In the last post on planting kingdom, not churches, I talked about focusing on people, not gatherings.
We have tried to become very intentional about this.
"The Insider" workbook encourages us to list all of the people in our life to whom we are an "insider." This means that we are in their life for a reason and we, undoubtedly, have the ability to influence them with our lives. The workbook encourages us to write down everyone and uses the following categories to help us do it:
This complete list is our "sphere of ministry." We are shepherds, potentially, of any or all of them. We pray for them and we look for the part that God would have us play in each of their lives. As I mentioned before, these people are not "targets" for our church gatherings, rather they are people, people we are to love, care about, and live Kingdom lives with and for. They are what we are here for! They are the ones that we have the opportunity to lay our lives down for.
We may, as we pray over these people, feel that God is more distinctly impressing us to reach out with more intentionality with certain of them. We build relationship, we learn what their life is about, we care, we listen when they hurt, we share our lives authentically with them, we are aware when they are seeking for more and, because we love them, we offer them steps that can lead to more life... when they are ready.
One tool that is been helpful is the Engel chart... shown below greatly modified. It helps us to realize that people are at different places spiritually, and that we want to learn to just be there for them and love them where they are at. As we love and build relationship, we can hope and pray that we will be there to move them from one level to the next. It's not our job to "move them along." But by being sensitive to where they are at, we can provide the kind of love that is most caring, most helpful, and most beneficial for them.
If they are not specifically seeking spiritual things (a level -4 on the chart below), it's not our job to "get them" to "become a Christian (a level 0 on the chart). In fact, as already stated, we don't move them along at all. But by recognizing where they are, we can love them appropriately. We plant the Kingdom into a -4 by simply loving them, praying for them, and being available when life (via the Holy Spirit) causes them to want more. We don't have to be the Holy Spirit. We just love people where they are... and love them to the next stage when, and if, given the opportunity.
We are not "trying" to get them to move along so that we can feel good about being a "good witness." That completely misses the point. We are simply shepherding and loving people. When we see people looking for a next step, then we are there to support, help, encourage, and point. In doing this, we are simply loving them.
This process continues and applies to Christians in our lives as well. Christians are people that we are "shepherding." We do this by focusing on them as people and seeking out what might help them in their life to grow in God's grace and image.
With both pre-Christian and post-Christian people we are establishing what Reggie McNeall calls "heart-to-heart, life-to-life relationship that will support mutual accountability, the capacity to challenge each other's biases and assumptions, and the freedom to assess results and spiritual growth."
We love them where they are at AND we love them by planting Kingdom seeds in them that will bless them with more and more and more.