Relationships – The Ultimate Church Program?

This hit me while driving to the office today. In church-world, we talk a lot about our environments. We talk about our programs. We pour our energy into designing and executing them. If you ask me what return has been on our investment, I would tell you I have no clue.

What if we all decided that our main environment, or main program for ministry, was the basic human relationship? This idea came to mind (perhaps from God?) and it was an a-ha moment. I mean, isn’t this what we are trying to achieve anyway? What do we hope to achieve with these programs, environments and events?

The way I see it, they either are aimed at producing deeper relationships (with other people and/or God) or aimed to equip people to pursue relationships (with God or others) on their own initiative. Now that I think of it, I wonder how many of our church programs end up reinforcing the self-centered, self-help mentality of our culture. Think about our sermons, our worship time, Sunday school classes. There is a lot of talk about being helpful and relevant. Isn’t the need for the power of Jesus relevant enough? Where in our church programs and environments are we encouraged to bring the power of Jesus to work in Christian community? I don’t know, I’m just asking…Just thinking out loud…

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  1. I had some interesting revelations on the topic of relationships recently when working through a problem with a friend. I started thinking – what is the purpose of friendships and really all relationships? My definition is that it fills some kind of human need. Whether the need is to share joy, get advice, to laugh, whatever. There are also needs that only certain people can uniquely fulfill for us. If that person doesn't fill them, they may never get filled. Some relationships are more one-sided than others, where you are giving more than you take, or vice-versa. I seem to find myself struggling in relationships when I feel there is a big imbalance and I am on the giving side much more than the getting side. I started thinking about my wife Deanna and how she has been there many times in the past for one of her friends. This friend isn’t someone she is very close to – she doesn’t talk to her all that often. Deanna is heavily on the giving side of this relationship. She has a lot of other friends that fill her needs and doesn’t go to this person to fill a void very often. But Deanna has been there for her in major times of need. What did she get out of getting out of bed at 1am to listen to her and talk her off the ledge after she found out about a spousal affair? What did she gain from those countless nights where instead of being with her family she was on the phone listening to her? I am sure she did get some fulfillment out of it, but I think her fulfillment came in MEETING her friend’s need. And thus, a very important need she had inside was filled through this relationship, and obviously she filled the needs of her friend at the time. Isn't that what life is about? Isn't that what God is calling us to do? To not be selfish but to be generous? To not just be takers but to be GIVERS? I think I try as a person to gain a lot of satisfaction from meeting the needs of others. That is why I get bummed at work at times – the times when the work I am doing every day doesn't seem to be meeting the needs of others. This is what we are called to do – and when a friend isn't doing this and only seeing their own situation and their needs, they will miss the needs of others and those needs may never, ever, be met. This is what we are called to do, and what I want to instill in our children and their children. It is tough but this is a fundamental paradigm shift that I need to remind myself of regularly. -A Murphy

  2. I think you hit the nail on the head. Even those who don't hold a Biblica worldview or even believe in God would probably say that relationships they have are the most significant part of their life. I think you are right in that God made us to be in relationships with each other. I was thinking about the nature of giving in relationships the other day. Say there is a group of 5 friends. What if each friend was only concerned about themselves and taking care of their own needs. Each person would have 1 person watching out for them. What if that same group looked only to the needs of the other four in the group? Then each person would have 4 people watching out for them.To get back to relationships and ministry, I fear that due to our increasingly isolated society, our relationships are getting scarcer and shallower and we're getting lonelier and more unskilled at caring for each other. Sadly, the lives of we church-folk (me included) don't look too much different from everyone else. So that presents a lot of challenges to a church who is interested in building community among the members of its congregation.There's got to be so many lonely people out there who just need to be noticed and valued. My neighbor, for instance, is basically a shut in who lost everything important in his life when he got sick with cancer. As far as I know, he hardly has any visitors, pays professionals to take care of his house and spends a lot of his day sleeping because of his physical condition. How is my church program going to minister to him? There is an unfortunate reality for my neighbor. I'm afraid Jesus is looking for an obedient follower to befriend my neighbor and love him. Someone who will knock on his door and intentionally build a relationship with him. What's unfortunate for my neighbor is that the obedient Christian is probably me! If I don't do something, who will? If I don't make my way into this guy’s life, he may never have the opportunity to meet Jesus. I agree. We are fulfilled when we are engaging in giving relationships with each other. The whole new testament is even filled with tons of "one-anothers" showing us how to love each other.Thanks for you comments!

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