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San Diego examines ways, results of loving your neighbor

Rey Baviera, Mike Sipe, and France Alcantara (wearing the ball cap) discuss ways to love their neighbors "without sounding weird" after a presentation by Amy Lively, author of a book by the same name, at the Love Your Neighbor Summit in San Diego.

SAN DIEGO (BP) – When the San Diego Southern Baptist Association organized and hosted a two-day Love Your Neighbor Summit Oct. 6-7 at Shadow Mountain Community Church in the El Cajon suburb, about 200 pastors and leaders from several denominations and parachurch groups came to check out the concept.

Love Your Neighbor is one of many options provided by the linking organization All.America as ways for evangelicals to come together to reach every person for Christ who lives in the United States. The end goal: completion of the Great Commission Jesus gave the Body of Christ in Matthew 28:19-20

San Diego was the site of the first in a series of All.America events to be held throughout California.

“Neighboring and loving your neighbor was the core,” Michael Duhs (pronounced “Dooze”) told Baptist Press. On staff with Campus Crusade (now Cru) for 25 years, it was Duhs who brought All.America to the attention of Mike Carlisle, the director of missions for the San Diego Southern Baptist Association (SDSBA).

“Love Your Neighbor was a time that was needed to meet each other so we can work together to reach our communities and cities for Christ,” Duhs continued. “We had a great response from all our regions in San Diego, and San Diego is one of nine zones in California.”

The Bay Area, Orange County and Baja California (a Mexican state just south of San Diego) also are working together this month in All.America-related events, said Duhs, who is the state coordinator for the linking organization. San Diego was first. The thrust on California was because All.America leaders saw that what happens in California trends east across the nation.

Workshops on “The art of neighboring,” “How to love your neighbor without being weird,” “Loving your community” and “Adopting neighborhoods” were only part of the jam-packed agenda in San Diego that also included space for getting to know other evangelicals and much more.

“I am going to look more observant to make friends,” said Michael Sipe, a member at Old Town Community Church in San Diego. “I’m already pretty active in that. This [summit] is an encouragement to do more, to do the small things.

“I’m going to look for more opportunities to be friendly, to get out and make friendships and relationships, and not just with other Christians,” Sipe continued. “You never know where they’re going to go. God put you there, with that person, for a reason. See that, and respond.”

Sipe gave another reason he was glad to be at the Love Your Neighbor Summit: “I met good people, and that in itself was an encouragement.”

Southern Baptist church planter France Alcantara, of Cross and Crown church in the Linda Vista neighborhood, said he attended the Summit to see what was happening elsewhere in San Diego.

“As churches of all sizes are restoring to full ministry capacity, this conference was an empowering reminder of what we’re commanded to do by Jesus Himself: love your neighbor,” Alcantara told Baptist Press. “If we are to help reverse the trend during the pandemic of disconnected relationships with non-believers as well as our own wandering sheep, we must go back to the beginning of meeting them where they are and ministering to them with the love of Christ.

“The high point for me were the conversations that occurred after both days’ program,” the church planter continued. “From these conversations, I was able to make connections for future collaborations, start a new Bible study, and have quality conversations that normally wouldn’t occur when everyone is busy at their own churches.”

SDSBA DOM Mike Carlisle has long been at the forefront of evangelistic emphases. By 1972 he was minister of evangelism at Capistrano (California) Baptist Church. He served as vice president of communications and technology at the North American Mission Board until 2007, when he moved to San Diego to spearhead NAMB’s strategic focus city initiative called Vision San Diego.

With a doctorate in church growth and transformational leadership, he became one of the leaders of the non-profit All San Diego, and in 2012 was called as SDSBA’s DOM.

His heart’s desire, and that of his wife of 59 years, Judy, is “to see churches work in cooperation and truly be ‘the church,’” Carlisle said.

“The high point here [with the Love Your Neighbor Summit] would be a vision to bring the church together,” Carlisle told Baptist Press. “From God’s point of view, why can’t we work together to accomplish the same goal? Why can’t we work together for the greatest good? 

“We see the church as the congregation. God sees the church as His body. If I could do it again, I’d try to be more unified with my peers across denominational lines.”

Last year, Carlisle led the association to group its 195 churches in six regions for closer fellowship and targeted ministries. Duhs had the exact same regions in mind when he came earlier this year to talk with Carlisle about All.America.

“With his being the same, we said, ‘This is bigger than us. Let’s join God where He’s already at work,’” Carlisle said. 

The Love Your Neighbor Summit offered a way to draw all Great Commission Christians together, to forge bonds resulting in joint outreaches, shared excitement and a greater-than-ever focus on individual members of the Body of Christ loving God, loving their neighbors, and doing their part in obeying Jesus’ command of Matthew 28:19-20 to go, make disciples who likewise would go and make disciples, the DOM said.

“It’s going to take all of us,” Carlisle said. “All of us working together.”