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.