Ministry has been defined for too long by programs and activities. A quick survey of a handful of church and parachurch ministry websites and we find a litany of programs, dates, times and links to sign up for this and that. Programs, events and activities are not evil. Yet, they can be distractions from the main event. We become distracted by being active rather than being effective. Relationships are the fertile soil in which making disciples happens best. In order to engage, reach and transform our communities, the local church must major on relationships inside and outside of the church.
The gospel is about relationships … a holy God relating to sinful man and sinful man to a holy God through Jesus Christ (vertical) and people relating to one another through Jesus (horizontal). Mankind is created in the image of God.
So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him, male and female he created them. – Genesis 1:27.
People are relational beings at our very core. People long to find a group to belong to and connect. People long not to be lonely. Yet, we struggle with relationships. Marriages are strained. Families are in turmoil. Co-workers are agitated. Friendships are more acquaintance than anything that reflects David and Jonathan. In spite of our community obstacles to developing and fostering quality relationships, the truth remains that relationships are vitally necessary.
Why are relationships so important to effectively making disicples?
- Evangelism and discipleship happens best and most naturally in the context of relationships. The gospel is about relationships.
- Ministry happens in the context of relationships because ministry, at its core, is about serving people. Ministry must be shaped to deliver the gospel and love of Jesus in real and tangible ways.
Relationships are built on trust. Trust takes time. We must pay the rent.
How do we pay the rent to foster gospel relationships?
- Learn to see people with the eyes of Jesus. See a person for the individual he or she is with likes, habits, talents, strengths, weaknesses … a story to be heard.
- Take time to get to know persons as individuals.. We cannot know everyone, but we should be committed to getting to know the persons in our areas of life. What are my areas? Who are the persons I live with? Who are the persons I work with? Who are the persons who live on my street? Who are the persons who work at the restaurants I frequent? Who are the persons who work at the grocery store I shop? Who are the persons who work at the mechanic shop who work on my car? Who are the persons who coach my kids ball teams? Who are the persons in the families of the kids on the ball teams I coach?
- Take interest in the persons in our lives. If we will take the time to slow down as we live each day, we will see and hear the stories of the persons in our lives. Before we can serve people, we must hear their story and understand their lives.
- We must budget our time, talents and treasures to include margin to be ready to serve and help others.
- Spend time with persons in conversation and just hanging out. This may sound like too casual of a use of one’s time, but relationships take time to grow. Relationships require investment. Relationships need celebrations of life’s joys and mourning in times of life’s grief.
Relationships can be messy. Relationships require forgiveness, grace, compassion, honesty, trust and faithfulness. Relationships are the spice of life and make life fun.
Jesus spent time with people. He shared time over meals with the people in the towns he visited. He invited himself to Zaccheus’ house. Jesus spent time with all kinds of people. He is no respecter of persons, and neither should we. Jesus was close friends with people (ie, Mary, Martha, Lazarus) and engaged his full humanity with them when they hurt (John 11). I could go on, but suffice it to say, Jesus majored on people. His love for people and faithfulness to God led him to the cross. “Greater love has on one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13).