Tag Archives: relationships

Relationships aren’t Secondary

People_connected_LoopWhen we look at Scripture, we can see that Jesus continually spent time with people.  It wasn’t Plan B for him, it was his whole mission.  He had a desire to be with people and could often be found in small and large gatherings.  Somewhere in our culture, we have lost site of the fact that God works best in and through relationships.  We build programs and we create environments that are designed to ‘reach people’.  However, we have become great at trying to reach people at arms length.  We focus on the big picture without realizing that eternal differences are made one relationship at a time.  We are often so busy in this culture that it becomes very difficult to carve out time to just love on people.  And as a result, organizations are formed, but relationships are distant.  We can’t expect to make a difference in our communities if we aren’t willing to spend time with people in real life, day-to-day environments.

I want to give you four reasons to invest time in cultivating personal relationships.

1. Ministry equals Relationships.  Ministry is the ability to touch people at their needs.  It is simply to discover what is taking place in the lives of people around us and meet them there.  We can’t expect to meet the needs of people around us if we keep our distance from the people around us.  When we love people where they are, that is ministry.  When we demonstrate the love of God by valuing those who are hurt and broken, those who are searching for hope in this world, we can make an eternal difference.  This happens best when we personally invest our lives in the lives of people.  We must work side by side to make a difference for Christ.

2. Discipleship equals Relationships.  We can impart knowledge in many different environments.  However, the ability to share or gain knowledge is not discipleship.  Discipleship is living life together in a way that we not only learn the truth of the Bible, but we also learn how to apply it to our lives on a daily basis.  Proverbs 27:17 tells us that as iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.  This simple principle teaches us that we are more likely to become who it is God has designed us to be as we spend time in Godly relationships.  He uses other people in our lives to sharpen and shape us for His glory.

3. Life equals Relationships.  Our culture is moving more and more toward a culture of isolation.  We are actually moving away from intimacy and accountability with others and replacing it with a technology substitute.  In this day and age of social media, we can feel like we are connected to people because we see what is taking place in their lives because of Facebook, Twitter and other media.  We also can freely share happenings in our day through these avenues as well.  The result is we feel as though we are connected to people without having any accountability for our actions daily.  The questions we need to ask ourselves is “Who would we turn to if we really had a need?” Is there anyone in your life right now that you can turn to with life’s toughest questions?  Is there anyone you’re close enough to (besides your spouse) that you would feel comfortable talking to about your struggles?  The truth is that God created us to live life in a culture of relationships.  Without these kinds of relationships, we are missing out on a big part of what life designed to be.  We are missing out on the opportunity to experience him in greater ways.  When we come to the end of our lives, we won’t want a bigger portfolio or to have climbed one more rung on the ladder of success, we will look back and view relationships as our biggest assets in life.

4. God loved us so much that He wanted a Relationship with us.  God demonstrated that relationships are important by desiring a relationship with us.  He became one of us, lived here on the earth in bodily form and did not sin.  He went to the cross to pay the price for all of our sins and rose from the dead to create the opportunity for us to have a personal relationship with Him.  That is powerful in itself.  God loved us in spite of who we were, in spite of what we’ve done.  He loved us not because of who we were, but because of who we could become.  He simply asks that we believe in Him.  He made the first step in coming to us in order to have a relationship with us.  Let’s follow His example and make the first step in building relationships with those around us.

Relationships aren’t secondary in our lives, they should be a primary purpose of all that we do.  The only thing in this world that is eternal is people.  So let’s intentionally invest in eternity, by spending time with people.  Let’s work hard at not seeing people for what they’ve done, but who they could become in Christ.  Extend grace when possible and enjoy the opportunity to spend time with those he died to save.  Make room in your schedule to have people in your home, in your activities, in your life.  As you do this, you’ll begin to notice a change not only in your perspective of people, but of what it is God has for you to do while you’re here on this earth.


