Continuing our look at Dr. Eric H.F. Law’s book, “Holy Currencies” Six Blessings for Sustainable Missional Ministries we turn our attention to currency of Relationship.
This is based on the “Three Degrees of Influence” theories from modern research. You might remember the old “six degrees of Kevin Bacon” where people tried to make connections to a celebrity? Well “Three Degrees of Influence” simply states that everything we do tends to ripple through our network. Having an impact on our friends (one degree) will have a resulting impact on their friends (two degrees) and that in turn will have an impact on their freind’s friends. (Three degrees.) Influence tends to taper off or become dispersed past this point.
However, the currency aspect of this is powerful. Let’s just say that a meaningful worship service positively affects 100 people (our average at St. James.) If each of us have at least 5 friends that we tell about that experience, that is 500 people influenced in a positive manner. If those 500 go and tell at least 5 of their friends, we are now at 2500 people, all influenced by just ONE event.
Social Media works like this. You can project out about two shares, right? After that it gets muddy unless it “goes viral” and becomes something that is hyper-shared and takes on a life of its own.
Dr. Law talks about how this was Jesus’ mode of operation 2000 years ago. He influenced 12 disciples, who went from there two by two to influence others. In the great commission Jesus’ words talk about how the Gospel would be preached in “Jerusalem, and Judea and Samaria, and then to the ends of the earth.” That’s 3 degrees of proclamation, ripples extending from a single event.
In terms of Stewardship, this is a currency of exchange that happens on both an internal and external level. The richer our relationships, the more we influence one another, the more we attend to the spheres of influence, the more we are are able to generate responses and resources.
Most churches are rich in activities. We are “Martha” churches, defining who we are by what we do.
There is nothing wrong with that, but it is a diminishing return currency. If you do more, you tend to ask more, and if you ask for more, you tend to get more.. up to a point. Like those ripples, once your are three degrees away from the source, the influence tends to dissipate.
That’s why long established ministries tend to run their course. They start with a strong connection to Jesus, and then they ripple out and become more about the project, the good being done, the lives affected. That is all good, but as the currency of relationship gets stretched thin, resentment and loss of focus result.
It is much like the story of Jesus’ visit to the house of Mary and Martha. There is nothing wrong with Martha’s activity of being hospitable, serving, doing… it’s just that it gets exhausting after a while and Martha admits that!
We also wrongly assume that what people want to be invited into when they first come to a church is activity. They likely came here looking for a relationship, to connect with people, and to meet Jesus. They are more like Mary.
The “Mary” activity is one of cultivating the relationship with Jesus. She will serve. She will help her sister eventually, but in this moment the “ripple” she needs is the one that connects her more closely to Jesus.
Churches need to attend to their currency of relationship, to make sure that they are staying always no more than three degrees of influence away from Jesus.
How is St James at that? Do we attend to relationships as much as we do to activities and actions?