If you’re single, I doubt that most people’s advice to you on finding a mate would be to sit home alone. Instead, they’ll say you need to get out and meet people.
If you are led to be a doctor, I doubt that most people would suggest you avoid college. Instead, they’ll advise you to get the proper education.
I suspect that few people would argue against that advice. I doubt that few Christians would, either, albeit with an added caution not to forget prayer and seeking God’s direction in the process.
No, I doubt that many Christians out there would argue against a person working to accumulate as many resources as possible before an undertaking, no matter what that undertaking might be. Even Jesus said that no king sets out for war without checking his resources
I interview people and write stories about them as part of my work. What perpetually strikes me is that these people rose to influential positions largely because of their social networks. They knew the right people, others who were influential and could make things happen. Now they are influencers themselves.
What also stands out to me is how well people who make no pretenses to being born again use their network of contacts, yet so many Christians I know are absolutely awful at doing the same.
As I look around at Christians that I know, it’s remarkable to me how few of us are connected to genuine influencers, the people who can pick up a phone, make a call, and put good things into motion. Instead, too many of the networks of these fellow Christians are more like puddles than teeming lakes or are so highly compartmentalized as to exemplify a ghetto. Is that not a squandering of resources that could be used for the Kingdom of God?
What’s utterly counterintuitive is that the decisions we may have believed were more “godly” stuck us with these tiny, fragile networks. Jesus Himself had 12 disciples, but He still went out of His way to snag that one critical influencer, Saul of Tarsus. That’s how important this issue is. Why then do we act as if it’s not?
As an example of my own personal failure in this regard, I bought the consistent Christian advice that I should devote more time to my family. What Christian hasn’t been bombarded with the “sanctity of family” message? It practically defines 21st century Evangelicalism. However, pouring time back into my family by eschewing happy hour with coworkers, including influencers, and begging off the Saturday morning golf outings has limited my network.
In talking with most of my Christian peers, we seem to all have the same story. Comparing networks reveals that we have little or no connection to influencers, just each other. And we’re definitely NOT influencers ourselves as a result.
Unbelievers, on the other hand, absolutely live and die by their networks. The smart ones play those networks constantly because they realize that doing so yields positive results in their favor. They know influencers, and those influencers make things happen for them.
Why, then, are Western born-again Christians so terrible at this?
I think part of it comes down to the thinking that God is all we need. On most levels that is true, but I don’t think that God created us to be disconnected from each other. Yet that is what ultimately happens. Some people feel like islands even in church, a most dreadful reality that should never occur.
There’s a disease in Western Christianity that spreads through the message that we don’t need our brothers and sisters in Christ. The result is that people languish as lone rangers. They ultimately question God about why He didn’t do such and such when the reality is that the person never had the right social resources in place for God to bring all the pieces together. Like I mentioned at the beginning, not a person here would expect God to make someone into a doctor without that person having the right educational resources first. Yet how is it that we scratch our heads when a ministry plan fails to come together for want of connections to the right people to help make that plan a reality? Yes, the Lord may build the house, but He still builds it from existing material.
All this disconnection leads to marginalization. We have our ghetto and we’re fine with it. And that’s a shame because I think it keeps too many of us back. It prevents us from being all we can be. It means we rarely interact with outsiders, including unbelievers. It backs us into a corner. Worse, it robs the world of the light of Christ in us. If we don’t interact with the darker world, how then will it fill with light?
I don’t think it has to be this way. How we build (or rebuild) networks, especially for us old guys, is the harder question. If we start working on that network, I suspect the inevitable catcalls from fellow believers will come. The sad part may be that we have to reduce our involvement in some unhealthy networks to spend time in better ones, and some fellow Christians may comprise that unhealthy network.
Hey, no matter how we look at it, it still comes down to who we know.
26 thoughts on “It’s Still Who We Know”
This is a very interesting article about a very sticky subject to address. I do wonder how to go out and expand our network? I’ll admit it, I do not have a network and if something happened, I would be alone. I have very little social resources and social skills.
I wouldn’t know how to develop networks or where to start to find them.
This is also combined with a upbringing where family loyalty was overstressed to where it is viewed as either ‘insulting’ and ‘betrayal’ to go outside the family, viewed as ‘all outsiders are out to do us in but the family will not’, or ‘outsiders will do the job wrong and if you want something done right, do it yourself’.
