Work Within Existing Social Networks
Yes, fellow harvesters, we will reap in the field to which God has led us, as Naomi told Ruth to do; we will not let Satan dilute our focus by making us jump from one social venue to another. [To avoid saying that Satan does the jumping.]
Yes, Lord, we will let the Gospel flow freely among friends and relatives of new believers, as Your apostles did. Grant us power and courage to serve where we are not in control, so that seekers can meet Jesus in their homes and with close friends.
Networking was the apostles’ normal method. Peter and his helpers from Joppa told gentiles about Christ in Cornelius’ house, and the entire group responded (Acts 10). That meeting was an exclusive one; no one invited the public [the public was not invited] . All present were intimate friends and relatives of Cornelius. Research shows conclusively that movements for Christ flow within social networks. The only time to separate a new believer from a friend is when that friend is providing destructive drugs, leading the believer into crime, etc.
Few workers learn to forsake keeping control, so pray for God’s help to do so. To penetrate a social network, an outsider stays under the authority of a local person of peace. For example, Peter and his Jewish friends could do only what their host, Cornelius, authorized them to do. They even had to eat non-kosher (forbidden) food, for which believers in Jerusalem scolded them, until Peter explained that God, through their visit, granted “repentance to the gentiles” (Acts 11). The Holy Spirit works more powerfully when seekers themselves remain in control, such as when a jailer took Paul and Silas into his home where his household believed and received baptism. Lydia also invited the apostles into her home where her family received Jesus.
Resources For While You …
Trash taboos. Act out Peter’s adventure when God forced him and his Jewish coworkers to break the race barrier, by staying in a non-Jew’s home and eating non-kosher (unclean) food Scripted to act out:
Respect social ties. Invite folk into a seekers’ group only if they fit in socially. Cornelius, Levi and Zacheus gathered their friends who were not the type of folk that the Jewish social elite would have invited into their homes.
Seek peaceful folk. Jesus said, “If a child of peace is there, your peace will rest on him; but if not, it will return to you. Stay in that house, eating and drinking what they give you… Do not move from house to house.” Luke 10:6-7. Examine how to work within a social network:
Common Traps To Avoid
Resist cultural reality.
If we love others, we will respect their culture and avoid griping (suggest ‘complaining’ instead) about it. Complainers compel disciples to heed petty rules that violate culture. “Be all things to all people” as Paul was.
Jerk (suggest removing) converts from their circle of friends.
Extraction kills a movement. Westerners with a worldview that considers people to be isolated individuals unwittingly build barriers between new believers and their family and friends. Let us see a new believer as God does, as part of a social circle.
Pull inquirers and new believers into a group where they do not fit socially.
It would be better to start a new cell within a new believer’s social circle, helping them to up keep loving relationships with their friends who have similar social and cultural practices.
Fail to deal with a seeker’s family, at once.
The only thing the apostles did before baptizing a repentant believer was go to the family. “Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved, and your family.” (Acts 16:31).
Bring all seekers into an existing group.
If a new believer is a potential leader, then build a new cell or church around that person. Help converted heads of families start shepherding their own families at once.
Shove (suggest ‘push’) camels through a needle’s eye.
Jesus warned that it is harder for an affluent person to enter His kingdom than for a camel to fit through a needle’s eye; He qualified this by saying that “all things are possible with God,” recognizing that God lets a few camels squeeze through. These occasionally become strong leaders of a movement among a poor population.
Hesitate to “shake the dust.”
New church planters, unsure of their ability, often disobey our Lord’s order to leave people who reject Him, because they want to prove their capability. First, discern what it is that folk reject. If it is your way of communicating or worshipping, then the remedy is simple: adapt. Most who shake off the dust need not change their residence, but go to poorer folk.