5 Important truths for a Spiritual Leader

A few years back I was reading a book on leadership by John MacArthur.  In that book there was a statement that leadership wasn’t the ability to manage people or details, but the ability to inspire others to follow.  It went on to communicate that leaders don’t exist without followers.  This thought challenged me because I had always been a good “manager”, but had to start evaluating how effective I was at being a leader.  As I started to think through this, some areas started to become obvious to me as a pastor.

1.  We are not managers, but Spiritual Leaders.  A manager can direct traffic in any organization simply by conveying a list of things that need accomplished.  As spiritual leaders, we have the opportunity to move people from following out of a sense of obligation, to following because they believe in the goals we set out.  We must convey the goals and the overall vision in such a way that it inspires people and motivates them to become something more than they could ever have imagined.  We can’t just do this with good, persuasive words.  It must be accompanied with much prayer and discernment on our part.  We should see that, as spiritual leaders, we must spend time daily with our Leader and Lord.  This should be a priority in our schedules if we ever hope to accomplish anything for Him as we lead.

2.  Relationships Matter.  A manager can function apart from any real relationship with those that are managed.  Again, it’s simply conveying a list of things that need to be accomplished and the people who do it are just a means to an end.  As a spiritual leader, we must follow the example of Christ in what we do.  If we examine how He was able to have such a broad impact, we can see that He invested His life in people through relationships.  We can look at His relationship with the disciples and see that these were the people He poured into.  How were they able to go on and turn their world upside down? It’s because they had been inspired by their leader through their relationship with Him to become leaders of others.  We should make it a point to invest in the lives of the people and leaders we lead.

3.  Direction Matters.  We must be able to cast a vision for where we are going.  For those who follow, they want to know that what they are doing has value.  They want to see that it accomplishes an overall purpose or goal.  No one likes busy work.  No one wants to look back and see that they have just been working in circles and have nothing to show for it.  We must constantly remind those we lead where we are leading them to.  What is our purpose? How will this grow the kingdom? How will this impact the church? How will it help those who are hurting?  As we have one on one conversations with people, lunch with people, meetings with groups, we must always restate the vision in different ways and in different settings.  This allows us to remind them, as well as ourselves, where we are going.

4.  Grace is necessary.  As a manger in the work force, I would often find myself in situations where policies were broken by employees and action would have to be taken.  There were often times where I had to go in and demote people or terminate people from their positions because of their actions.  But as a Spiritual Leader, it’s not just a matter of enforcing policies. Although, we do desire that people work within the boundaries laid out.  We must be consistently communicating with those we lead.  If there is a situation or confrontation that needs to take place, it must be done in grace.  This doesn’t mean that we allow people a free pass to do whatever they want or to work against the vision or direction of the ministry.  It simply means that we are not the judge and jury.  We all do the wrong thing sometimes and we need people to come into our lives and lovingly guide us and correct us.  In these times we should follow Matthew 18 and talk with those who may have offended us one on one.  I have discovered that some clear communication at this time can go a long way to restoring and refocusing everyone on the overall vision and direction.  I’m reminded of Peter’s denial of Jesus at the cross.  Jesus knew it was coming, but it must have been devastating to Peter.  But Jesus showed him grace and Peter became one of the key leaders in the early church.  Grace can go a long way.

5.  Truth matters.  We should always be honest as we lead.  Everyone wants to follow those who have a strong character and live in integrity.  Grace is important, but it must always be measured with truth.  If someone is living in sin and/or refusing to follow spiritual leadership it must be confronted sooner rather than later.  If we sweep it under the rug or just hope it will go away, we can actually do more damage than addressing the issue.  We shouldn’t confront people in anger, but in truth.  If our emotions are high, we must take some time to pull away and pray.  It’s amazing how some time alone with God can change our perspective on situations.  Often, it becomes less about us and more about Him.  When this happens, we can address people from the truth of God instead of a personal agenda.

