Our Quest for Faithful Presence

Dear St Luke’s,

Back in the early 2000’s, I was pastoring, was a new father, and was knee deep in my doctoral studies. In my studies I was searching for a less prescriptive and more relational connective way of imagining the Christ’s church. My friend Peter invited me for calzones on Queen Anne hill and over lunch he told me about an article he’d read about a breakthrough discovery in network theory. Apparently, a group of researchers at Norte Dame had taken on the project of mapping the world wide web.

In studying their map, the researchers upended the reigning theories in network studies which had been in place for hundreds of years, and in so doing laid the theoretical groundwork for social media platforms. As you know, a map is simply a tool to help one understand and see the relationship between things. So, a road map shows the relationship of cities and towns and highways connecting them. A genogram is a map showing the relationships of people in a family system. Or an org chart maps the structure of an organization and the relationships and relative ranks of its parts and positions.

I had set out to find a more relational frame for understanding the church, but in mapping the local church, I found that any church, or faith community, or mission group, or denomination functions more like a hub within God’s scale free kingdom. “Hubs” are those super connectors! A hub is proactively linking others to what they needed to thrive. 

People don’t connect to Amazon.com for the sake of Amazon, rather they connect to it because Amazon.com can help them connect to what they are looking for. Amazon is a hub.

Amazon’s goal is present people with what they are looking for as effectively as possible. If Amazon were to stop linking people with what they were looking for people would quickly go elsewhere. 

Could it be that people don’t connect to St Luke’s for simply the sake of St Luke’s? Could it be that people connect because they are looking for something? Connection with God? Connection with meaning making? With a faith tradition? With a community of belonging? With a group seeking to participate in God’s dream for the world? Friends? Etc. Could it be, that the degree to which we seek to really listen for why a person or household show up at St Luke’s and help them connect to what helps them thrive, might correspond to their ongoing connection?

According to the research, the strength of a network is not in having one strong connection, but in having many weaker connections which together weave a tapestry of support.

When someone walks into St Luke’s maybe the goal is even bigger than having one member create a strong bond with that person but to listen for what that new person is looking for and introduce them to what might help them thrive. 

It seems to me that the church is a hub in God’s relational network. How might we each look for ways to connect each other and to what we most need to thrive. You are connected to St Luke’s for a reason, what are you looking for? And how might we help you thrive?

I’ll see you on Sunday. Remember, God delights in you, and so does our community of faith! You are not alone.

Peace, dwight