D. L. Mayfield has spent the past three years living among Minneapolis’s poor and immigrant communities as part of the missionary order InnerCHANGE. Here, Mayfield—also the author of CT’s 2014 cover story “Why I Gave Up Alcohol”—recommends 5 books for becoming a better neighbor.

The Voice of Witness series

Being a good neighbor starts and ends with listening—especially to voices we tend to ignore. The Voice of Witness series, created by a nonprofit of the same name, contains oral histories collected to “amplify unheard voices”—among them refugees, residents of low-income high-rises in Chicago, Palestinians, and female prison inmates. The power of first-person narratives is astonishing, and oral histories are at the forefront of cultivating compassion.

Disunity in Christ, by Christena Cleveland

Cleveland is a smart, funny social scientist who speaks to the church’s fundamental problems with listening. Pointing out how segregated we have become (ethnically, to be sure, but also theologically and culturally), she remarks on how puzzling it is that people committed to unity have such a hard time actually uniting. A key, for Cleveland, is acknowledging that bias feels good, and actively trying to overcome it. She also tackles our cultural idolatry of individualism and points out that, whether in churches or neighborhoods, homogeneity is never harmless.

Speaking of Jesus, by Carl Medearis

Too often, evangelism feels like an exercise in guilt, fear, and trying to convince others to join our “team.” Instead of “selling” others on Christianity, Medearis asks us to simply point to Jesus—who he was, what he did—and watch people be transformed. This book was truly liberating. It made me want to soak in the Gospels, then go out and share what I was learning with my neighbors—a witness to the Good News in my life, without all the pressure that can come with witnessing.

The New Parish, by Paul Sparks, Tim Soerens, and Dwight J. Friesen

We are accustomed, as the authors here argue, to “living above place”: leading individualized lives within a fragmented, globalized economy. Real gospel transformation has to start in our neighborhoods, as people root themselves—their spirits, emotions, and bodies—in a particular place. The New Parish shows how believers can come together, both within the church and beyond, for the good of their communities. If you aren’t jazzed about what God is doing in your neighborhood after reading this book, it might be time to move.

More-with-Less Cookbook

Shane Claiborne famously called More-with-Less a “cookbook for life.” The recipes, culled from Mennonites around the world, are framed by global poverty and our call, as Christians, to celebrate and nurture one another. This book changed how I shop, eat, and grapple with food insecurity in my own neighborhood and around the world. It challenges us to live joyfully within or even beneath our means. What if we ate with all our neighbors in mind? It might be a sweeter world indeed.

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