It seems as if everytime I try to broaden my networks, I get the impression that I am either not really wanted within the network and i am intruding or it becomes a one-way street where I am there for the ones within the network but when I need something, they are way too busy to help me or can’t help me at all and I am on my own.
The church has a mixed attitude concerning networks. Some churches thrive on them to survive and obtain products and services at the lowest price possible to better manage their finances and resources. Some churches use them selfishly only to gain money, power, and influence with politicians and the local media outlets. Some churches outright denounce them as evil and make them equivalent to ‘secret societies’, ‘college fraternities / sororities party house’, ‘good ole boy politics’, ‘butt-kissing clubs’, or ‘shortcuts’ to success instead of the good old American Grade A work ethic of hard work and smart ingenuity.
Equally disturbing is that you hear the term only within the purpose-driven or seeker sensitive churches in the realm of ‘church growth’ to increase the membership which in the eyes of the traditionalist mainline churches or pentecostal / charismatic churches raises up the discernment meter.
Thanks for the article. My gears are spinning…..
You’ve got to get out there an mingle with people. Everyone starts on the low spot on the totem pole, but they rise over time. Everyone understands that people are in a needy place and become less needy over time, instead transitioning to being an influencer. That’s the way it works, so people shouldn’t look down on those who take for awhile because most people are able to give back at some point.
The “Work hard and you’ll get ahead” mantra is one of the worst lies we believe here in America. Too many incompetent workers are in positions of authority for that to be true. Those people got to where they are because they knew the right influencers and latched onto them. Hard work may help your cause, but it is absolutely no guarantee of success. Too much nepotism, cronyism, and privilege exist out there for it to be the root issue.
The Church has to be networked. In fact, no other group on the face of the planet should be better networked than the Church. Here in the West, though, we simply aren’t that good at it. I think your average non-Christian has a wider network than his fellow Christian, at least as my experience has shown. I think that non-Christians do a better job in their workplaces of playing office politics, participating in post-work get-togethers, and knowing with whom they should ally.
Should the environment for Christians turn sour in the days to come, I think those Christians who are better networked will be okay, but those with small networks will be in serious trouble.
I dunno, those Old Testament prophets seemed pretty compartmentalized to me.
And what happens when God gives you a disability that makes it virtually impossible for you to network with other people? Are you going to find fault with them too?
I think this falls in the same category as acquiring wealth: your ability to thrive in networking is going to depend entirely on whether God decides to grant such an ability to you or not.
In the same way that we might trust in our own riches rather than God, I can see how many will rely on their network of friends, family, colleagues and whatever to get ahead in life rather than the secret closet of prayer.
I don’t have a network at all myself, but it’s not for lack of effort. I’ll give you one recent example: I was corresponding with a highly successful blogger who was having difficulty generating an income online. She had the traffic, just didn’t have the wherewithal to monetize it. We traded dozens of emails and I helped her set up an advertising solution that tripled her income. She was so happy she was willing to repay me by writing plugs for me and allowing me to guest blog on her site so I can get much needed exposure for my own. And then I never heard from her again.
So really Dan, you say we should interact with others and with a darker world, so what happens when the darker world doesn’t want to interact with you?
Networking cuts both ways. If I give, and give, and give, and give give give give, and yet I get nothing in return, what the #$%^ else am I supposed to do? Read The Secret maybe? Watch Oprah more often to see how she does it?
Or maybe we could just accept that some things are beyond our capacity to control? We can’t FORCE people to cooperate with us. We can’t force them to network with us, and we certainly can’t rope the most powerful and influential into our circle even if we brown nosed and played major suckup or rescued their kidnapped daughters from terrorist groups putting them forever in our debt.
Don’t judge the lone rangers Dan. Moses was a lone ranger himself, and he still managed to do some pretty cool things.
I guess we have to set expectations of how much is the right amount of payback. I set my expectations low, so I won’t be disappointed. I always expect to give more than I get, though sometimes people do repay me many times more than I was able to give.
Here’s a verse to remember:
Yet the chief cupbearer did not remember Joseph, but forgot him.
Two years go by, then the cupbearer recalled the Hebrew dream-interpreter down in the jail.
That’s the way it is sometimes. My first major client took 13 months after our initial meeting to look me up.
