Thomas WillerThis is a guest post from Thomas Willer, a pastor at Regen Kirke in Copenhagen, Denmark. 

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Do you find it hard to see a missional breakthrough in your context? Do you find it challenging to understand the culture that you are part of? As we’ve wrestled with those same questions, we’ve developed a little tool that can help you in understanding your culture better but also helps you to ask the right question when it comes to see missional breakthrough.

The other day I saw a Facebook status from one of my friends that has no connection to church or Jesus. She wrote: “I got injured playing sports. Does anyone know an alternative healer I could go to?”

I responded that I knew Jesus, who is a great alternative healer, and I would love to pray for her. She wrote back that she was ready to try anything so she came by the office and we prayed for her. Totally amazingly, she got healed! It was a surprise for me and to her, and she said, “I really felt a great energy.” With that comment in mind, I started to reflect on the encounter.

Here was a person that was totally open to God and the works of Jesus, but she had no real knowledge of him. At the same time, I also meet a lot of people who have lot of knowledge about Christianity but are very closed to God.

So my question has been, Is there a way of identifying the spiritual journey the people in our local missional context are on? Many in our movement know the Person of Peace tool, which is very helpful for us in our personal encounter with people. But as a local leader, I have wanted a tool that can help me understand the broader spiritual and missional context I am finding People of Peace in.

As missionaries wherever we are located we need to find out what the missional context looks like so we can invest our resources in a wise way. I live in Copenhagen, so the tool below uses Copenhagen as an example. I talked about it with some of my good friends, and here’s what we came up with.

We started with two continuums:

  • From CLOSED TO GOD to OPEN TO GOD
  • From LOW KNOWLEDGE to HIGH KNOWLEDGE of Christianity

It creates four quadrants that helps us recognize where people are at and how to respond to them missionally:

Mission Context Tool

 

As we look at Copenhagen (our missional context) through this lens, we realize that most people are in the lower two quadrants, because very few people have any real knowledge of what Christianity actually teaches. This gives us vital information about our context.

The People of Peace we meet will mainly be those in the lower-right quadrant. People very much like my Facebook friend above.

Asking the Right Questions

As we identified this reality, we began to ask ourselves questions that help us respond missionally:

  • How can we provide the knowledge needed to the people that are open?
  • How can respond to their openness by inviting them into an encounter with God?
  • How can we start relationships with them?

If your local missional context has a lot of people in the left two quadrants (CLOSED), ask yourself:

  • How can we pray so people move from closed to open?

You get the idea. My challenge to you and myself is that we start to take a closer look on our missional context and start to operate more wisely when we are reaching out and are using the right questions. We hope this tool helps you in that task!

Family on Mission Small Group Discussion GuideP.S. Our new Family on Mission Small Group Discussion Guide is now available for purchase in our online bookstore!

The Family on Mission Small Group Discussion Guide is an easy-to-use, off-the-shelf resource to help your small group process the content in Mike and Sally Breen’s book Family on Mission. Includes discussion questions, group activities, and weekly assignments to keep your group moving toward becoming a family on mission.

The first 200 copies are available for a special introductory price of $7, ($9 normally), so click here to pick up copies for your small group today!

photo credit: Dorli Photography via photopin cc

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4 Comments

  1. Very profound; like this a lot. Thanks for sharing it.

    Could I inquire as to what the difference is between a new athiest and a post-Christian? Are they the same thing, or not? And what of the old-school mystic demographic; how would that work out in this set-up, though thankfully, it is not my calling to reach those types of people!

    There’s a wonderful missional model about helping people of all creeds, colours, age, genders, backgrounds, sexualities and such, progress from closed athiesm to Jesus-following discipleship in a book on culture by english journalist Steve Turner, if anyone is interested.

    It discusses brilliantly – without being crazily difficult – a variety of concentric circles, not unlike Russian doll ornaments one can buy at a thrift shop. Each circle represents a different level of seriosity in stepping closer to the Lord in the journey to ‘accepting Jesus’ (apologies if that sounds a bit televangelist it’s not. lol).

    Turners theory is that over time, everyone is in one of the concentric Christian mission circles, and is either moving directionally towards the Lord, or away from the Lord, in their thinking, decisions, commitments and such. I think that the framework is such a helpful one when planning evangelism strategy.

    The initial outer circle is dubbed, ‘play’. It is supposed to be about fun and is simply about making intentional the helping of others to celebrate fullness of life, just because it brings a wonderful sense of joy. (I’m not convinced this is the furthest away from the Lord really, but one knows what I mean. Jesus made lots of jokes in the gospels like the one about specks and planks, and camels and needles and what not, so let’s not under-estimate humour!)

