traction, n 1. the adhesive friction of a body on some surface, as a wheel on a rail or a tire on a road. 2. the state of being drawn or pulled.
adhesive, adj 1. clinging; tenacious; sticking fast.
friction, n 1. Mech., Physics. the resistance of a surface to the relative motion, as sliding or rolling of a body moving a long a given surface.
Been thinking of late about what if any Kingdom effect we actually have on the people of Northampton, especially those who disdain calling themselves Jesus-followers.
Another way to put it: Do we have any discernible REDEMPTIVE TRACTION?
Not just yet . . . if you measure it by adhesive friction which enables gaining forward movement because we are sticking fast in the consciousness of the city, i.e, we are becoming known and accepted as Jesus-followers. And because of that, people are opening to the One we follow.
Case in point: yesterday after a brief breakfast at Sylvester's with Tricia, I stopped by the Chamber of Commerce to inquire as to how to become a member. I was right there, so I popped in. I introduced myself to the Member Services Manager. She asked who I was with. I told her imagine/Northampton, a new church in town. She said, "Oh, I have not heard of you." We've been here 2 years in July.
I've heard the same response a number of times. Our advertising budget has been a pittance at best so we've not used the usual channels to get the word out. We've not had a familiar presence to most people in town. Our presence is better recognized by the Christian community here, but they're not the people we are most trying to serve.
To be fair, I should note we're recognized by a small number of street musicians and homeless folks because we talk to them often and serve them at the Interfaith Shelter monthly. There are few others in town as well. But that constitutes little traction in my estimation.
So what do I think redemptive traction would look like? Before I tell you, I'm aware much redemptive traction is more than likely developing beyond our sight where the Holy Spirit is putting necessary pieces in place before the observable manifests. I know the Kingdom works that way.
Here are a few markers:
1. We become familiar and safe enough that people talk of their spirituality with us. They see us as people like them with weaknesses, hopes, passions, convictions, losses and sorrows.
2. They invite us into their worlds. We work together on voluntary efforts serving the people of the city or help them do something they need doing.
3. We have more conversations about why we're convinced Christianity is true. Our relationships with people in town evolve to that level of discourse.
4. Some of them become intrigued enough to come to worship. They see us as authentic and humble, so trust grows into real relationship and they want to discover our world because we've taken their world seriously.
5. They come to know Jesus and learn to follow him with us. Slowly, they are inspired to invite people they know to open to Christ and follow him because of how he changed their story.
6. They grow to develop and use their gifts in Kingdom loving and serving with us.
7. They embrace being a follower of Jesus in Northampton as their Primary Identity.
8. Over time, imagine/Northampton grows in numbers to the point where we have a physical space on Main Street, a "third place" for students, artists, intellectuals, business people, musicians, young families, street people and older folks to find refreshing, conversation, and, oh yeah, a church happens to meet there too.
So there's a little of what I mean by redemptive traction. We would be making a substantial difference in the lives of people who Jesus loves and desires for them to know him. In addition, we'd be characterized as a group of people who love and serve "the least of these," Christ's brethren whether they chose to follow him or not. He is the one opening people's eyes and convicting them of a need to change. We just live focused on loving and serving.
We are here for this.
And I realize we are on the way. Even though, sometimes spiritual friction seems to nullify the traction needed to move forward, in reality, it doesn't. I know the Holy Spirit eventually overcomes all that stands in the way of establishing his mission in Northampton - on our watch or later.
He is the ultimate REDEMPTIVE TRACTION.