This post is not about forming a small group Bible Study… though that did eventually happen. This is about making natural connections with people. This post is not about a bait and switch… i.e. forming friendships with people only so that you can proselytize them later (probably sooner). This post is about making natural connections with the people that God brings into your life stream… naturally. If you are plastic or wooden, people will know that. If you are connecting with others for any reason other than being their friend, this will be more obvious than you want it to be and will likely cause that person to run as fast as they can in the opposite direction.
So back to what this is about… making natural connections. When I first moved to Atlanta I only knew two people and they both lived almost an hour away from us (my brother and his wife). What I did next is not revolutionary nor is it difficult. I began to live life. First I needed a graphic designer who could help me create a logo. I hired a guy who I felt was a pro who knew his stuff and thought outside the box. Perfect. The next hire for me was a printer who would eventually put my vision accompanied by the other gentlemen’s graphic design into print. I found out later that these two knew each other and had even done work together. For whatever it’s worth, neither of them were churchgoing types.
Our relationships began as business. Within a few months my printer was preparing to be married and asked me to officiate the ceremony. I gladly said yes. At that point I was also able to meet his fiancée… also not a follower of Jesus. My relationship with my graphic designer was also becoming a friendship. Soon we started meeting together in our home once a week and just eating together. That’s all it was. No sermon. No Bible Study. Just new friends hearing each other’s stories and learning what made each of us tick.
In time (roughly 6-8 weeks) the group of us had now grown to about 10-12. They all knew who I was and had all been asking spiritual questions offline… mostly outside our weekly dinners. So we threw a big Cinco de Mayo party (it happened to fall on the night we always ate together) and I sheepishly suggested that we add a spiritual piece to our weekly dinners. I promised no sermonizing. No lecturing. The collective reply was, “Of course we would love to!” The plan was to tackle one question each week… the questions that different ones of them were already asking. That study lasted another 6-8 weeks or so. By the end they were asking me, “When are we actually going to study from the Bible?”
Following that question, we launched a 21-week study in John’s gospel. And it never stopped until the day we closed Process Church. Next it was Genesis… then Acts and Psalms and Hebrews and Ruth and Romans and Habbakuk and Matthew. This had become our pattern and it was thoroughly a part of the life of the church.
Let me close with some clarification about how this happened. Perhaps it is obvious to you (if you already believe), but I prayed about everything. So, from my vantage point, none of this was coincidence. But these connections also happened through natural means. These people who are now among my closest friends were not even initially sure that I was not just another Christian nut-job trying to force-feed them some religion. Yes, it is a long road that leads some to belief and others not… but we are all still friends.
A final challenge. This will not be easy for you if you have grown up in the Church. I’m not even sure that you can/should use my story as a template. But what I am sure of is that 6 years after I moved my family to Atlanta these are the people that God brought into my life. And though we have all moved on from our shared church experience, we are forever the closest of friends. That part I know you can do. The challenge is… will you? Will you leave the comfort of your Christian bubble and explore the natural connections that are already present in your life?
One thought on “Community: Natural Connections”
Rob, in addition to “just living life,” as you mentioned here, you also made a real effort to get out in the community. I remember my initial reluctance to respond to your request for a meeting after reading your Twitter profile, because I’m an atheist, and I totally thought you were “just another Christian nut-job.” But when we met for lunch, you were a genuinely nice guy, we had some common interests, and you didn’t proselytize, which is why I still call you a friend today.
While I know Rob will probably blanch a little at this, I frequently hold him up as the example of someone who, while living his faith, doesn’t expect everyone to share it, nor push it upon them.