In a way, we CAN force people to cooperate with us. There are ways that we can be more attractive to others. The word I’m thinking of is winsome. We can ask God to give us favor with both Himself and others. We can ask to be more humble and childlike. We can expect to give with no expectation of return. I believe with all my heart that we will not be forgotten if we do those things and cultivate a personality that makes us approachable by other people. You may read the Scriptures to an old man in a nursing home only to have his daughter, a business owner of some standing, reward you unexpectedly for it. The old man himself had no power, but someone connected to him did.
What happens if the darker world doesn’t want to interact with us? Then we need to check ourselves and see if we’re the kind of light-bearing, attractive people we should be.
Recently in my small group study we looked at the parable of the shrewd manager in Luke 16.
Luke 16:8-9 (NIV) “The master commended the dishonest manager because he had acted shrewdly. For the people of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own kind than are the people of the light. I tell you, use worldly wealth to gain friends for yourselves, so that when it is gone, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings.”
It’s clear (from this passage and the parable of the talents) that Jesus is teaching us to use our resources (monetary or social) to build the Kingdom.
A couple OT examples immediately come to mind of Godly people who used their influence and were commended for it (Nehemiah and Esther).
I agree that we should pay attention to our networks. How do we do this with integrity? How do we avoid getting caught up in seeking influence for our own ambition?
I almost included that verse in my post! Great minds think alike. 😉
One way we can maintain our integrity is to ensure that our network includes some people who cannot pay us back at the moment.
Tozer never hung out at the entrance of his church after services, but went to the nursery where he could be with the children and the young parents. In this way, he avoided the gladhanders who would have told him how superb his sermon was and instead made himself available to the least flattering people in the church. It kept him humble. We should do the same.
I don’t think there’s a way to get through life unless you have some ambition for something or someone. Wanting to go higher may not be a selfish goal. I would love some day for my writing to win an award, for instance. Neither do I think that seeking to be an influencer is a bad thing. Aspirations are worthy. God doesn’t want us devoid of aspirations.
I don’t buy the “build your network up so you can have a ministry”, I don’t see it with God’s prophets and Link pretty much nailed it.
People screw you over, mankind screws you over, Christians screw you over. Period.
Tell me what is wrong with the idea of “lone rangers?” Ever hear of David Brainerd? How about the countless open air preachers in the 1st great awakenings, preaching with no network and building churches from nothing. Leonard Ravenhill was one of the greatest preachers of all time, he never “made it” on television, he never had the great contacts or great networks. Yet today, there are hundreds of sermons of his online which are daily smashing open our compromised American Christianity.
“Or maybe we could just accept that some things are beyond our capacity to control? We can’t FORCE people to cooperate with us. We can’t force them to network with us, and we certainly can’t rope the most powerful and influential into our circle even if we brown nosed and played major suckup or rescued their kidnapped daughters from terrorist groups putting them forever in our debt.
Don’t judge the lone rangers Dan. Moses was a lone ranger himself, and he still managed to do some pretty cool things.”
I know how you feel Link, that’s my hope, that it is better to be a “lone ranger” and live all for Christ than to be a “Big networker” who lives for himself and puts Christ in second place.
Isn’t it funny that God didn’t use Moses when he had the biggest network while he was gonna be an upcoming pharoah, hmmm, instead it wasn’t until a few decades later as a “lone ranger” that God used him mightily.
Screw networks. God already knows everybody and I know God.
I addressed some of your statements about Lone Rangers in a general comment. You can find it elsewhere in the comment section.
I wanted to talk about this, though:
People screw you over, mankind screws you over, Christians screw you over. Period.
My response is simple: So?
So what? It doesn’t change the words of Jesus. If someone asks for your shirt, give him your cloak as well. Life is going to screw us over time and again this side of heaven. So? Do we curl up in the fetal position and give up? Do we withdraw into a self-absorbed fortress of our own making?
No, we don’t. We keep on living the life Jesus called us to, even if no one else follows (and to claim that no one else follows is a lie).
You are writing this comment on my blog because of other people. No one gets anywhere in this life alone. You can read and write because your parents and teachers taught you how. You are a Christian because someone else brought you up in the Faith or shared Christ with you when your were lost. People poured their lives into you so that you are armed with whatever weapons you bring to the battle. You are no more a self-made man than I am.
