Episode 1: The Vision For Every Neighborhood

Founder, Chris Cooper, of blesseveryhome.com shares how he caught the vision for adopting every neighborhood in the U.S. and the events leading up to the creation of his site. Chris reveals where the idea for prayer, care and share came from. He invites you to join a growing movement of neighboring.

Episode Transcript

Gary Kendall
[00:00:13] Hello my name is Gary Kendall. I direct Love KC (lovekc.net) in Kansas City. This is the first podcast of the Bless Every Home podcast series. Today we have the great privilege of welcoming Chris Cooper, the founder of Bless Every Home, as our guest. In just a moment you’ll be hearing from Chris. He’ll talk about his vision and some of the plans. And you’ll also get to hear the back-story of blesseveryhome.com.

[00:00:42] As we begin I just want to thank you for joining of being a part of this listening audience. It’s something we get to do together. So as we talk today we imagine you, out in your neighborhood, sharing with your neighbors, being a friend, and letting God use you. You’re on our minds as we talk today.

The long-term vision we have for this podcast is to help you be able to find God’s grace and His ease in being among the people, the people in your sphere of influence—we hope it is just as natural as breathing–for you to be someone sharing God’s love. And as you do that, people become familiar with God and His love for them. We hope they eventually accept it and then share that with others. So our hope is that you become a follower of Jesus who leads others to follow Jesus, you become a disciple who makes disciples, and eventually the whole world would know of his love. So that’s the overall goal. I’m so glad that we can do it together.

I want you to meet Chris Cooper. Chris, tell us a little bit about Bless Every Home and maybe your vision, first of all, but then swing back to the back-story. I think the listeners would be interested to know, how did this all get started in your mind? Then bring us back up to today.

Chris Cooper
[00:01:55] Well thank you Gary. I am honored and delighted to be here with you and I appreciate our partnership in the gospel. Actually, the vision for bless every home started 22 years ago in Kansas City when my wife Karen and I were invited to head up the Jesus video distribution in Kansas City. So the idea was, we wanted to have a clear presentation of the Gospel distributed to every person who lives in the Kansas City area. One of the pastors in the area shared with us, you know the way my people would do this is they would probably pick out about four homes around them who are probably far from God and maybe unchurched, and they would start to live a pray care share a lifestyle. They’d pray for them. They’d try to intentionally build relationship, make sure they know their names because the typical American cannot tell you the names of their four closest neighbors, and then minister to them a little bit. At Christmas time we would gift wrap the Jesus VHS tape. That was a lifetime ago. That was 22 years ago.

[00:03:04] Some of our listeners won’t know what that (a VHS) is.

[00:03:07] That’s right. It’s one of those big kind of boxy looking things. So what they would do is, at Christmas time they would gift wrap the Jesus film VHS tape, put it with a plate of cookies, and a personal note that says something like, “Fun to be your neighbor. Hope you enjoy this as much as we have.” Then, as a natural follow up, when they saw them in the yard, they’d be able to ask them, “Hey did you have a chance to watch it? What did you think? Have you ever prayed that prayer at the end?” So when I heard that I thought, wow this is a stealth military maneuver. We started asking some other believers, “Hey what do you think about this idea?” Everybody wanted to do it.

In our neighborhood, we ended up offering three desserts, where we brought believers together, we ended up having 17 different believer households from 13 different churches that adopted 70 other neighbor homes that were probably unchurched and far from God.

During the year 1996, that’s when we carried out that lifestyle, but we also replicated it in neighborhoods all through Kansas City. We ended up with 10,000 believer households who adopted 40,000 probable unchurched neighbor homes with the pray, care, and share lifestyle with natural follow up. The way it started was very complicated to track. So we built a system to facilitate that. That’s really the foundation of what we do now, which is called blesseveryhome.com. That’s where it came from.

The idea is based on scripture. In Ephesians 3:10, God said, “Now the purpose of the church is to declare the manifold wisdom of God, that Jesus Christ is the sovereign ruler of all of Heaven and Earth, to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms according to his eternal purpose.” When you hear that, you think, I better pay attention. That’s God’s eternal purpose, that through Christ and faith in Him, so we could all come before His throne of grace with freedom and confidence.

Our vision is that every home in America would be adopted by one or more lights for Christ who live the pray, care, and share lifestyle. We want them to be networked within every neighborhood as Gideon’s armies.

