Here are some helpful observations on preparing our net, by my friend Paul Maconochie, as shared at The Order of Mission (TOM) gathering in Coventry this past weekend.
Relationships exist on a continuum, from more informal to more formal. So, for example, someone who we initially meet for the first time who is open to us – a Person of Peace – may become a friend, which is an informal relationship but slightly more formal than first acquaintance. You might become for them their church connection – that is, they know you to be a Christian, they might ask you to pray for a situation they or a member of their family find themselves in. At this stage, the relationship is slightly more formal again: in effect, you are their priest. This person might move from here to a point where they join a cell group – again, the relationship is becoming more formal – and in time might join a more explicitly discipling group.
What we are likely to find is that few of us operate with ease along the full continuum. To function as a net, we must pass people on. Evangelists are likely to be most comfortable at the most informal end of the continuum: they don’t need any kind of ‘permission’ to talk to people. Pastors tend to be at home at the more informal end, though one step towards formality on from evangelists. Teachers and prophets tend to operate more towards the formal end, once a person has given permission to speak into their lives; and apostles often operate at the most formal end, leading teams of committed disciples.
So here are some questions regarding preparing our net:
Where do I sit on the continuum? How do people relate to me? (For myself, as someone who is more prophet and teacher than pastor or evangelist, my relationships tend to be more formal.) And who am I connected with, that I can pass people on to, or who can pass people on to me?
What is true of relationships is also true of resources: resources exist on a continuum from more informal to more formal. The most informal resource you have for mission is yourself, your own life. Slightly more formal is your testimony, or story. More formal again are books, talks or videos you might pass on to someone – and with books, biographies are more informal, teaching books more formal. More formal again would be nurture groups, such as Alpha. And at the most formal end would be inviting someone to join a discipleship group.
As a person moves along this continuum, you move from being a person they know, to being their priest – the one who intercedes to God on their behalf – to being their guide or mentor, in a more or less formal way, to being someone they see as discipling them.
So here are some further questions regarding preparing our net:
What resources do this person need right now? What resources do I have access to? What resources do I need to invest in? (For myself, as someone who operates most comfortably at the more formal end of the relationship continuum, I need to develop story as an informal resource.)
And then, because Jesus’ mission strategy is, find the Person of Peace who welcomes you into their home and serves you, because this person is the key to gaining access to a community, we also need to ask, what relationships and resources do they have access to?