Being a networker does not mean putting Christ second. It means using the blessings Christ puts into your life for their maximum benefit. Just as it is stupid to try to cut down a tree by scraping the wood away with a fingernail when you have been given a chainsaw, so it is when we do not take advantage of the blessings God gives us. And other people are a blessing. A mixed blessing at times, but so is a chainsaw when it fails to start or when you nick yourself on the chain.
Being a networker is not a matter of compromise. It’s a matter of gratefulness and thankfulness in that we recognize and utilize the gift of other people to advance the Kingdom of God. Paul could’ve stayed in the desert and been a Lone Ranger, but he didn’t. And we are all beneficiaries for it. There could not have been a bigger Lone Ranger than John the Baptist, yet we know he had disciples. Plus, John was connected to Jesus, so how could anyone say he was not connected?
Careful L, we might start networking here. 😉
Dan, the thing that bothers me about this is that you seem to make no distinction between those who choose to be lone rangers, and those to whom their lone ranger status was forced upon.
I didn’t ask to be an island. I see people with their overflowing little black books and I would get angry and upset because I can’t figure out how I can reproduce that networking success on my own, even on a small scale.
According to the world’s standards, this makes me an inferior person and a failure. Nice to see Christians have the same attitude.
Even with your suggestions, none of those things forces a person to cooperate or do business dealings with you. Only God can change the heart. If anything, the story of Joseph proves that. He tried to manipulate circumstances and get things rolling on his terms, but God showed him how futile that was. The fact is, even if Joseph had said nothing, the butler would have still remembered him because he was the only person who interpreted his dream. Joseph never had to do anything except what God moved him to.
The matter is simple, seek the kingdom of heaven first, and the rest will take care of itself. We don’t need to use conventional or worldly methods to build a network, and those examples you indicated are things we do simply because it’s the right thing to do, not because there’s a potential reward to be realized. When I helped that fellow blogger, it stung that she blew me off, but I didn’t ask for anything likewise in return, because I believe God Himself will repay. He really is the administrator of my network, and He will bring people into my life that either need me or vice versa, as He sees fit. I’ve found that the more I embrace this belief, the better I’m able to sleep at night.
A few thoughts on “Lone Rangers”:
There are no Lone Rangers in the NT. The Body model rules over the hierarchical one we tended to see in the OT. There is no priestly class. All are now priests. We are brothers and sisters, not kings and subjects. The eye cannot say of the ear, “I have no need of you.” Each believer is now filled with the Holy Spirit, not just select prophets. The Moses type is no more, replaced by the nameless servant, who is gifted by the Holy Spirit as is the rich man or the visionary. Paul does not address his letters to “The leader of the Church in __________” but just to the Church, making no distinctions.
We have made distinctions, but they are not there in the NT.
We need each other. There could not be any truer message in the NT. How anyone can miss that is beyond me. Paul lists his network in nearly every epistle, so if he can’t do it without others, how can any of us?
I have read the journals of David Brainerd. To use him as a means to justify Lone Ranger Christianity is simply wrong. Brainerd was strongly connected to Jonathan Edwards and his church. To say that Brainerd had no network is like me saying my only good friend is Billy Graham. You mention open air preachers, well, George Whitefield was perhaps the most effective of his day, and he had a massive network of people helping him run his ministry. I know a great deal about Leonard Ravenhill as he is one of my favorite preachers, and he was connected to many of the most prominent Christians of his time. He was involved with Keith Green, 2nd Chapter of Acts, nearly everything that was going on down in Waco and Lindale, Texas, Agape Force, John Wimber and the Vineyard, he was friends with A.W. Tozer, not to mention all his contacts in Britain—Ravenhill had a huge network that spanned the English-speaking world. Though he often painted himself as a lone voice, he was connected to a very large group of people who were all considered “outsiders” by the Christian “establishment,” but they were still connected to each other in their “outsiderderness.” To say that he was a Lone Ranger is untrue.
Methinks you might be going at this backwards. We should be “out there” (clubs, associations, volunteering, etc.) because as you said, we are the light. Well, the light needs to get out and about. The primary goal IMO is for the Lord to open the door to relational evangelism from our networking. IF God uses the network to help us, then fine. And, if not…then fine…it’s back to the trust God alone time.