[00:05:57] That’s fantastic! What a neat story that it kind of came out of a real life — you didn’t sit around and dream this up. You actually were in that neighborhood working with your friends and neighbors and these things kind of came, one built on the other, until finally you said, “We need to take this to the nation, not just this little neighborhood of Kansas City.”

[00:06:17] Yes. We were delighted to start that. After we did this in 1996, I was invited to go to India and to see everything that was going on in India with the Jesus film project, which was magnificent. That was the first time I’d been in a third world country, I was so excited to go. I prayed, God open my spiritual eyes, whatever you want to show me. I got back from India just totally overwhelmed.

We were invited to go and then launch this national ministry (with the Jesus film). On the same day that the Lord provided all of this funding to us to get started, I got on an airplane in Atlanta to fly back to Kansas City. I sat next to a couple on the airplane and they wanted to know what I did. So I said, “Well, I work with the Jesus film project,” and they looked at each other with kind of a strange look. I said, “Well work with the Jesus film project.” They said, “Why do you do what you do?” I was so tired, so I just thought, I’m going to get right to the point. I said, “You know back in 1979, my two brothers and I were under what I consider a spiritual attack of suicidal depression. All three of us going to a psychiatrist, contemplating suicide, and I said by the Lord’s infinite mercy, He revealed Himself to me and I invited Him in my heart. He’s marvelously transformed my life.

Since then both of my brothers have committed suicide. So I have a sense of urgency to tell people about the hope that’s in a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. That’s when I found out they were on the plane taking the body of their son who had just committed suicide. Two days later I got a call from one of their friends that had been here in Kansas at the memorial service, and he said, “Are you the angel was on the airplane?” I said, “I guarantee you I am no angel. But I also guarantee you the Holy Spirit teed up that divine appointment.” So that’s what Bless Every Home is about. We live with all these people we don’t know, with all of our neighbors, and we don’t know what they’re going through, but what God wants us to do is pray for them — to live pray, care, and share lifestyles. I love the way the Apostle Paul teaches us how to pray for our neighbors.

[00:08:55] In Ephesians 3:16-19, he says, “Righteous Father, out of your glorious riches, would you strengthen them with power through your Spirit in their inner beings in order that Christ would dwell in their hearts through faith.” That’s a heart transplant. We’re praying for our neighbors to have heart transplants. He goes on and he says, “And they being rooted in established in love would have power together with all this Saints to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ and know this love that surpasses all understanding, that they would be filled to the measure with the fullness of God.” That is the vision! What we’re encouraging believers to do is to become lights for Christ. Jesus said, “I am the light of the world. Anyone who follows me will never walk in darkness, but in the light of life.” Then he said, “You are “lights,” I have placed you to be lights.”

[00:10:04] So He strategically placed us in our neighborhoods to be lights for our neighbors in order that our neighbors might become vibrant, reproducing, disciples of Jesus Christ.

[00:10:18] You know, 20 years ago, that’s when I met you, and you were talking about being a lighthouse in your neighborhood. That’s where I first heard of the pray, care, and share lifestyle. My wife and I signed up to be lighthouses of prayer and we began to share with our neighbors, just in a very conversational, everyday kind of way. We really just trusted God to open doors and He did. So multiple neighbors have made decisions to choose Christ. I believe others are on the way, but I’m so thankful that I ran into you in those days. What a fun time it is to reconnect with you as I get to direct Love KC and lead people across Kansas City to become lights–and into this prayer, care, share lifestyle. We get to kind of reconnect here. I’m so grateful that you said, yes, in those days. You stepped out of your comfort zone and let God use you.

[00:11:15] Well, it was a great blessing for us. We are excited. This new version of how to equip believers to be lights to their neighbors is actually an internet website. If you go to blesseveryhome.com, there is a totally free service that you can sign up for. When you just put your name and your address and make a password for yourself, it gives you your 40 closest neighbor homes. (watch for the confirmation email within 5 minutes. If you don’t see it check your Spam or Junk mail).

