FamilyLife Today® Podcast

Making a Mark in Your Neighborhood: Chris & Elizabeth McKinney

with Chris and Elizabeth McKinney | May 7, 2024
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We cross paths with our neighbors all the time, but how often do we really connect? Chris and Elizabeth explore the power of genuine neighborly love, showing how it can make a big difference. Learn how to challenge the norm and inspire a passion for building meaningful relationships right in your own neighborhood.

  • Show Notes

  • About the Host

  • About the Guest

  • Dave and Ann Wilson

    Dave and Ann Wilson are hosts of FamilyLife Today®, FamilyLife’s nationally-syndicated radio program. Dave and Ann have been married for more than 38 years and have spent the last 33 teaching and mentoring couples and parents across the country. They have been featured speakers at FamilyLife’s Weekend to Remember® marriage getaway since 1993 and have also hosted their own marriage conferences across the country. Cofounders of Kensington Church—a national, multicampus church that hosts more than 14,000 visitors every weekend—the Wilsons are the creative force behind DVD teaching series Rock Your Marriage and The Survival Guide To Parenting, as well as authors of the recently released book Vertical Marriage (Zondervan, 2019). Dave is a graduate of the International School of Theology, where he received a Master of Divinity degree. A Ball State University Hall of Fame quarterback, Dave served the Detroit Lions as chaplain for 33 years. Ann attended the University of Kentucky. She has been active alongside Dave in ministry as a speaker, writer, small-group leader, and mentor to countless wives of professional athletes. The Wilsons live in the Detroit area. They have three grown sons, CJ, Austin, and Cody, three daughters-in-law, and a growing number of grandchildren.

Do we truly connect with neighbors or just pass by? Chris and Elizabeth explore the power of genuine neighborly love, showing how it can make a difference.

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Making a Mark in Your Neighborhood: Chris & Elizabeth McKinney

With Chris and Elizabeth McKinney
May 07, 2024
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Chris: There are some people in the neighborhood that [think], “Why do we need to spend money on this, and why do we need to do all these things?” But I think as we’ve sought the common good, it’s built a lot of trust, and it’s built a lot of relationships. It’s not—we didn’t do that—to try to get those, but it’s just happened, and it’s been special and really neat.

Shelby: Welcome to FamilyLife Today, where we want to help you pursue the relationships that matter most. I’m Shelby Abbott, and your hosts are Dave and Ann Wilson. You can find us at

Ann: This is FamilyLife Today!

Dave: We’re talking about one of my favorite topics today.

Ann: What’s—this is your favorite topic?

Dave: It is definitely something—

Ann: —one of them—

Dave: —you know this—I get passionate about: “Make a dent where you’re sent.”

Ann: It’s true.

Dave: You know, [I’m] a preacher. It has to rhyme.

Ann: We’re calling it “neighboring.”

Dave: That’s the thing. When you think about making a dent where you’re sent, I think a lot of people think, “I need to go on a mission trip.” That’s often, right away, what goes through their head. That could happen, and God could call you to do that; and He does often. But we often don’t think, “Make a dent where you’re sent. Where am I sent?” because people ask me all the time: “We know where you’re sent. You’re a pastor; you’re a missionary. Where am I sent?”

You’re sent right where you are in your neighborhood. So, that’s why we’re talking about neighborhoods today.

Ann: Yes, our mission field is, many times, our neighborhood. I was convicted as we talked about this the last time. I know our guests don’t want us to feel convicted. They want to inspire us. So, we have Chris and Elizabeth McKinney back with us today.

You guys are great, and you are inspiring, because you are doing just what Dave said, you are impacting and loving your neighbors; the people around you. It’s not just they are a project to lead to Christ, because as believers we want to fulfill the Great Commission. But you’re there to love each other. You need them, and they need you.

Listen to the last episode if you didn’t. Where are we going today?

Dave: One of the things you do when you start the book—

Ann: —it’s called Neighborhoods Reimagined.

