The Neighbors Table
October 7, 2018
Many of us desire to lead our congregations to become change agents, to be Jesus with skin on, inside the politically and socially charged familial conversations around immigration. This is a burden you have shared with us. We reach out to you because you have expressed a desire to help your congregation grow in sharing God’s heart for our immigrant neighbors. But how do we do this, when social media, news outlets, and political pundits seem to have a 24/7 discipleship strategy for shaping men and women in our churches to view their neighbors with fear and hostility?
The Bible is clear in God’s emphatic call to “love the immigrant as we love ourselves” – Lev. 19:34. The Bible is clear in that we have been given the ministry of reconciliation – Matthew 22:37-39. The Bible is clear that God, in a very real sense, judges the authenticity of our faith by how we welcome the immigrant – Matthew 25:40. And The Bible is clear that we can only relate rightly to our immigrant neighbor; most of whom share the bond of brothers and sister in Christ; through empathy, compassion, and love because of how Jesus who has brought us foreigners and welcomed us into the Kingdom of God – Ephesians 2:12-14. The Neighbor’s Table: Experiencing God’s Heart for the Immigrant invites pastors with their small groups from our local churches willing to enter a six session journey to experience God’s heart for the immigrant in a deeper, more profound way. It is our desire and commitment to help you lead your congregation forward to better see and know God’s heart for others. We hope this becomes a tool to deepen your congregation’s love for God, people, and help us all take steps toward reconciliation within the Bride of Christ.
The Neighbor’s Table is a project sponsored by three partners, The SURGE Network, Neighborhood Ministries and ASU. We are each troubled by the division, racial tension, fear, and anxiety that seem to color every national and local conversation in the media. For Neighborhood Ministries, this is more than news headlines, it is the everyday experience of families we have loved and served for 40 years in the heart of Phoenix. For our SURGE pastors, we are concerned that only 12% of evangelical Christians say their views around immigration are mostly shaped by the Bible, our flock is being discipled by someone other than Jesus. Our partner, ASU, secured a small grant to study this project.
Attached you will find a full description of this experience as well as a form letter you could use to invite people to participate in your group. We have also prepared a video that will help you with your invitations.
Thank you for your partnership in the gospel of Jesus. Your work as a pastor is deeply encouraging to us.
Dr. Doug Kelley
Arizona State University
The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born.
Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt.
I am the LORD your God. (Leviticus 19:34)
I was a stranger and you welcomed me. – Jesus
“When Jesus himself wanted to explain to his disciples what his forthcoming death was all about,
he didn’t give them a theory, he gave them a meal.” – N.T. Wright
Neighbor’s Table: Experiencing God’s Heart for the Immigrant
What is Neighbor’s Table: Experiencing God’s Heart for the Immigrant?
The Neighbor’s Table is a unique experience for church members who are ready to experience God’s heart for the immigrant. Through sharing a meal and stories with an immigrant family, participants have the opportunity to consider welcoming (Matt 25:35) and loving (Lev 19:34) those who are sojourning in the Phoenix metropolitan area. The purpose of Sharing Meals, Sharing Stories includes the following:
- Help individuals better understand God’s own immigration story
- Create empathy for the immigrant experience
- Affirm our unity in Christ—citizen and immigrant
- Provide options for responding to the immigrant experience
What is involved in the Neighbor’s Table: Experiencing God’s Heart for the Immigrant?
This Neighbor’s Table experience takes place in three phases, plus initial preparation.
- Select 7-8 church leaders from your congregation who you are interested in shepherding through cultivating a deeper love for the immigrant and introduce them to the Neighbor’s Table.
- A vetting tool is included in this package in the appendixes.
- Program participants are often those who have had cross-cultural experience, mission trips and/or have revealed their advocacy for immigrants and refugees in your congregation.
- Program is intended for people who seek to learn about immigration and God’s heart towards the immigrant.
- Program is designed to cultivate dialogue and mutual sharing in a safe and open environment. You are looking for people of good will, empathetic, with steady temperament and a desire to learn.
- Participant selection should include a culturally diverse representation of your congregation (e.g. age; gender; race/ethnicity).
- Participants should be willing to participate in all three phases of the project.
Phase 1: Breaking Bread with your Neighbors (5 hours)
In this experience, participants will hear biblical teaching for God’s heart for the Immigrant, hospitality, and the call for God’s people to love Sojourners. Participants will break into smaller groups and share meals in the home of an immigrant family near Neighborhood Ministries. Then we will return to debrief the experience.