One thing I do find is that most evangelical Christians are usually not the people you want to network with as they seem to be very naive about the work world, especially those in ministry that “hear God.” I believe you’ve written on that topic before…:)
I know very few people who stray far enough from their personal ghettos to cultivate the kind of network you speak of. While that is most definitely a failing, it is also a reality that we have created because of the way we work and play. (You’ve probably read everything I’ve written on how our work lives disrupt so much.)
Your comment about Evangelicals not knowing influencers is spot on. When people ask me why I don’t post more requests for writing work on the blog, I have to tell them that the results have been discouraging. People write to ask how they can help, and I ask them if they know anyone who might need a writer. Usually, the response I get is “Well, I don’t know anyone like that.” That answer always jars me. No one? You don’t know at least one business owner or person in a position to hire a writer? “No.” When I hear that, I’m really shocked. Just how minuscule is that person’s network?
This makes a big difference when we start thinking how the Church might endure if things start going against us. Who among us can fix cars? Who can grow food? We better have networks that include those people because we will need what they can provide us. And in the same way, each of us has valuable skills we can add to the mix. But if we aren’t making hose connections now, why should we assume we can make them later? We have to be intentional about these things.
There are no Lone Rangers in the NT.
Sure there were, maybe not for their entire lifespans, but certainly for periods of time, John being one of them. I don’t think you understand that this is not something to be seen as a permanent condition, but rather a phase, or a series of phases that a Christian experiences in his walk. Sometimes they’ll be the hub of a huge network, while other times they’ll be rotting away in a prison with no network at all. But it seems to be your assertion that being a lone ranger, no matter the circumstance, is NEVER a good thing, which is a truly pigheaded notion if that’s indeed your position.
The more I think about it, the more this seems to be a moot issue though. If networking comes from simply obeying God’s word and seeking the kingdom, then what are we arguing about here?
You didn’t seem to be arguing for a seasonal approach to this in your last comment. If you are now, then, of course, that’s going to change my reply.
I don’t think it’s humanly possible to be an island from cradle to grave, so I apologize if I didn’t make that clear.
Let me lay it out:
Networks are have their place, but there are moments, if not extended periods in one’s life where it’s better to remain isolated. Moses spent 40 years in isolation before he was finally ready to lead Israel out of Egypt.
Your ability to network relies solely on what God allots to you. There are times when He will let the doors swing open and there are times when it seems like you are kicking against the pricks.
There’s a danger that our networks can become an idol unto itself, where we credit our network rather than God for the success or blessings we enjoy, just as we do our wealth.
We have to recognize the limited role we play in building a network. We water and plant, but only God can stir up the heart and bear the fruits.
If you’re not where God wants you to be, you can try to build a network until you’re blue in the face but it won’t get you anywhere. OR
You are where God wants you to be but you just need to have a little patience. OR
You successfully build a network even though it’s wasn’t the Lord’s will, but He blesses you anyway because of His loving gracious nature.
All of this underscores the importance of knowing what the will of the Lord is at this particular moment in your life. If He wants you to network, then do so, but if He wants to keep you isolated, then you need to have the wisdom to recognize that and to wait patiently until such period comes to an end at a time of God’s choosing.
Okay, Dan, you have officially missed my point. I’m not arguing that people don’t have networks, everyone has a network.
I did not desire to build a “network” of fellow evangelists around the world, it just happened while I ministered with them to the lost whether online, in foreign countries, or here in the states. It was the providence of God that I know so many different people from so many different places. I have an attitude of NOT building networks, that is not my focus, my focus is Christ, yet I still have a network.
I’m talking about attitudes.
The people I mentioned, I mentioned because of their attitudes about networks and other silly things of modern American Christianity. Yes, they were connected, yes they had a network of other people who felt the same way, but it was not built because their focus was on building a network.
It is about the attitude, since I was saved four years ago, my attitude has never been to build networks so that I can go, get famous, get books sold, etc and lo and behold I have a network of people literally all over the world.
If you are advocating that we should have an attitude of “building networks” then I think you are sincerely wrong, if you are advocating that God gives us networks and that we should use them non-pragmatically to simply further the kingdom, then I agree with you.
I do agree with you on the NT point compared to the OT point and I sincerely hope the next revival comes through people, not a single individual or person. grace and peace brother.
I guess I did miss the point. This comment seems light-years different than the previous one.