Dave: —yes, and I wrote down in the notes: “Somewhere along the way as a society, we culturally broke up with our neighbors.” That grabbed me because it’s true.

Chris: Yes.

Dave: How did we do that? What does that mean?

Chris: I don’t think it was intentional, and I don’t think we purposely, as a culture, set out to stop interacting with our neighbors. But if you look now, [and] if you were to ask anyone, “Hey, what does it mean to be a good neighbor?” in most neighborhoods across the country, I think most people would say, “Leave your neighbors alone; don’t get involved in their business. take your trash out when it’s supposed to go out; keep your lawn up, keep the noise down; [and keep] your barking dog inside.” But generally, that’s what it means to be a good neighbor.

We live in this culture as believers, and if we don’t realize it, we’ll just swim in those waters and [think], “I guess I’m being a good neighbor. I’m leaving my neighbors alone.” But what we see in the Beatitudes is Jesus inviting us to move out of our insulated and comfortable lives, out into people’s lives, out into the neighborhood. You can’t follow in the way of Jesus as outlined in the Beatitudes and stay inside, right?

Jesus didn’t. You see Him. He’s out there. That’s what the Beatitudes are calling us to do: get out there.

Dave: We started yesterday walking through the Beatitudes a little bit. By the way, when I picked up your book, I thought, “I’ve never seen somebody take the Beatitudes and apply them neighboring,”—

Chris: —yes.

Dave: —which makes perfect sense when I think, “Of course!” But you don’t read it that way. What you said is, it’s sort of like we want to be comfortable. I’ll read you the second Beatitude—because you have the false beatitude, which I love—“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.” [Matthew 5:4] The false Beatitude, which I love how you do this, is saying, “Here’s what Jesus said; [but] here’s what we think it means: “Blessed are those who numb out, for they will be comfortable.”

That’s sort of what we do in our neighborhoods. “I want to numb out. I don’t want to be uncomfortable.” Uncomfortable is walking over and talking to somebody I don’t know very well.

Chris: Yes.

Dave: Yet Jesus calls us to that, so walk us through what that would look like in your neighborhood.

Elizabeth: What we learned from the Beatitude that invites us into lives of mourning is that grief is really what happens on the inside of us when we’re sad and we’re sorrowful about something that’s happening. Mourning is what happens on the outside. It’s how we express it.

We see in the Old Testament [that] there’s really built into the people of God a beautifully structured culture of mourning. The Israelites know how to express on the outside what’s happening on the inside, whether it’s tearing their garments or shaving their heads at times or wearing sackcloth and ashes. They held up their picket signs and said, “No, this is not right that this is the way things are. I’m not okay with this.”

For us, as Westerners, a lot of times our grief is more quiet, and we don’t always know how to bring to the outside what’s happening on the inside. I think, as we see the brokenness of our neighborhoods—that we’re insulated and isolated, and we’re lonely, and we’re overscheduled, and we’re depressed. And we know that our neighbors are experiencing those things, because we’re experiencing those things.

When Jesus invites us into lives which mourn, we lament. We say, “I’m not okay with this; I’m not okay with the fact that there’s this brokenness in my neighborhood.”

Chris: Yes, and a really great way to do that is to pray a prayer of lament, to take a walk in your neighborhood and identify something that is not right. It could be as simple as, “We are all so independent and isolated. Nobody knows each other in this neighborhood.”

Then you identify something that’s true about God: “But God I know that You have created us for relationships, and You have the power to connect us. You could do that.” Then you ask Him to do that. You say, “God, would You please work in this neighborhood? Show me what You want me to do. Help me find some neighbors, and we can start gathering people so that people don’t feel so alone.”

That’s a structured prayer of lament that will help you mourn. The promise there is that you will receive comfort. Jesus will comfort you in that, and we don’t have to look for comfort in other things. We don’t have to numb out and not feel the weight of some of the sad things about our neighborhood. But Jesus can stir that within us.

You see Jesus doing this in His life as well. He mourned. He didn’t numb out; He didn’t isolate [Himself] from the hard things of this world. He was right there, and He let that out. He’s inviting us to follow in His footsteps.