Sunday, 1/27/2019 3:00-8:00pm
Sunday, 2/ 24/2019 3:00-8:00pm
Sunday, 3/24/2019 3:00-8:00pm
- 3:00 -3:15 Arrive at Neighborhood Ministries and Registration
- 3:15-3:45 Introduction
- 3:45-4:30 Teaching: God’s Heart for the Immigrant
- 4:30-4:45 Discussion Questions
- 4:45-5:00 Get directions to homes they will be visiting
- 5:00-6:30 Experience: Breaking Bread – Dinner at homes
- 6:45-8:00 Coffee and debrief back at Neighborhood Ministries
Phase 2: Cultivating God’s Heart for the Immigrant (a 6-week Study)
- Date: Team decides on start and end dates
- We recommend & ask your initial meeting begin within 2 weeks Breaking Bread event.
- This small-group format study is firmly based in the Christian Scriptures and compiled by Neighborhood Ministries and The Surge Network.
- Each week the study includes short videos with teachings from Kit Danley and other trusted voices. There will also be weekly reading and assignments.
Phase 3: Continuing the Journey
- Date: TBD
- After completing the six-week study, we will gather for a breakfast, celebration, and final debrief at Neighborhood Ministries. We will share as a large group and then split into each congregation to facilitate action plans to continue with deepening community involvement.
Outcomes for Your Church and Community
Participating in Neighbor’s Table can provide significant benefits to your church and local community.
- Enhanced biblical perspective on immigration and the poor
- Deepened faith, sense of God’s involvement (we all have our own sojourning stories)
- Increased experience of God’s love through
- empathy and compassion for immigrant families
- sense of connectedness with immigrant families
- Increased knowledge regarding immigration
- Increased civic involvement with immigration-related issues
- Potential long-term involvement with immigrant families and/or immigrant communities
- Immigrant family members gain voice in telling their stories in a safe, Christ-centered, environment
- Immigrant family members experience an increase in God’s love through empathy and compassion for church members’ stories/experience sense of connectedness with church members
Partnership With ASU
Neighborhood Ministries and The Surge Network are partnering with ASU for this project. In an effort to better understand how church members and immigrant family members are responding to our efforts, we have asked a research team at ASU, lead by Dr. Doug Kelley, a long-time partner with our ministries, to help measure the outcomes of Neighbor’s Table: Experiencing God’s Heart for the Immigrant. As such, all meetings will be attended by ASU observers who will take notes of the interactions, and participants will periodically be asked to participate in surveys (see sample questions below) and conduct face-to-face interviews to track how they are responding to the experience. Participation in the study is optional but strongly encouraged. Of course, information gained from this project is strictly confidential.
Below is sample wording you can use to invite 7-8 leaders from your congregation to participate in the Neighbor’s Table experience. We encourage you to personally invite members of your congregation to participate, but here is concrete information you can send them as a follow up so they know what they are committing to.
Neighbor’s Table: Experiencing God’s Heart for the Immigrant
As I shared with you earlier, our congregation is partnering with several other churches to participate in an experience with Neighborhood Ministries, called THE NEIGHBORS TABLE. Men, women, and children from their community have graciously invited us to spend some time sharing a meal with them, praying with them, and spending some time together in the Scriptures meditating on God’s heart for immigrants.
Our hope is that this experience and season of study would deepen our love for our neighbor and align our heart to God’s heart for the sojourners among us. We are inviting a small handful of leaders from our congregation to participate in this Neighbor’s Table Experience and I would like to encourage you to prayerfully consider joining me in this journey.
The Neighbor’s Table Experience has 3 phases. Here are the dates so you can decide if this is something you can commit to:
- Breaking Bread With Your Neighbor: Bible study, fellowship, and dinner with families who have migrated to the US without documentation
○ Time: 3pm-8pm
○ Location: Neighborhood Ministries
- Congregation Debrief: A debrief with the small group from our own congregation and a safe place to ask questions, share thoughts, and pray.
- Early Spring, DATE: Our small group from our congregation will meet for a 6 week bible study exploring God’s heart for the Immigrant.
- Dates, Time, and Location is TBA. We will select the small group start date at the Congregation Debrief.
- Continuing the Journey: We will conclude this experience with a celebration, breakfast, and debrief at Neighborhood Ministries
- Date: TBA
○ Time: 9am-12Pm
○ Location: Neighborhood Ministries
SIGN UP TO BE INCLUDED
Neighbor’s Table Week 1 – God’s Heart for the Immigrant – The Law
Neighbor’s Table Week 2 – God’s Heart for the Immigrant – The Prophets
Neighbor’s Table Week 5 – God’s Heart for the Immigrant – Jesus & The Church