You get a map of your neighborhood and you get a list of your neighbors. You get colored markers, and then reminders. So it will send you e-mail every day or how often you want them, with your next five neighbor homes to pray for by name. Then you can color code each home about where you are in the pray, care, and share journey with each neighbor home. Let’s say for example, you don’t know somebody, but you have prayed for them, so you color-code them red. If you know them, have a personal relationship, and you’re in a caring relationship, you color code them gold for you “care.” If you share the gospel with them in some way, then you mark them green for “share.” If they become a disciple you mark them blue. So you can have your mission field map of your neighborhood and actually track where you are with each neighbor home. So you can pray from the map.

[00:12:57] You can click on street view and you can pray from the map. We encourage people to, especially in the first 21 days anyway, when they get their daily five e-mail, go pray from the map and then physically go walk in front of those homes and pray for them by name. You don’t have to kneel down on their lawn, just walk by, pray for them by name—so you know who you’re praying for. Ask God to give you a divine appointments to meet those people and build relationship. Then, one of the things that that blesseveryhome.com has recently been able to do is, we give you free sharing tools. Again, it’s totally free, but you can order a carton of 100 Jesus film DVDs, in eight different languages, that you can share just like the story I told you, we use the Jesus VHS tape. They’re totally free, they pay shipping and everything.

Or you can go and order these wonderful engagers from Every Home for Christ. These are world-class tracks. They’ll ship those to you free. No cost whatsoever. So we’re providing the sharing tools that are just first class at no cost. So we’re just really excited. Now we have almost 10,000 lights around the United States. You have 1,200 right here in Kansas City. We have almost 500,000 adopted households. If you don’t eliminate the duplicates there are half a million adopted households. Because you can have multiple lights praying for one house, we have 650,000 total households that are being prayed for. We are at 1,100,000 registered prayers. You can see the counter going if you go to blesseveryhome.com. You see the counter rolling as people are registering the prayers that they just posted.

[00:15:26] Chris, my favorite number in all of those numbers is number one because it starts with one. It starts with Jesus. We find real life in Him. He is the one who brings that change in us. The regeneration plants the heart of Jesus inside of our heart. That’s where it all starts, with one. So as our listeners are listening to these large numbers, it’s fantastic to hear that the large numbers, but the cool number is one. Because we want every one of them, all of those listening, to allow Jesus to let them be the one in their neighborhood who will pray care, and share or however you do it. It’s basically loving God and loving your neighbor. The other the other things like the Internet are tools, but if it isn’t happening inside of us, that there’s a regular relationship with God that’s real and vital, we don’t have anything to give away. But when that is happening, we’ve got to give it away! We hope that we’ll be so full of God’s love that anyone who bumps up against us, God’s love just spills over on them. So in our neighborhood, we’re just naturally sharing who Jesus is to us. It can look like a lot of different things.

[00:16:39] Actually, if you’re having a little trouble with your relationship, start praying for your neighbors. I mean look at Job. Job started praying for his neighbors, and then look what happened. We are we are so excited to see people responding and coming in and signing up to be lights for their neighbors. Stephen Kendrick, who did the movie, War Room, and all these other wonderful movies, is a partner of ours. He helped make some of our videos and so on, and he says that America desperately needs revival. Revival, historically, has always been preceded by unified prayer, so this is a really important part. We’re excited the Lord is allowing us to be part of this, and I’m so excited to partner with you, Gary

[00:17:41] Well thank you, Chris. We want to thank you guys for tuning in. Our plan is to continue to share podcasts with you where regularly we’re giving you ideas, best practices, we’re sharing our heart and you get to meet some of the people who are doing the same things that you’re doing. You’ll hear lots of stories and interviews. Our hope is that, over time, you’ll be comfortable in your own skin talking about Jesus to people, living the life of Jesus in front of others, and inviting them into that very same thing. Because our hope is that this good news of Jesus goes throughout your neighborhood, throughout our city, and even our nation and the world.

This happens with the number one. It happens with you being involved and getting started. Our hope is really to be a resource that comes up underneath you and helps you fulfill the God given desire you probably already have. I mean if you signed up for blesseveryhome, you have this desire, and we just want to see you be fruitful and succeed.

Next week we will be talking next week with Brian Johnson from WestSide Family Church, in Lenexa Kansas.

He’s the director of Neighborhood Impact. Brian and some of his partners have come up with something called the BLESS rhythms. It works with the acrostic bless, B.L.E.S.S, but I won’t spoil that by telling you what they stand for today. I want you to listen to the next podcast where Brian kind of unpacks those. So tune in next week, and we’ll do this again!