Ann: Yes, I hadn’t really thought through that, especially in the Old Testament as they’re wearing sackcloth, they’re putting ashes on their heads, [and] they’re tearing their garments. Imagine if we saw someone do that in our neighborhood! What were their kids thinking? But they’re saying, “Oh, he’s mourning.” They’re showing us, and it’s okay, and even a necessary and good thing, to do.

I’m thinking, the other thing that you said—I thought, “Oh, man, what an easy way to start this whole idea of neighboring: walking and praying.”

Chris and Elizabeth: Yes.

Ann: I’m thinking I could walk my cul-de-sac, Dave—

Dave: —yes—

Ann: —ten times. But I do walk the neighborhood a lot. [I could] just start praying. We did that when we started our church, in our neighborhood at a high school. We started walking around the high school. We started walking around the football field; we put stakes in the ground, begging God that people would come to know Jesus, that the students at the school would come to know Jesus. I think there was a revival.

That prayer piece is essential as we start looking to our neighbors and loving them.

Elizabeth: Walking grounds you to the place you live. When you’re walking your cul-de-sac ten times, you’re saying, “This is my place. I live here. God, I want You to be at work.”

Dave: I’m sure—have you’ve found situations in your neighborhood where somebody is going through something hard, and you show up?

Chris: Oh, yes. As you build relationships with people, hard things are going to come up. If there is a level of relationship and trust, you sometimes are invited into that. What a sacred and incredible opportunity to walk alongside someone.

We had a neighbor who was going in for surgery. Elizabeth was talking to her and offered to drive her there and bring her back. Elizabeth said, “Could we bring you a meal?”

She said, “That would be incredible,” and no one had ever done that for her. She doesn’t really go to church a whole lot. The Meal Train—we’re used to that, right?

Ann: It’s part of life.

Chris: It’s part of it; but that was not something that she had experienced. It, again, reminded us of, “Man, these things that we take for granted in the church are things that we need to bring into our neighborhoods and see God use them to bless people and to reach out and serve.”

Ann: That’s really sweet.

Chris, as you were talking about the Beatitudes and what Jesus said and how this applies to neighboring, one of the things that you were saying [was that] you like when Jesus said, “Blessed are you who hunger and thirst after righteousness.” [Matthew 5:6, Paraphrased] Why does that connect with you?

Chris: That was one that, again, I just never really understood until I took a deeper look. Because what I thought on the surface was that Jesus was saying, “Blessed are you who hunger and thirst for the righteousness of God.”

Ann: Yes.

Chris: When you’re justified, you receive the righteousness of Christ. I thought, “Okay, I just don’t understand what that means.” But really, what I think Jesus is saying here is that it’s more of an Old Testament righteousness, which is more of putting things right. So, pushing back against the effects of the Fall in this broken world.

You think about—there weren’t a lot of kings that did this in Israel’s day—Hezekiah, [who] was described as a righteous king because he did all of these things. He followed God’s law. He set up storehouses of food and took care of the poor and the widowed.

Then I thought, “Oh, okay, so, Jesus is calling me to hunger and thirst like I would after a good meal or when I’m really thirsty to do good things in my neighborhood, to do good deeds.”

Elizabeth: —and be satisfied by them.

Chris: Because if you think about it, there are so many things that we turn to in our culture and in our lives to satisfy us, right?

Ann: Yes.

Chris: There’s success; there’s money; vacations. We all know they always leave us wanting.

But I think, even, that God has designed us, even our bodies, to experience dopamine when we do good things. God has hard-wired us to do good things. He wants to call us to do those good things even if they’re—we talk about removing the word “just” from your neighboring vocabulary. It’s not “just” a wave, “just” a smile, [or] “just” a little fish fry. Those are significant ways that you can hunger and thirst for righteousness. Jesus promises that now, in part, we’ll be satisfied; and one day, we’ll be fully satisfied by doing those things for the rest of eternity.

