Y’all. Relationships are hard!
Jacked up humans interacting with other jacked up humans will always lead to disagreements, issues, and misunderstandings. It can also lead to innovation, creativity, encouragement, and growth. Relationships can enrich our lives and really can’t be replaced by anything else. But that doesn’t make them any less difficult.
Historically, the church was built on relationships. There were no apps or streaming services in Jesus’s day and websites and social media didn’t exist in the years of the early church. Yet the church grew exponentially. Word spread of miracles happening, people couldn’t stop talking about the freedom they had found in Christ, and generosity ran rampant. There was something so markedly different about Christianity that others had no choice but to join.
But it was all built upon relationships.
When Jesus first started inviting people to join him, he called Andrew who couldn’t help but share with Peter, his brother. After Jesus called Phillip, he did the same thing as Andrew: he couldn’t help but tell Nathaniel about Jesus! These guys weren’t shouting from the city squares (yet), but were having conversations with those they already had relationships with. It wasn’t weird, spooky, or guilt-laden, just a simple conversation between people who knew each other well.
While the American church does a lot of things right and I’m so incredibly thankful for the role that it plays in my life, I think it, in a lot of ways, does this part wrong. In a time when focus tends to be on marketing and artwork and programs and projects, I wonder how the world, how the church, might change if the focus shifted back to relationships.
Now, I know it’s ironic for me to be writing about this because I am, historically, not great at relationships. I tend to be more task-focused than people-focused and have to work myself up in order to go and people. I’m not great at peopling, yet I see the immense value in doing so. We were created for relationships with God and with each other, so why do we have it our minds that the church should operate any other way?
The truth is that it’s so much easier to be task-focused, marketing-focused, or production-focused than to be people-focused. If I had my way, that’s how I would do it. But the fact I have to constantly return to is that Jesus died for people. He didn’t die for a building, a platform, a position, a campaign, or a performance. He died for people who were lost and dead in their sin. He died for you and me because he loves us.
At the end of the day, the gospel is simple, powerful, and completely relational. Why would we make it into anything different?
How do you handle relationships? Do you tend to be more people focused or task focused?
Do you see the gospel, the good news of Jesus, as relational? Why or why not?