    Next in is ‘awe’ (the Bush-era ruined that word, let’s reclaim it) that is, the appreciation of awesome beauty – stuff which makes us declare, ‘wow’. It could be wonders in the natural world – mountains, the ocean, a starry night sky, science, beautiful buildings, classical music, fine food. This works quite well with Hirsch’s three trancendentals teachings circa 2009. It’s about bringing theological dignity to people’s lives who are learning what is classically beautiful, wholesome, worthy and wonderful, helping them find the spiritual in every day activities, like canoeing.

    Third is the ‘values’ circle, and is perhaps a natural transition from the last Christian circle, addressing any questions raised about the origins of life, purpose, the meaning of natural wonders and so on. It might be a point at which would-be Jesus followers want to find out more about your opinions on universal ideals like emotional health, love, forgiveness, redemption, generosity, community reconciliation and so on: ideas which mark Christians out as being a bit ‘different.’

    The fourth circle is a bit more intensive. It is called, ‘Philosophical morality.’ This is a point at which many people want to get a bit deep and meaningful and discuss challenges raised about certain universal human trancendent experiences, needs, and desires for change and meaning in their lives. People often want to define ideas like righteousness and sin here, or discuss morality and society, right and wrong, crime and punishment, and what their religious beliefs are about the ‘human condition’, if any.

    The fifth circle is effectively comparative religion territory. Some folk, especially in a our post-modern neo-athiestic era, are quite culturally relativist, and might have some serious hang-ups in the authenticity of, and uniqueness of, the Christian message. They might challenge your assumptions, or have valid questions about the nature of truth, whether facts and science back up the Christian narrative, and want to know whether or not you have anything more convincing to say as a Jesus-follower than their Hindu green-grocer, or Islamic great-grandmother. I love this bit.

    The sixth circle is the key point at which people discuss the Lord Jesus: his life, death and resurrection. They hear the presentation of the good news story, the christological views of who Jesus is, his unique role in history, why he is worth knowing about personally, what his character is like, his covenental terms and conditions of apprenticeship as it were, and what his challenges are as we live our lives day-by-day.

    I found this a pretty nifty way of discussing the Lord with others during my university years when I had no idea how to do it, and in building cultural frameworks at newspapers and magazines I’ve consulted with professionally- alongside building genuine, healthy friendships. I think the progression from out to in here is quite logical and in fact, pretty consistent with how evangelism goes in the community with folk at all levels.

    I’ve not journalled this before, but for further reflection, It could even be worthwhile drafting a diagnostic model, discussing what holds non-church goers back from stepping out to each circle on the journey of faith, and processing how we, as missionaries, can help them overcome their doubts, fears or concerns, wrong beliefs about Christian community, or find out the facts on a situation, work through any stereotypes or prejudices, idols or incorrect belief systems, and find Jesus as their saviour and Lord.

    Along with the people of peace strategy, I think this could be good in helping missionaries meet people where they are at and in a non-threatening way, help lead them from perhaps an athiestic orientation, to agnosticism, to sympathy to the gospel, to good news inquiry, to spending time with Christian people, to baptism and commitment as a disciple – just as Jesus did in the Bible.

    Hope that’s useful. Loved the blog.

  2. Good stuff… As I read it it brought to mind similarities to the concepts of the SWOT analysis matrix and the Invitation Challenge Matrix… If you swap the labels and put “closed” at bottom, “open” at top, “high knowledge” on right, and “low knowledge” on left, it parallels the SWOT and Invitation Challenge concepts well … and one matrix can inform the other … For example on the SWOT matrix, we talk about the idea that we can only move upward from Threats to Opportunities through God’s grace… the same thing is true when you think of moving from closed to open … it’s only through God’s grace that someone’s heart and mind open to God’s truth and create opportunities to disciple … Lay all three matrices over top of each other and you see that in the upper left quadrant you have new age / open to spirituality who are indulging in a comfortable and cozy spiritual paradigm whose weakness is a low knowledge… There is opportunity to move toward breakthrough as a follower of Christ living in an empowered discipling culture… Faith is what will move them toward that breakthrough… The concepts fit similarly together in each quadrant … The way the concepts parallel and lay over top of each other gives even greater insight into the discussion … Thanks for sharing your thoughts and sparking additional Kairos…

  3. I enjoyed your post… thankfully I picked it up from a post on Jason Clark’s blog https://bay177.mail.live.com/?tid=cm_wjWobFX5BGSPgAiZMGUPg2&fid=flinbox. I find your matrix to be intriguing and would suggest that usually we have not made this identification and have have missed the possibilities of missional witness. It is sobering to think of the possible alternate responses your FB friend might have received. It requires a conscious awareness and spiritual discernment to be prepared to respond to missional opportunities.

    You refer to the ” Person of Peace tool” in your post. I am not familiar with this, could you send me a link.

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