Ann: Everybody usually has a neighbor they don’t like, that’s just a hard neighbor, and—

Dave: Hopefully we’re not that neighbor. [Laughter]

Chris: If you don’t have one, it’s probably you!

Ann: But I think I’ve shared this before: there was one neighbor—she was draining. Every time, she was talking for an hour. I’ve got kids. I think I’ve shared this; this is so embarrassing. She’d come over all the time. But [when] I saw her come over, I would just drop to the floor—[Laughter]—

Chris: “Get down! Get down!”

Ann: —because there were some windows at the top, and so, I’d be lying on the floor. I’d be hiding, you guys! [Laughter]

Dave: See how good a neighbor we are.

Chris: I love it.

Ann: I’m so embarrassed to say that.

Chris: It’s okay.

Ann: What about if people feel like that? “I don’t want—they just bug me,” or “They drain me,” or “They’re just mean.”

Ann: You have four daughters. We had three boys. They were in the neighbor’s yard. We’re probably the annoying neighbor. What do you do when that happens?

Elizabeth: Years ago, I remember Jane, who was a mentor for me—she would say, “If your ‘yes’ is not of love, it’s out of compulsion.” I try to have my “yes” be out of love and not out of compulsion.

If I have my groceries, which I often do, and I have kids I need to get inside, I don’t feel like I have to, out of compulsion, engage in some long conversation. I can say, “Hey, I’ve got to get inside. Let’s touch base later.”

There’s that piece. I think when you were talking about neighbors that we don’t like—

Chris: —this is where we name names. [Laughter]

Elizabeth: —no! We changed all identifying details in the—we mention that. But in the last chapter, “Counting the Cost,” we really dive into the Beatitude that invites us into lives of flourishing through persecution. In that Beatitude, we were reminded—sometimes I forget when I read passages about having enemies—I think, “I don’t have enemies; there’s no one in our neighborhood that I really hate,” but at the same time, there are unseen enemies in our neighborhoods. There is spiritual activity that happens backstage and in the wings.

There’s a couple, in particular, that I think of who are a little adversarial. They’re hostile, in a sense. I think they know we’re believers. I try to remember that they’re not my enemy; they are not.

Ann: Yes.

Elizabeth: Also, I think of Paul, who was initially a persecutor, and then he became the persecuted when God changed his life. I think, “Okay, this neighbor, who’s kind of snotty and snippy, and they get going on the Facebook page, and they think they’re a hot shot—that person, God could get a hold of their life just like He got a hold of my life.”

I don’t know the full story there, so that helps me remember: “I don’t want to fly under the radar. I don’t want to hide my faith, but I can love them. I can pray for them.” Jesus said, “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” [Matthew 5:44]

Ann: “Do good to those—"

Chris: —right.

Ann: “—who persecute you.”

Elizabeth: It might not be this persecution. We talk about [how] our lives do need to be informed by the persecution that some of our brothers and sisters face around the world. But it could also be a marginalization. Even our kids trying to live out their faith in middle school; there is some marginalization when you stand up for your faith or speak out about Christ. That’s real.

Chris: I think Jesus makes it clear, too, we’re persecuted or marginalized not because we’re jerks or because of our politics or because of our strong opinions. It’s because of Him; it’s because of righteousness. If we’re experiencing marginalization, and it’s not because we’re talking about our faith, then it’s probably not persecution in the sense that Jesus is talking about. I think that’s also an important thing to remember.

Dave: Have you guys experienced some of that? I’m guessing, in your neighborhood, you’re known as—I don’t know—you tell me.

Elizabeth: —the party people.

Chris: —the party people. [Laughter]

Dave: Is that what it is?

Elizabeth: Yes.

Dave: You’ve developed a reputation, which is awesome.

Ann: That is awesome.

Dave: Yes.

Elizabeth: It looks different for everyone.

Chris: Yes.

Dave: So, they know you’re the party people with a purpose?

Chris: Yes.

Elizabeth: Right.

