Research & Mapping
The Scriptures say "We have not, because we ask not." Someone else has said, "We ask not, because we care not." And someone else has concluded, "We care not, because we see not."
As we are gathering and interpreting the research of the harvest fields and harvest forces we can begin to take that research and put it on a map so we can begin to see where the dark corners and gaps are - where no light is shining. We want to track the generational growth and planting of new churches and where they are being planted. We want to find out where God's laborers are working and where are they absent. Which harvest fields have a church in close proximity, ethnicity and language, and which ones do not? We want to see lostness - by finding where the lost peoples are and why they haven't received a witness. Where are the places of spiritual strongholds like buildings that house other religions, bars and prostitution, etc.? There may be geographical barriers. There may be language or cultural barriers. Or it may be a fear or persecution barrier. We know that through prayer and effort God can tear down any barrier or turn it into a bridge.
By identifying the needs of the harvest fields and the resources of the harvest forces we can strategically train up the right laborers and point them to the right places and/or people groups. We can begin to unleash the power of prayer and the sowing of seeds in a specific and strategic matter. We can start to see a little bit better the scope of lostness and great need that a loving Father who knows the number of hairs on every head sees. As we see what God see we will ask for what we do not have and they do not have with such a focused heart, that we might catch a glimpse of God's heart, of His Sacrifice, of His glory waiting to be revealed, of the churches that God wants to plant in those very places.
How do we do this research? The best way to get to know a city and its people is to walk among them, talk to them, pray with them. That is why prayer walking is such a great tool, because it gets the harvest forces out into the harvest fields where we see the needs, find lost souls, discover men of peace and see new churches planted. When we prayer walk and do research and mapping we are both discovering lostness and attacking it.
We live in an age of technology. City maps are easily found in most places. Buy a couple of big ones. If it is a large city then try and find some sectional maps that blow up certain parts of the city for easier viewing. The more detail you can fit on a map the better. Those of you who are talented with computers and GPS could also do some great work with the use of these tools. Only remember this always, your main thing is not to have the greatest research it is to plant churches, to start new home fellowships. We use research because it helps us in this tasks.
Research can show us where there are spiritual strongholds. It can show us where different communities live and where they gather. It can help us to understand the world views of the people or peoples in our target areas. It can help us to begin to see the center of community networks - that a church planted in this center may have great impact to plant a number of other churches, like the church at Jerusalem or Antioch. But it can also help us to see which people groupings are still not receiving a witness or being engaged with a reproductive church planting strategy.
Last, research can be a lot of fun. It paints a visual image for the church to see. They can see the lostness of their communities, their cities, their people groups. And then they can see God at work through their prayers, their obedience, and their missionary labors. As God works through His people new churches begin to pop-up all over the map, not just by addition - but by multiplication as disciples and churches multiply themselves. God knows how to glorify Himself. A little bit of mapping and research can only help to get our attention to just how great a job He is doing, and give us all greater cause for praise and worship. John Piper has written in his book, Let the Nations Be Glad that "worship is the fuel for missions." I would like to submit that the following is also true - that missions is the fuel for worship. When one lost soul find Jesus and becomes a believer all of the angels in Heaven rejoice. I can not think of many greater opportunity that we have for worship in this life than to be a part of and experience the thrill of seeing God redeem persons, families and communities to Himself. We, the true children of God, will one day stand in God's presence and worship him forever, yet there remains this one act of worship that we can only participate in this side of heaven - leading lost souls to His throne of grace, mercy and redemption, and then experiencing the glory that burst forth to God when they say "YES LORD!"
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Here is a simple way to get started. Take a sheet of paper and divide it equally into 4 sections. Then draw a small house icon in the center - this represents your home. Now in each section from top to bottom write the numbers 1-5 twice. The four sections represent 4 quadrants surrounding your home. Go out and prayerfully walk each quadrants and be observant while you are doing this. Afterwards write down these things in the corresponding quadrant on your paper. For each quadrant write down 5 things you noticed about the geography and 5 things you noticed about the people living or working in those areas.
For instance - Quadrant 1 was a mix of apartments and small businesses. There was a primary school and a small playground. There were a few small shops selling groceries. Most of the properties seem old and a little run-down. The cars parked on the street were also generally older and worn. We didn't see a lot of people, but those we did pass seemed friendly and returned our greetings. They were not overly concerned or protective. The school seemed alive with lots of children, and we notice that there were several bullies on the playground.
This would be a good start, and is helpful in making you more sensitive to your surroundings and in burdening your heart for the lost people in your community. Remember to also walk at different times of the day, as morning, noon, afternoon, evening and night all have different faces.
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