I just returned from dinner with three people I met over Twitter. Great folks-- two pastors (one of whom is a church planter) and one computer genius.
I tweeted this earlier tonight:
I'm in Alexandria, VA near the G. Wash. Masonic Memorial. If you're not mad abt something & want to meet for dinner, DM me.– Ed Stetzer (@edstetzer) May 15, 2013
Three folks responded over Twitter and then we set up a place to meet.
This is something I try to do as I can, sometimes to meet but more often to give advice and offer prayer.
For example, I did it a few months ago to offer advice:
I've got 1 hour to talk to any pastors or planters needing advice. Will call as many as I can in that time frame who DM me.– Ed Stetzer (@edstetzer) January 10, 2013
Well, I do this as an intentional discipline. I can spend a lot of my life just meeting with people who are on my agenda-- and that is a good thing. I had a fascinating day today, starting with members of Congress and then meeting national religious leaders. But, we know why we are there and the agenda is planned-- sometimes very planned.
Sometimes, we need something more-- more spontaneous, more Spirit-led, and more random.
Now, there are lots of things to consider that I do not address here (like safety, etc.), but I consider them as well.
However, since my ministry role is focused on training and equipping pastors and churches, I use random social media connections to make new friends and learn.
Here are five reasons why:
1. Pastors and leaders need encouragement. Most of the people that follow me on Twitter are pastors, and sometimes I only talk to certain kinds of pastors-- I've tweeted out "youth pastors," "small church pastors," and "church planters." As I can, I try to encourage and serve them in the time we have (and sometimes after).
2. God can use random connections for greater purpose. Sometimes I tweet if people just want prayer, and I call them. I've prayed with a Pentecostal pastor whose wife was dying next to him in a hospital bed. I've prayed with a Presbyterian pastor who was fired that night. I firmly believe that those pastors saw that as God providing them the encouragement they needed at just that time.
3. I meet people outside my own tradition. Usually, it is a mix of people-- Pentecostals, Baptists, Anglicans, whatever-- you never know. I have a lot of Twitter followers, most are in ministry, and I want to learn what God is doing in different traditions.
4. I learn from others. I'm very inquisitive. I ask a lot of questions about people, movements, strategies, and plans. By doing so, you learn. People are like books-- you have to read them if they will let you. And, if you only listen to people who agree with you, learning never comes (see point #3).
5. I believe the Holy Spirit works when we step out and say, "use me." That's what I am trying to do. I'm trusting the Lord that he has someone I need to encourage, pray for, learn from, or whatever. I'm rarely disappointed.
The meetings and calls are not always great, but most are. And sometimes they are divine appointments. I want to make myself available to the Spirit and to God's people and I believe having a plan to meet strangers so you might encourage them is a great way to be open to the Spirit's leading.
Honestly, I can't do that to everyone. I've come to recognize that reality (and that's not been easy, but I like my wife and children far too much). I say "no" a lot. However, when I am going to eat anyway (as per tonight) or I am driving for a couple of hours (as is often the case while out speaking), I think this is a great use of time.
But, trusting the Holy Spirit to make the right connections, I like to throw it out there and see how I can help a few new friends along the way.
I'd encourage you to find ways to do something similar, focused on the calling of God in your life. If you are on social media, try it on Twitter or Facebook (perhaps making a phone call after you check their profile). If you are not on social media in that way, consider some connections through clubs, meetups, and the like.
Who knows who you might encourage?