I think we still disagree to a point. You are making distinctions between “organic” networks that just happen and “intentional” networks that require some work. It seems you endorse the former and loathe the latter. To me, they both have their place. As a business person, some of my network has been organic and some intentional. If I don’t actively and intentionally seek connections with people, then I don’t expand my client base, and I subsequently fail to put food on the table. The people I seek out MUST be in a position to use my skills or else what good is that network? Also, I must place myself in situations where I can network with the right people who may have skills similar to my own, but their networks contain people who may be able provide a service to me that I could not readily get without having that intermediary. That has to be intentional.
For instance, I write fiction. Intentionally cultivating a relationship with other novelists is critical. I can help them and they can help me. In many cases that’s a lopsided relationship because I, being a beginner, have less to offer them than they do me. But still. One day the roles may be reversed.
This is not to say that a person can’t have distinct networks, either. Most people do. They may have a church network, a work network, a collegiate network, and a pal network. Those may intersect or not. I think Christians should have their distinct networks blur together more than most people, though.
I also disagree that running in one’s normal circles will organically create useful networks. What it instead tends to do is create a ghetto. I see this CONSTANTLY in the American Christian Church. Exact peer networks form readily, but spreading out one’s network so that it encompasses non-peers takes work simply because those non-peers don’t congregate where peers do.
Your network of evangelists is a perfect example of a peer network. Now how many nuclear physicists do you know? What use is a nuclear physicist to your network? Well, what if God called you to minister to nuclear physicists, wouldn’t it be helpful to know one so you could know where they hung out and what they talked about so you better minister to them on their level? Wouldn’t that network have to be an intentional work on your part? Sure it would.
After years of not really paying attention to my network, I’m now finally nurturing mine. Part of it is financial (being self-employed) and part of it is emotional and spiritual (coming out of my shell and “putting myself out there” more). I don’t know where it will lead or if “influencers” will be involved or not–I just know that it’s long overdue and that it will be good (but hard) for me to go through it.
To that end, I recently did four things (all on the same day!) to better connect with people:
1. launched my website
(finally doing for myself what I do for others)
2. included a blog on the site
(yikes! but it’s a fun place to put my random observations)
3. joined linkedin.com
(amazed at how many of my former co-workers are on it; just as you said, Dan)
4. joined facebook.com
(a mindblower in terms of being much more aware of what is going in the lives of my friends and extended family. Getting re-connected with “sorta close” friends has been excellent, and I’m now much more in tune with nieces and nephews who are all over it.)
Lastly, this little comment–drumroll** please–is my first /ever/ comment on a blog. And that’s saying something, as I’m a /huge/ consumer of blogs.
– Eric the Introvert
**make that drumroll a loud open roll on a field snare (with the heads torqued way tight) on a crisp fall midwest evening. Ahhhh…
Like a Romulan Warbird ready to fire its disrupters, Mr. King decloaks!
Drums: You mean a DC snare like the one Aaron Smith of The 77s plays on “Sounds O’ Autumn” off Drowning with Land in Sight ? (BTW, I have a gift for you that I’ve been trying to remember to bring on group nights. I sure hope I remember tomorrow. In fact, I think I’ll just put it in the car right now.)
I seriously hesitate to join Facebook because of their “we’ll sell every single piece of information you give us and we’d sell your soul if we could” attitude, including their purloining of your e-mail addresses. As someone who gets close to 600 e-mails a day now, I don’t need any more spam! Then again, you look up risk averse in the dictionary and my portrait is right there.
LinkedIn is still a decent community, though I can’t say that it gives me as much writerly love as I had hoped it would.
Yes, that 77s track is excellent. When I was in high school, the new Percussion Instructor–who’s now doing the same thing for TBDBITL–showed up with a ratchet wrench drum key. He cranked the snare heads waaaay beyond what were used to. We had never seen one of those before; our eyes were as big as saucers. But the heads held (pretty much) and it was all good; he whipped us into shape and we were tight and rockin’.
No more Cerulean Slingerland comments from me; I’ve said enough here to last me a few years. See you at group; maybe we can sneak off and catch a high school drumline in action…
“For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called” (1 Cor. 1:26 KJV).
