I’m thinking that the church has minimized the importance of relationships over the years…defining success as bigger churches and organizations. They certainly have their place, but I’m getting the idea that from GOD’s perspective, relationships are the important thing.
People and relationships are emphasized way more than organizations. We have gotten so focused on the “bigger is better” mentality and it is very lonely to individuals without relationships inside the organizations.
It’s your close relationships that add sparkle and zest to your life!
Where does the warmth and joy come from in our lives? Our relationships! Yes, pain comes from them too, but without those close connections, we don’t have much of a purpose. And the pain often teaches us much…about how to relate better to other humans, how to trust more in GOD, how to be more transparent despite painful times.
Hopefully, many are getting the point and making the time to spend with smaller groups of people. Most of us aren’t really cut out for living our lives in a perpetual cocktail party with non-stop small talk. We need time to be with people who can listen to sad talk as well as happy talk. People who are happy to pray with us. We have found that making time to spend time to be intentional in our marriages and families, friendships, small groups and other relstionships in our neighborhoods, church and at work is important and worth the time spent…and soon we find we have developed friends in places we didn’t expect.
As people find their smart phone relationships less fulfilling due to their artificial nature, yes, there are exceptions, but there is an artificiality about them for sure! They find the need to turn to the very relationships that have been the most difficult, the real life ones. These are the people you can look at in the eye, see their body language and hug. There is no substitute for that!
Establishing equal relationships translates outside your community too!
Even work in poorer communities is being done on smaller, more personal ways as people are getting to know people more personally and working more one on one, mentoring in small groups, listening and watching to see what is being done right and encouraging that even though it may look different than the way other parts of the community do it. Learning to help them in a way that doesn’t hurt. Relating more than patronizing. (cf. When Helping Hurts by Corbett and Fikkert)
But is it efficient?
It doesn’t seem like this kind of change should work very well, but think of how rapidly the early Church spread via little house churches and horrendous persecution!
Maybe that’s why the Church spread so well that way. People knew each other personally. They knew that the change taking place was genuine. These people weren’t pretending. They were for real! They were sharing their lives in very intimite ways…their food, their homes, their love. It was being done at a time that doing those things was not the safe thing to do! But they did it anyway.
They were changed people who trusted GOD to protect them, to provide for them, to heal them…but if He didn’t, they still trusted Him…and kept on loving.
I used to wonder why I Corinthians 13 was jammed in the middle of all that information about the gifts of the Spirit that was so exciting. Or why there was so much about love and giving up things in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7). But I think I Corinthians 13:13 sums it up most succinctly: So now faith, hope and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.
It’s only in smaller groupings of relationships that we see the genuineness of these qualities both in our own lives and in the lives of those we know and love.
Marriage and family: two relationships established by GOD, tell the story
Those two small, intimate relationships that are the most difficult so often tell the story: the marriage and the family. They can be the most fulfilling and comforting and the most difficult and painful…all in the same day!
These people you love the most know how to love you best and how to hurt you deepest. That is the way relationships are. We are set up for deep hurt and amazing love…all at the same time!
Yet GOD is using friendships of all kinds in 2’s, 3’s, 5’s and 6’s to work in the lives of each of us to deepen our love for Him and each other, to bring friends to know Him for the first time, and to grow all of us in many ways.
Only GOD could do this kind of growth in this way. It takes people willing to love and be genuine and vulnerable with each other as He enables them.