Dave: Place and purpose. Does that ever become—

Ann: —that could be your next book, Party People with a Purpose. [Laughter]

Chris:Party with a Purpose.

Elizabeth: That’s so many P’s.

Chris: That’s so many P’s. [Laughter]

Elizabeth: I’ve learned I love—

Ann: Dave likes that. He’s a pastor.

Dave: That works: Party with a Purpose. If you don’t write it, we will. [Laughter] Is there any negative to that? Are there people that say, “Yes, they’re that couple.”

Chris: There are some people in the neighborhood that wish, “Why do we need to spend money on this?” and “Why do we need to do all these things?” But I think, generally, overall, people appreciate the work we do to try to help. We’re not doing it all on our own; we are inviting the whole neighborhood to participate in pulling off these events and doing things. 

I think, as we’ve sought the common good, it’s built a lot of trust, and it’s built a lot of relationships. It’s not—we didn’t do that—to try to get those, but it’s just happened, and it’s been really special and really neat.

Elizabeth: One of my favorite events that we ever did was an Arbor Day party, which Chris initially told me I would have as much luck getting people to my Arbor Day party—

Ann: —I was going to say, “What?”

Elizabeth: Yes, yes. He said, “This is like inviting people to an encyclopedia party. You know that, right?” [Laughter]

I said, “No, I love trees.” We had moved into a neighborhood (our neighborhood that we still live in) that was new, and it was treeless.

Ann: Oh, yes.

Elizabeth: We had three spindly little sticks. He would call me a pacing lioness. I would just march through our little living room thinking, “How can I get trees?” So, I set out to have an Arbor Day party, and we partnered with the Missouri Department of Conservation. You can order trees in bundles for pennies.

Ann: What?

Elizabeth: We had neighbors—

Chris: —little bare-rooted saplings, little guys.

Elizabeth: We planted, as a neighborhood, 345 trees in our neighborhood.

Ann: Come on!

Elizabeth: We had tree bingo and tree plantings—

Chris: —donuts and coffee.

Elizabeth: Yes. Oh, yes—all the Earth Day references; but it was super fun. So, I think our neighbors could see: “Wow! They care about some of the same things we care about.”

Ann: “They care about the planet.”

Elizabeth: “They care about trees.”

Ann: Yes.

Elizabeth: “They care about our neighborhood in a sense of even increasing our property values.” One of the reasons why we were able to plan so many block parties was because our homeowner’s association, the former president had lived in a neighborhood where they had seen their property values go way up when they started having some of these social events.

Ann: Awesome.

Elizabeth: It was important for our neighbors to see that we care about things that [are] not just what we would consider spiritual.

Ann: Okay; so, what’s your application, Dave?

Dave: My first thought was “be inconvenienced.” What I mean by that is, often, to love my neighbor—and literally, in our cul-de-sac or down the street—it’s usually inconvenient.

Chris: Yes.

Dave: It isn’t something that’s natural. It could be natural. I walk out to the mailbox; they’re there. What do I normally do? Go back to the garage and go into the house.

Ann: You’re embracing the inconvenience.

Dave: Yes, to walk across, for us, a couple of steps and say, “Hey, Dean. What’s happening?” The other day—I’ve shared this—last summer, I was mowing the yard and Dean was standing out there. We’d had him and Nancy in a Bible study and that interest sort of waned. It had been a decade. He’s standing watching me mow. Everything in me [was saying], “I should turn off the mower and talk to Dean. He’s looking at me.”

But I thought, “I’ve got to get this done. I want to get it done by this time.” I was coming back to him, and he started to walk away. I turned off the mower. I said, “Hey, Dean. What’s up?” and we had this spiritual conversation. He had real interest around something he’d seen on TV about religion. He knows I’m a “pastor guy.”

Chris: Sure.

Ann: And before, he wasn’t interested.

Dave: Yes, anyway, it was inconvenient. It took me 15 more minutes to do the yard than it would have if I hadn’t talked to Dean; but it started something, because then a week later, he met me at the mailbox and said, “I don’t have a Bible. Could you get me a Bible?”