Many of the called are not, when they come to Jesus, influencers. And many remain that way. They do not become wiser after the flesh, or mightier, or nobler, after they are born again. Unfortunately, many of us also shy away from the wise, the mighty, and the noble, for many reasons. Paul did not. He preached to the privileged as well as to the unprivileged.
I have two friends who have had terrible times in their lives recently. They are like people magnets, though. People flock to them and help them in many ways. I am not such a people magnet, but I have kept abreast of my two friends. Despite their extensive networks of friends and all that their friends have done for them, they are pretty much just as bad off now as they were a couple of years ago.
I am struck by this comment:
“As an example of my own personal failure in this regard, I bought the consistent Christian advice that I should devote more time to my family. What Christian hasn’t been bombarded with the “sanctity of family message? It practically defines 21st century Evangelicalism. However, pouring time back into my family by eschewing happy hour with coworkers, including influencers, and begging off the Saturday morning golf outings has limited my network.”
I have several disagreements with what I think you are implying with this statement.
First, if you have a family, you can be certain that it was given to you by God, and you have a God-given responsibility for it. This does not mean that every free hour you have is to be spent with them, however, if you are doing the job God gave you the way He intends it to be done, then of course your networks will be limited.
Secondly, I have lived almost 50 years. Some of my children have gotten married and at times have needed someone to come along side and help them figure things out while they get started. My parents and my wife’s parents are aging rapidly, it seems, and have increasing needs for physical, emotional, and spiritual care. In both of these cases, FAMILY is there for them.
If the investments into family weren’t made earlier in life, who would they turn to? Who is going to love them and care for them more than a loving family?
If you were to ask me, “Should I invest my time in building strong friendships or strong family?”, my answer would unequivocally be FAMILY. Friendships come and go, networks come and go, but strong family relationships have an enduring qulity about them which at times is hard to comprehend.
If you have read this blog long, you will realize that what you have me saying is not what I am saying. There is no blogger out there less likely to go to one end of the pendulum swing than yours truly.
In fact, what I am saying here is a rejection of a polar state, that of the cocooned nuclear family. Yet I will also argue that the cure is not to rush the other way and neglect family altogether.
Who allows us a happy medium on this issue, though? We have FamilyLife or Focus on the Family telling us that we must choose family above all else. But that’s a false dichotomy, isn’t it?
A quick look around should tell us one of the major reasons why the American Church is dismal in evangelism is that we eschew opportunities to be with unbelievers where they hang out. Instead, we withdraw to our parachurch-hallowed families and churches, rarely to interact with the lost. Yet for most of us, the only places we are regularly going to encounter the lost are at our workplaces and on the street where we live. How then will we reach those people if we punch the clock, make a beeline from work straight to our houses, lock the door behind us, and rest safe within our family sanctums?
What is wrong with choosing the happy hour and golf course sometimes and choosing family at others? Why have some Christians made this an either/or issue? The tragic end result is that some of us have made an accidental idol out of family to the detriment of any kind of connection to lost people.
Want to know something that seems crazy? Lost people have connections, too. And those connections may even benefit us. Those benefits may help us succeed in our work or they may open doors to further influence in the lives of other lost people. Yet how will we ever get those opportunities if we rush to the familial cocoon?
Too many Christians are hard pressed to give first and last names of a dozen unbelievers in their lives. This mantra of “family first” is partly to blame because of the either/or way in which that message has been sold to us. Our absence not only removes the light from the lives of of people trapped in darkness, but it also limits the influence we might have in other parts of our lives, an influence God very much wants us to have.
Great post, Dan. Printed this post awhile back and it created much thought and reflection so, here I am with a comment: I’m one of those “old guys” and your post made me see how I’ve neglected this. We live in a world that forms much of its opinion about Christianity based on what is seen on TV and in the news and it’s not been pretty over the years. As a result, many want nothing to do with the Christian faith or the church. What non-Christians need to see is that there are Christians who love God and others who are attempting to follow Jesus and live in the world in a truthful and biblical way. Interacting with others via networking is vital to being visible. I feel it may even help reduce some of the influence of these media-shaped, negative impressions of Christians. Also, how can we be salt and light to communicate truth and create the relationships to give and receive help in time of need, if all we do is live within the Christian network of family and church? Time to get out of the cocoon and spread those wings! The online world offers even more opportunities to connect as never before possible. Thanks for writing of this valuable piece of wisdom!