God has a funny way of teaching us what He wants us to know and understand. With me, He has really wanted me to understand the role of trust, connection and relationships in sharing the gospel and who He is with people who do and don’t know Him. And, in the creative way He [always] goes about things, He used business school to really push it home for me.
Bear with me a minute, while I get a little nerdy…
In research that’s been done on effective team performance (which I studied in business school), trust is a major factor. My favorite research comes from Wildman et al, who postulate that swift trust (trust among team members in a quick-starting group) is impacted by a few things: 1) our willingness to trust others, 2) what you observe of people and the environment around you, and 3) the knowledge, stereotypes and preconceptions that you have that you are bringing into this group dynamic. These three things are then fed through a filter of previous experiences. The result is the level of trust that is brought into the group by each individual.
So why does this matter in ministry? Because sharing the gospel is a big thing. And if the person with whom you are sharing it doesn’t trust you, you (and therefore the gospel) won’t be heard. So we need to understand the dynamics around trust and how to enable it. (I do, however, concede that the supernatural work of the Holy Spirit can enable trust in a person – no matter what goes into their trust equation – so that the gospel can be heard.)
Vulnerability is equally as powerful when developing connections with people….which in turn, creates trust.
Brene Brown, is amazing. I have a total girl crush on her. I’ve seen her speak twice here in Charlotte. During one of those events, when she introduced the “rumbling” that goes on in our lives, God shook the entire building with the loudest clap of thunder I’ve ever heard. Again, in His creative ways, He really wanted us to understand (and remember) what she was teaching us.
Anyways, back to my point on vulnerability…. Brene is a researcher on courage, vulnerability, empathy, and shame. She presented what she’s learned in a Ted Talk on vulnerability. (She has another Ted Talk on shame that is equally amazing…..I highly recommend watching them if you haven’t….or again, if you have. She’s also got a few books that are awesome. Ok, plug over.)
Essentially, what she has found in her research is that vulnerability enables connection. Vulnerability gives us the courage to be imperfect, be compassionate with ourselves and be compassionate with others……resulting in….authenticity. Again, why does this matter? Because God calls us to be ourselves! And we can’t be ourselves if we aren’t being authentic. People see right through the fake.
We have to share ourselves with others in order to develop relationships that matter. As Brene says in her Ted Talk, “Connection gives purpose and meaning to our lives.” Vulnerability is NOT weakness…..it’s a measure of courage…. and, it’s necessary in connecting with others.
Finally, TIME. In order to develop relationships, be vulnerable and develop trust with others, we actually have to spend time with them. Novel concept, right? [Nope!] To develop relationships, we have to experience life with people. Do things with them. Talk to them. Listen to them. Share of ourselves.
So again….why does this matter? And why did I just spend a huge chunk of text explaining these concepts? Because Leena gets it. ALL of it. She shares of herself in so many ways in the Serve Trust ministry. She understands that people are coming to her with all kinds of baggage. Many of them have spent their whole lives in the Hindu religion and culture. Their trust equation output is LOW. She connects with them in order to pour into that trust equation. Her grandfather was a Hindu priest. She shares that with people. She shares her own struggles. She asks questions of people….about their lives, their families, their needs and their hopes. She listens. She lets them know that she understands. She spends time with them. And does so consistently. No one is ever just a “once-off” for Leena. She goes back to each individual and each village. They expect her. They develop connection with her. They trust her. She has a relationship with the individuals and the groups. Leena embodies these concepts in her daily life….by following the leading of the Spirit.
In her understanding of all of this, she’s come up with a formula for church planting. While on the bus, during one of my many question-peppering sessions, I asked her about how she goes about planting a church. They fall right in line with trust, connection and relationships….
Here are Leena’s six stages for church planting:
- Identify the village in need of a church
- Pray for the village, specifically for wisdom about the needs of the people
- Go into the village and meet the people
- Play with the children. Skip rope, play volleyball, draw with chalk. Get the children out and spend time with them.
- Slowly, over time, spend time in their homes….after they have become friends. Focus on the women. As Leena says, “Every woman has a problem and she will be eager to share it with you.”
- Care for them physically. Take food to them. Take them to the doctor. Get medicines to them.
And then of course the most important, she omitted because the first six stages are so important: plant the church.
Trust. It’s fundamental to relationships. Connection. It enables relationships. Vulnerability. It enables us to be authentic instruments of the Spirit.