Today we're jumping back in with our conversation about how to launch into local mission. Remember, our goal is to reveal the King and the Kingdom, and to invite people to become disciples of Jesus where God has planted us. This isn't a new program, but it is a new focus.
Again, our key question is: Who is God sending you to? We know God is on mission, and we know as disciples of Jesus that He is sending us to participate in that same mission. And we know that we can't be sent to ourselves, so our mission is directed beyond the body of Christ. (We do have an obligation to serve and participate in our local body, but that's not mission.)
So, you have now had a week to work on and reflect on your relational maps. Essentially, the relational map shows you the places where you could begin to engage missionally at this very moment. It doesn't mean you should, but you literally could start this very week in those places. Now that we've named those places, how do we determine where to begin?
People vs. Places
At this point, you might be thinking, "Why is John talking about places instead of people?"
That's a good question, and an important one. Engaging in mission is a long-term commitment. It is a lifestyle, not a program. The problem with narrowing our focus to individual people or even a group of people is that people are incredibly fluid today. Fifty years ago, you could expect people to live in the same place and hold the same job for many years. That simply isn't true today. Furthermore, people have many opportunities and options for how to spend their time, so scheduling around them is difficult. The issue here is access; it's hard to access people today, and especially for the long-haul (which is where we're headed). By choosing a place to dedicate ourselves to for mission, we know we'll have the ability to access it and build it into our schedule (if it's not already there). If we're in the place, we'll find the people.
The exception to this would be people groups who are stable due to other factors. For example, the homeless, a traveling youth sports team, bikers and an ethnic enclave are all groups of people that would be more stable and accessible due to cultural and institutional factors.
Choosing a Place
So where do we start? Here are a handful of questions that we can use to sort through this:
1. Has God made it clear in your prayers where to start?
If so, you are ahead of the game! But, go ahead and work through the next two steps anyway as a means of discernment.
2. What places do I already have relationships with people who are not disciples of Jesus?
If you are already well-connected somewhere, then it makes sense to start there. For many people this could be a work-place or neighborhood.
3. What places are there opportunities for relationships with people who are not disciples of Jesus?
This could be a gym or a place where you participate in a hobby or go to relax (coffee shop, bar, etc.).
Step One: Proximity
What we've done up to this point is determine the places where we have or could have proximity with those who God is sending us to. Proximity is simply sharing a space with someone. You have proximity with people who workout near you, who walk around the park you take your kids to, or who sit in the waiting room at the doctor's office near you. You have proximity with the people who live on your street when you're both home from work. It doesn't mean you interact at all; it just means you are near enough to each other to potentially interact. Proximity is absolutely vital! You cannot establish relationships and reveal God's love without proximity.
So how much proximity do we need?
Here's where the rubber hits the road. One of the hard lessons I've learned is that establishing proximity is easier said than done. It's easy to get proximity for an hour or two at a cafe, gym, or recreational area. It takes commitment though to get the level of proximity we're looking for. Our goal is 7-10 hours per week in our mission space. Remember, we're just talking about being near enough to those who we are sent to that we could connect. That means we're available and accessible, and they are too. If we are spending ten hours a week in our missional space people have plenty of opportunity to interact with us and to get to know us. Now you can understand whey we are probably going to choose a place we're already at... Most of us can't afford to add on these hours to our schedules! Look back at your relational map. Where do you already have proximity with people? Meaning, where are you already in that 7-10 hours a week zone? Where could you have that sort of proximity?
You may be asking, "Why so much proximity, John?" Great question... and I'll answer that in my next post! Until then keep praying, discussing and discerning!