Fruitful Practices #4- Social Networking

By A SEND Worker
Tags: Muslim Ministries, Southeast Asia, Muslim Ministry, Story

The “Fruitful Practices” series of articles highlights eight effective characteristics common among effective Kingdom-work and movements among Muslims. This issue continues the series with the 4th fruitful practice- recognizing the importance of social networks.

The Gospel Goes

While everyone is different, people generally gravitate toward others who are like them or who like doing similar things. For me, it works like this: I like football, so I can relate to others who like football. This principle applies also to Kingdom-building and to work among the unreached. If the unreached see themselves as different from those who attend church, the likelihood is high that they will never venture into church of their own accord. Some territories may not even have a church available yet for seekers to attend.

Historically, church planting meant literally setting up a church building or renovating one to be a church, and then inviting people to come. This might work in some places, but it is not effective in other places. Often the people do not come.  It is not enough to just wait for people to come to church to hear the gospel; we must find ways to bring the gospel to them. We need to look for places that the unreached feel comfortable, pay attention to their social networks, and meet them there.  

Immigrants and Refugees

Social networking naturally occurs when immigrants or migrants come to a new country. Immigrants often seek other people from their country, religion, or experience and congregate around them. This is seen in big cities, where neighborhoods of people can be found from predominantly one country such as Ireland, Italy, Germany, Poland, Mexico, Somali, Iraq, India, Pakistan, etc.

In the same way immigrants tend to congregate according to their home countries, society tends to congregate- on a smaller scale- according to occupations, hobbies, and/or other interests. Taxi drivers hang out with other taxi drivers; doctors hang out with other doctors; tech people hang out with other tech people; horse-lovers hang out with other horse-lovers; people who like to fish hang out with other people who like to fish, etc. These groups all form social networks. Some social networks develop around workplace and interests; others develop around our children’s activities. The neat thing is that these groups are not all mutually exclusive. You might find a taxi driver and a doctor who both love to fish. They have no other overlapping interests, but fishing brings them together. 

Seize the Opportunity

As Kingdom workers, we need to pay attention to the social networks around us and discover genuine ways to enter and share the gospel in these contexts. This might lead us out beyond the boundaries of our comfort zones as we take on a new hobby or learn a new skill or sport. Let us not be afraid to ask insiders from these social contexts to teach us their common skills, interests, or cultures. This is a good way to build friendships and to get to know those who have never heard the gospel. Because social networks are never mutually exclusive, and since we all belong to multiple networks- the gospel lived out in community has the potential, if presented well, to spread through entire social networks and even into other related circles of influence.

Look for Social Networks

Look around you: What are the social networks that exist in your neighborhood, town, or city? Some will be obvious; others may take some exploring to discover. Pray and ask God for wisdom to know which social networks to pursue and how you should enter them. Most people do not actively seek out new social networks, but most are willing to let others, who demonstrate genuine interest, enter their existing groups.

A wise Christian worker noted, in regards to church-planting efforts, that if Kingdom workers are not careful- they might unwittingly introduce the church as a new social network, which could be misconstrued as a threat to existing networks or cultures. Our goal as Kingdom builders is not to set up a competing social network. Rather, our goal is to introduce others to the Lord and Giver of Life and allow Him to transform all existing cultures, including our own!

Social networks in Muslim Fellowships

In a recent study, more than 100 successful church planters across multiple agencies were asked whether their fellowships of Muslim background-believers had prior relationships or were part of the same social networks. Those who started fellowships in which people already had established relationship were, on average, more than twice as fruitful as those who gathered new believers with no prior relationship!

God placed such high importance on social networks that he sent Jesus from heaven to earth- to live among us and to be one of us. Let us follow his example and be willing to take the light of Jesus to those who have never heard!

Discover how SEND is engaging immigrants and internationals through Diaspora ministries.

Learn seven simple ways to engage with Muslims in your own neighborhood. 

Read "Fruitful Practice #3- Varied Use of Scripture."

Sign up to receive the SEND Hope & Light quarterly e-newsletter.