Chris: That’s so cool.

Dave: “The Bible I have, I can’t understand. Are there ways you can read it that are better?” I thought, “He is on a real journey,” but there was still part of me that was thinking, “This is what God has called us to do—"

Ann: “—this is our ministry.” 

Dave: “—love our neighbor.” For me, it’s “do the inconvenient thing.”

Ann: I like that.

Dave: “Take the time and love your neighbor.” What about you?

Ann: I want to have our new neighbors over. We travel a lot, so we’re not always home. But they’re a young couple; they’re from China; they haven’t lived here long; and they have a one-year-old. So, I’d love to have them over. We’ve taken them food, but I feel like we’re always so busy. I want to do that.

Dave: I would say this: McKinneys, you guys inspire us.

Ann: You do.

Dave: Not just us, but our listeners. I would say this to our listeners; they’re probably thinking, “I want to be the party with a purpose people.” [Laughter] “But I’m not sure.”

Elizabeth: “—just the meek people.”

Dave: A lot of times we don’t know—I’m kidding about being party people—but you guys have created a—it’s almost like an adventure to live in your neighborhood. “Don’t just live there. How could you really love your neighbors?” And your book is going to help people.

Here’s what we’re going to do: if you become a monthly partner, which means, “I’m going to jump in and support FamilyLife monthly,” we’re going to send you this book. And you’ll be, within six months, the party people in your neighborhood. [Laughter]

I’m kidding; but you’ll get a vision. Here’s what this book does in my opinion —you guys wrote it, so hopefully this is what you were hoping: it gives you a vision, but it also gives you a strategy.

Ann: Yes.

Dave: It isn’t just big picture: “God wants you to love your neighbor.” It’s saying, “How? Here are some easy, yet creative ways, to do that.” Man, you give monthly—by the way, if you do it this month, it’s doubled, your monthly gift.

Ann: —for the entire year, it will be doubled.

Dave: That’s amazing! And you get this book. I hope you start sending us emails and stories about how God is using you to light up your neighborhood for Jesus.

Ann: Thanks, you guys, for all you’re doing.

Elizabeth: Thank you, guys.

Chris: Thank you.

Ann: “Party with a purpose.” [Laughter]

Shelby: I’m Shelby Abbott, and you’ve been listening to Dave and Ann Wilson with Chis and Elizabeth McKinney on FamilyLife Today.

Yes, just as Dave and Ann were talking about, if you give right now and become a monthly partner, every dollar that you give will actually be doubled for a year. That’s incredible. In addition to getting a copy of Neighborhoods Reimagined by the McKinneys, we also wanted you to know that, when you become a monthly partner, you actually get to be part of a community that’s pretty rare. You get to enter into conversations with us here at FamilyLife, including having access to a live Facebook event with the Wilsons and me on June 5th at 7:00 p.m. for anyone who is a monthly partner.

If you want to know more details about that and all about how you can give, you can find all the information that you need in the show notes at If you want to engage more and hear, from the McKinneys, a little bit more about what it looks like to be placed for a purpose in your neighborhood, they have a podcast called Placed for a Purpose. If you want to hear more from them, you can check out the podcast anywhere you do get your podcasts; or there’s going to be a link to their podcast specifically in the show notes.

Again, you can go online to to become a monthly partner. When you do, we’re going to send you a copy of Neighborhoods Reimaged by Chris and Elizabeth McKinney.

You can give online at our website by going to the “Donate Now” button at the top of the page. Click on that, and it will walk you through how to start that up. Or you can give us a call at 800-358-6329; again, that number is 800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.”

When you’re a mom, there are a ton of different challenges as you are raising your kids. Sometimes, there can be a lot of despair in that process of being a mom. Coming up tomorrow, how can you find hope, community, and grace if you’re a mom? Emily Jenson and Laura Wifler are going to be here with the Wilsons to talk about just that. We hope you will join us.

On behalf of Dave and Ann Wilson, I’m Shelby Abbott. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.

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