These aren’t intended to cover everything about Spiritual Leadership, but is a good place to start.  Just working through these has reminded me of some areas that I can focus on more in order to be a better leader.  What are some thoughts on Leadership you might could add to this?


The Small Group Journey

To say that we’ve tried just about every small group approach out there would be accurate.  When our church started, we knew we wanted to have the small groups be the main hub for developing relationships, discipleship, caring for people, reaching the community and engaging people in a real life journey with others.  In the process of making this happen, we have tried a variety of ways manage the small groups systems at our church.  We have had long term groups and short term groups, age graded groups and stage of life groups, interest based groups and gender based groups, book studies and sermon discussion groups, and many other varieties.  We tried appointing people to groups and having people sign up for groups.  We have tried groups that consist of only 2 to 4 people and groups that were just over 20 people.  All of this was in an effort to discover what would work in our community and in the culture that we had been ministering within.  Through all of this, we discovered some things that were true for our church and may prove helpful to you as well.

1.  You can’t force relationships.  We worked really hard assigning people to groups because we wanted to make sure they were with someone.  We discovered that many times we were working against ourselves because we were the ones making the choices for the people in our church.  They had no ownership in the decision.  Because of this group attendance was hit and miss at best and the discussion seldom went past surface level.  We even tried this with 2 to 4 people to create opportunities for one on one discipleship to take place.  But there again, we were the ones matching people up and were in a constant state of frustration when many of the pairs/groups didn’t go well.

2.  Group settings require a forum.  We have discovered that really 6 to 8 people are the smallest forums we want to have healthy discussion and dialogue during the weekly group meeting.  Fewer than this and it often moves into more of a lecture format or very little discussion taking place.  In order to have this as the minimum, we try to sign up 16 to 20 people in each group.  This allows for people to be MIA at times and gives and average weekly meeting of 8 to 14 people. (Special Note: Even though this is a forum, it’s not an open forum for discussing church business or openly criticizing direction, ministries or staff.)

3.  Not everyone fits the stereotype.  Not every empty nester wants to be in an empty nesters group and not every college student wants to spend their time in a college group.  Because of this, we allow people to sign up for whatever group they feel would be most beneficial to them.  An exception to this, of course, would be gender based groups.  We have discovered that having a broad age range within one group often helps to add many different perspectives to the group setting.

4.  Leaders must come from within.  We have discovered that the leaders that excelled in their group are the leaders that had personally grown from being a part of a group within our church and had a heart to help others experience the same thing.  Giving a leadership role to someone who is new to the church is very tempting but often would come back to cause us issues in the future.  Even though new comers may show leadership skills and look like they would be a perfect fit, we discovered that waiting for at least 6 months would allow them to experience groups and us to experience them.  This approach has eliminated some of our frustrations with groups.

5.  Common Ground is essential.  For any group to fully engage those who are in it, there must be some common interest, study or pursuit.  This is why we now have implemented a lot of variety within our groups system.  We do have groups that tend to be age graded, some groups that go through certain books together (i.e. parenting, marriage, finances, etc…), some groups that explore a book of the Bible together, and some groups that are centered around specific interests.  This allows us to engage people where they are and let God work to shape them into He wants them to be.

6.  Change can be good!  Change is essential to any growing organization.  The same is true with groups.  We have found that within our culture, short term groups of 8 to 12 weeks work great.  We then reshuffle the deck and sign up for new groups.  This constant change makes it easier for newer people to jump in, keeps it fresh for people involved in groups, and allows many relationships to be cultivated throughout the church.  Change is also a defining force in our culture.  We know that once we have found “what works” that it will only be temporary, as the culture changes around us.  We continually make adjustments to impact and involve more people.

The truth is you’ll never get to where you want to be if you’re afraid to fail in the process.  We failed many times in our attempts to create healthy group environments within our culture.  But in the process, we learned new truths that helped us get to where we are today.  Don’t wait until you think you have all the answers.  Get started and discover that there is a good chance you weren’t even asking the right questions.  Enjoy the journey.


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