Almost everything in life works better together. That is, two is better than one, and a threefold cord is not easily broken, as the Scriptures tell us. While there is general agreement that networking and cooperative efforts are important, it’s often a major challenge to find those that are working well.
Outreach and Mission Strategy
An important lesson in relation to outreach and mission strategy is the value of finding the fertile soil and working through those relational networks. Several years ago I began to hear about Oikos evangelism, primarily through Dr. Thom Wolfe, respected global missiologist and theologian. He talked about various expressions of Oikos, which could be a social network made of families, neighbors, co-workers and friends. He related it to family or households, being biological, geographical, vocational and volitional networks. Oikos is actually an ancient Greek word having to do with the basic unit of society.
Disciple Making and Church Planting
In terms of reaching people, making disciples and planting churches, the concept of Oikos or social networks is a powerful strategy. Over the years I have had the opportunity of leading someone to the Lord, then while following up discover the opportunity to also share with another family member or co-worker. This can sometimes have a ripple effect, where 6 or 8 or more individuals have come to the Lord and begin meeting and praying together. I’ve found that often making one new connection or relationship can open up a whole new cluster of relationships.
Sharing the Gospel and the Ripple Effect
One restaurant that I use to frequent in Washington D.C. a few years ago, I had the opportunity of sharing the gospel and leading the maitre d’ to the Lord. Over a period of a few months he shared the gospel and lead others to the Lord. On one occasion, when I arrived at the restaurant, he said, “Wait a minute, I have someone I want you to meet and talk with.” He then went back to the kitchen and brought the chef out and introduced us. He had been sharing the gospel with him. We chatted, answered some of his questions, had prayer together and he also confessed his faith in Christ. It was a great example of the value of a team effort and working together.
Mobilizing the Body of Christ
Understanding the significance of networks is vitally important for outreach, disciple making and church planting. However, it’s also important for mobilizing the Body of Christ for greater impact and Kingdom advancement. Eldon Porter, Consultant for Global Engagement with Missio Nexus, has created Linking Global Voices –www.linkingglobalvoices.com. It’s a great resource for those who are involved in missions and ministry, both globally and locally, and want to be more effective at networking.
In the business world a big topic is about the power of networking, connecting, partnerships and strategic alliances. Perhaps it should be getting more attention in the church and mission world as well. Networking does not always lead to or result in partnerships or even collaborative relationships, but it is a good first step. Years ago I heard Dr. Ralph Winter say that one of the most important roles in mission strategy is the partnership facilitator.
Some Benefits of Orality Training
How does networking relate to Orality Missiology? Well, it’s Orality Training, Methods and Strategies that can be instrumental in creating or improving relationships, fostering community and synergy in the Body of Christ. We have many examples and impact stories from our Orality programs with Living Water International and partner organizations. In our experience, when pastors and church leaders participate in our Orality Trainings together, the barriers come down and relationships are improved. Bonding takes place and pastors begin to pray and work together better.
Working Through Relational Clusters
The idea of networking and working together through relational clusters can be an effective for personal outreach or ministry approaches, as well as in a broader context of churches, ministries and other organizations. Consider the businesses you frequent, restaurants, shopping malls, farmers markets, hospitals or other natural traffic patterns where you encounter people. All these are places to connect, have conversations, perhaps share your faith story or offer to pray for someone. It’s often an opportunity to make new friends or to encourage a fellow believer in their faith journey.
All these activities can result in forming discussion groups for further disciple making efforts and perhaps inviting them to attend a church or prayer group. It’s simple and something all of us can do.
Jerry Wiles is President Emeritus of Living Water International and serves on the advisory council and leadership team of the International Orality Network. He can be reached at: [email protected].