There are a number of people whom I have come into contact with, be they regular readers of this ministry, or simply friends and acquaintances from Bible studies I have led over the years.
Some of these people have expertise and experience in areas that I don’t (spiritual or otherwise). For example, neither evangelism nor Christian counseling are areas I am specifically called to, so while I know how they proceed at a high level, my knowledge only goes so far.
1 Corinthians 12 makes it clear that all people in the Body of Christ are essential for its proper functioning. The idea behind this contact network, then, is to connect members of the Body of Christ with one another.
How things work in practice
I personally handle doctrinal questions (see here). This contact network is for routing interested parties to contacts of mine who are better equipped than myself to deal with specific areas.
If you are on the fence about emailing me to see if I know anything about an area, I encourage you to always ask – the very worst that can possibly happen is that neither myself nor any of my contacts know anything.
Once I receive your request, I may respond to it myself, if I feel like I can be helpful on my own. If not, I’ll get back to you rapidly to let you know one of two things:
- I know someone who can likely be tapped for help, and I have emailed them, meaning that we are now waiting on their permission.
- Neither myself nor any of my contacts can likely be of much help.
So long as I receive the go-ahead from my contact, I’ll then get you in contact with them directly by CC’ing you both on an email. At this point, I don’t necessarily have to be a party to any further communication.
I do try to take pains in this process to route people only to mature believers who can be trusted at a high level, and to not forward on any requests from those who need a truly careful touch (due to being new, impressionable believers, for example). However, I cannot necessarily make any guarantees, so it is wise for all parties involved (both helper and helpee) to exercise discernment throughout this process.
Practical use cases
To get a better idea of how this contact network might prove useful, consider the following practical use cases:
- Let’s say someone emails me wanting to know about how to go about being self-employed in a godly way as a Christian. I work a normal nine-to-five job, so I don’t have a lot of direct knowledge, but I do know of a couple individuals (teachers, even) who are self-employed. After getting permission from one or more of these folks, I get my initial correspondent in contact with them, and then they are helped much more effectively.
- Let’s say a different person emails me wanting to know about immigration to the United States. I know a bit about the process and procedures involved since I have been in conversations with overseas friends who are either in the process of immigrating to the United States, or very much interested in the prospect. The thing is, even though I’ve picked up some knowledge, these people I mentioned know a great deal more than me, since they are directly involved. Thus, after getting permission from one or more of these folks, I get this second correspondent in contact with them, and then they too are helped much more effectively.
- Let’s say a third person is worried about graduate school in a science field, and wants some advice. I have an undergrad degree in Computer Science (and took plenty of upper-level classes with graduate students), but I have never myself been a graduate student. I do know a good many of them though (be they past or present). After getting permission from one or more of these folks, I get this third correspondent in contact with them, and then they also are helped much more effectively.
Use cases relating to ministry and spiritual considerations
The contact network can also be helpful in use cases relating to ministry and spiritual considerations. For example, after obtaining permission, I am confident that I can route people to contacts of mine who have background in:
- Overseas missions in Germany and China, among other places.
- Doing ministry with college students through campus fellowships.
- Doing evangelism as their primary calling within the Body. (Mine is teaching).
- Escaping cult influence.
- Escaping occult influence.
- Converting from Catholicism.
- Converting from Mormonism.
Meeting others who are geographically proximate to you
There are many advantages in having fellowship with other believers face-to-face. If you happen to live within easy driving distance of South Georgia (I live in Warner Robins, Georgia, USA), then I’m down for meeting. If not, I may know followers of this ministry (or followers of Ichthys, etc.) in your local area.
You are always free to email me to see if I know anyone who lives near you. If so, once I get their permission (that is, if they are interested in meeting locally too), then I can get you in contact with them.
If you maintain an address book, why isn’t it public?
I personally maintain a private address book containing the names, expertise/background and/or interests, and contact info for various people who are readers or contacts of this ministry. This (not publicly visible) address book serves as the basis for this contact network.
It is not public for two primary reasons:
- It is important to me to protect the privacy of others.
- Even if I were to publicly display information about all my contacts, I know them better than any short description could capture. This means that I have a better chance of making good connections than third parties would themselves, were they to peruse a public directory with contact info. In this way, while having the directory be public might remove me from the equation and lead to somewhat fewer boilerplate permission-seeking emails, the end result would not be as good, all said and done.