Cultivating Social Momentum

February 5, 2024

Microchurches are extended spiritual families. They don’t just form overnight. They emerge over the course of time as loving disciplemakers incarnate within networks of relationships, plant the gospel, and make new disciples.

Healthy disciplemaking is based on healthy relationships. 

Relationships don’t form overnight, either. They are built as we get to know the names of people, have slow conversations, have hard conversations, hear stories, laugh together, and maybe even cry together. 

Some people just seem naturally gifted in starting and growing relationships. For the rest of us, we can use some help… and there are plenty of resources. If you google “how to move a relationship forward,” there are at least 782,000,000 results to help you figure it out. 

Rather than going through a myriad of articles on advancing a romantic relationship (the google results were largely around this idea, to be honest), we want to offer you a tool that will help you identify where your current relationships are and what the next step might be for the people in your context. 

We call this tool Social Momentum. It’s designed to help disciplemaking leaders think about the timeline on which they help relationships progress toward Jesus. It is informed by the idea that, for the most part, people don’t just meet us and immediately come to know Jesus. While that happens occasionally, most people are on a long journey. Most people are taking steps toward Jesus through a myriad of spiritual conversations in the mundane of the every day. 

If we’re not paying attention, we can miss helping someone move forward in their knowledge of Jesus. Or if we’re not paying attention, we might move too aggressively in spiritual conversations with people.

Sometimes, we need to help people meet Jesus in a crisis moment. Other times, we need to let relationships simmer and build a certain amount of relational capital with people before we can take the next step toward Jesus. 

The Social Momentum tool is designed to help individual leaders discern where a relationship exists and think through intentional steps to help it progress at a natural pace. 

Here’s how it works: Grab your journal or a sheet of paper and draw out the boxes that you see here. 

Before you get too concerned about filling these boxes in, take some time to slow down and engage in listening prayer. (For more resources on prayer, check out Extraordinary Prayer published by Exponential Next.) Let the Holy Spirit bring some names to mind in your relational network. Write those names down below these boxes. If you know some details about them, add those next to the name. Are they single? Are they married? Do they have kids? Do they not have kids? Do you know what they do for a living? Do you know if they’re passionate about a hobby, or did you meet them during some form of recreation?

Take some time to list notes that can help you remember some important details for the next time you see them, things you can have a conversation about so people know that you care about them and know that you’re listening.

Now that you have a list of names written down, go back to the boxes you drew and fill in those boxes with the names you’ve brainstormed with the Holy Spirit. No one is testing you on this. It doesn’t have to be perfect. Just think about where it makes the most sense to add their name on that spectrum from acquaintance to formal disciplemaking. 

Are you having meaningful conversations yet? Have these people been to a party at your home? Have you cracked open some spiritual conversations with them? Are there people in your relational world that you’re already discipling? You can move them around on this grid.

The purpose of this tool is not to just fill in names and know where people are in relationship to you. The point of this tool is to become aware of the distance they are in moving toward a meaningful spiritual journey with you. As we develop extended spiritual families, we do want to move people toward formal discipleship, helping people become more and more like Jesus in their character and in their calling. The next step is to discern the intentional conversations, gatherings, text messages, prayers, or whatever the Spirit inspires you to take to help them move toward Jesus with you. 

We would suggest that our intentionality can be directed in two ways.

The first way is how we pray for people in our relational world. The social momentum tool can be a prayer guide for you each week. Who are the people and families you have listed? How are you praying for them specifically? What do you think their next steps might be? Ask Jesus, “What are the next steps you see for these people? Where are you at work in their life? How can I join you there, Jesus?” Have there been specific statements someone has made that might indicate their interest in moving from a “meaningful conversation” to a “spiritual conversation”?

While some of your prayers may be intercessory for the people in your relational network, spend time in a listening prayer as well. Listen to what the Spirit might be highlighting. Listen for how the Spirit might be prompting you to make specific invites or offer an encouraging word. 

The second way we can be intentional is how we plan out our weeks. When you’re sitting down on Sunday to look through your week and decide how you’re going to schedule your time, you might realize you have three or four families whom you’ve had meaningful conversations with lately. Maybe it’s time to throw a party and invite them over. You might decide to send a text message and get that relational time on the calendar.

Maybe you’ve got two friends who are a regular part of your community, and it’s time to invite them into formal discipleship. You can start a text conversation just to set up a coffee, to specifically invite them into that journey. The point here is that we can look at how people are moving into a greater depth and relationship with us and begin to literally, with our time, orient our lives around those relationships. As we invest more deeply, the potential to move into intentional disciplemaking relationships will increase. 

This tool also keeps us practical and balanced, recognizing where people are, how long it took them to get there, and how to pray for movement.

One caution we would like to offer with this tool is this: Our friends, coworkers, family, and neighbors are not projects. They’re not data to be moved forward within a program. They are people. Their lives and stories have been informed by many moments and decisions. Pay attention to your spirit. If you’re having any anxiety about people moving forward or a lack of movement in their life, just start with prayer and check your own spirit.

When we’ve had an encounter with Jesus, we want to tell people. That’s a natural overflow of life in and with him. However, our desire to introduce people to Jesus should never motivate us to look beyond the individual person and process them through a system uninformed by love. 

Again, this is just a tool designed to help aid you in seeing your relationships through a different lens. Use it for that purpose. Let it guide the way you pray for your neighbors and the way you plan to engage in relationships.

Brian Johnson

Brian Johnson

Brian Johnson serves as one of the founders and directors of the Kansas City Underground, a mission agency and decentralized network of missionaries and microchurches in Kansas City. KCUG’s forty-year vision is to have a missionary on every street and a microchurch in every network of relationships, connecting with training Hubs throughout the city, saturating Kansas City with the beauty, justice, and Good News of Jesus. Brian and his wife Kristen live as missionaries with their five kids in their neighborhood, seeking to build an extended spiritual family there.
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