Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Baby Steps into Mission: Presence, Part One

Today we're back with our baby steps into mission! Here's where we are at:

1. We know that our key question is: Who is God sending me to?
2.  We've identified the places where we have (or could have) proximity and the relationships we have in those places. (Remember, proximity means that others have the ability to access you and vice versa).
3. We've considered if there are other places that God has placed on our hearts, and if we could gain the necessary proximity hours there.

From this point the fun can begin! Here's how we start on mission:
1. Choose a place to engage (your mission context) based on our discernment process. Remember, it's okay to not be 100% certain... we have to be willing to do some trial and error.
2. If we don't have the proximity hours in that place, make that happen (our goal is 7-10).
3.We begin using our proximity to become a presence.

From Proximity to Presence
Proximity- important as it is- isn't enough. It's necessary for mission, but not sufficient. We can spend time in almost any place and remain relatively anonymous if we choose. Our next baby step therefore is to become a presence in our mission context, meaning, that we are known and trusted by the people we have proximity with. To be a presence is not necessarily to be an insider, but it is to be a known entity. If you have presence in a place then you are part of the social fabric there, and it is socially acceptable for people to begin sharing their lives with you: what's going on with them, what they hope for and what they're anxious about. To have presence means you have earned a community's trust and you can freely and naturally engage with them.

I cannot overstate the significance of this step; almost all mission and ministry depends on trust. And while this may seem obvious, it is rarely done well, because it requires time, intentionality and patience, and we generally value speed, efficiency and quantifiable success (more on this to come). Furthermore, this step never goes away! Even when we have moved on to other missional tasks and steps we must always be building or maintaining our presence in our mission context.

How does one build trust? Fortunately for us, if we're being diligent with our proximity then we're ahead of the game, as familiarity is step one. Think about it, if you see a neighbor walking, mowing the lawn, getting the mail, and simply doing the regular tasks of life in plain sight you begin to trust them. We are disarmed by people who we can observe behaving in regular, non-threatening patterns. For example, if you decide that God is sending you to your neighbors, you can start by intentionally letting yourself be seen doing the regular activities of life. Take a walk after people come home from work. Mow the lawn when you know neighbors will be outside. Play with your kids in the front yard, instead of the back yard. You might think of this step as "becoming visible."

After "visibility" our next step is "availability." Be available for introductions and conversations as you go about those daily tasks. Put yourself into the social spaces in your mission context where it's appropriate to talk with those who you don't know (for example, the break room at work, a neighborhood pool or park, a pick-up game, a bar, etc.) and be ready to share who you are. Your goal at this point is just to make acquaintances without being over-bearing. Remember, this takes time. We can't rush building relationships. Most of us have experienced Christians who rush this and are avoided by ourselves and others because they are unwilling to allow relationships to develop at their natural, slow pace.

All that I've said thus far might seem painfully basic and obvious to you. If so, great! The truth is though that many of us do not have presence in any of the spaces we primarily inhabit (i.e. the places we have proximity): we're unknown to our neighbors, to most of our coworkers, and to the people we shop next to, workout next to, and do the basics of life next to. This is because we're on our phones, we have headphones on, we rush from from place to place, and we only make space in our lives for people who we have already established common ground with: people at our church, in our hobby groups, or families. And it's also because our entertainment (hello Netflix) isolates us from our neighbors, rather than drawing us together.

So with all that said I'm going to stop here. There's more to come on becoming a presence in our mission context, but first things first. Your job at this point is simply to start meeting people. Establish some routines that make you visible and available to the people in the place you're sent to. Take off the headphones at the gym. Make that neighborhood walk regular. Stop rushing around as you do chores and run errands. Again, as simple as this sounds I believe it's quite hard. We're so used to rushing that it's tough to move slow and lose some of our "productivity." And (admit it!) we're comfortable being unknown and detached from our surrounding. We're tired and being anonymous means saving lots of energy. And some of us are introverts (like me!), and getting to know people is scary and exhausting. I understand that struggle... but God is sending us! So let's start praying, and put ourselves out there! Next time we'll pick up with some what-ifs, next steps and common rebuttals. 

The truth hurts.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Baby Steps into Mission: Presence, Part 2

Faithful readers, I apologize for the long delay in getting this blog up. Between summer vacation, official cross country practices starting...