.
- Pay attention to their lives. I believe we can be nosy without becoming invasive. Observe what’s happening. Desire to see the people around you. Know when they come home from work and be ready to say hello. Welcome new neighbors and connect them with others on your block.
- Celebrate with them. Be the one who throws the best dinner or dessert parties for the block or neighborhood. Look for opportunities for celebration and be intentional about including the people around you. It doesn’t have to be elaborate, just inviting and consistent.
- Ask questions. This is where I get nosy (in a good way). We get to know people by getting to know their stories (and paying attention well enough to remember some of it for future interactions!). Ask questions about their lives, families, work, background. Know their names, their family members’ names, and their pets’ names. I add notes in my contact cards so I can pull them up for “memory refreshers.” You can invite the women individually for coffee or lunch/supper every once in awhile to catch up with what is going on in their lives.
- Pray consistently for them. Regularly and by name. We tend to care more for and pay more attention to the ones we pray for regularly. Choose a particular day of the week to pray for your neighbors by name.
- Show up when needed. Whether it’s a cup of sugar, a ride to the airport, or something more serious, good neighbors take opportunities to help one another in times of need. If we are visibly looking, paying attention and asking questions, we will find out those times of need.
- Don’t wait too long! I assumed the nice lady who lived next door to me for two years would be there whenever I finally made time to connect with her. She died suddenly of a heart attack one night, age 47. Thankfully, I read in her obituary that she was a Christian. Sadly, I lived next to her for two years without knowing that! Don’t wait too long!
Can you imagine what would happen if we selected to put some of our energy toward connecting with our “personal parish” rather than our usual activities? Some folks might start asking us questions so we can give them answers to the hope that is in us in Jesus.
Here’s a graphic you can download to remind you of these ideas:
The list of ideas above is adapted from the book Dwell: Life with God for the World by Barry D. Jones, chapter 10, pages 207-208.
Ask the Lord to help you do this.
Ask the Lord to show you who is in your “personal parish.” Those are the ones he has already placed in your sphere of influence. Go through the bullet points above and ask him how you can make those happen in your life. He’ll show you. Then, trust him to work it out in you and through you. See what happens!
Bible Studies that train you to share your faith:
Live Out His Love Bible Study (download pdfs)
Be a Christ-Focused Small Group Leader (download pdfs)
More resources to prepare you to share your faith:
Disciple making Resources (download pdfs)