In this series of posts on what is Essential to a disciple of Christ, we’ve looked at worship–particularly individual worship, prayer, Bible study and service.
But as with many things, sometimes it’s all about who you know.
The fifth Essential is the relationships we have in the body of Christ.
In his letter to the Christians in the region of Galatia, Paul encouraged them to bear one another’s burdens (Galatians 6:2). To do this, we first have to actually have relationships.
But not just any relationships.
We need to have people in our lives who:
- We can be open and honest with. This means they need to be spiritually mature. If we’re hurting, we can tell them. If we need prayer, we can tell them, and…
- Will pray with us. No judgment. And no overreaction…
- Are mature enough to handle whatever is going on without their own faith being shaken.
- We will actually talk to, and share what is happening in our lives. I often ask people to make a list of the people they believe fit these criteria in their lives. Many can make a list. But then I ask them “when was the last time you actually did share these things with them?”. It is amazing how many can’t remember that last time.
- Will use us in the same way. These are balanced relationships, and these folks need you as much as you need them.
The problem is, we are increasingly unable to have these relationships. When I moved to southern California over 16 years ago I was immediately struck with how lonely many people were.
We were in an area with 17 million people! How could anyone be lonely?
Oddly, there is often an inverse correlation between the number of people and the connections within the group. In other words, the more densely populated the group (or city), the less we connect with one another. This post isn’t the right place to go into all the reasons for this. And it doesn’t mean we leave our city–or church. It means we need to be aware of this dynamic and intentionally insure it isn’t true in our lives.
So how do we build such relationships? Hint: It isn’t by hanging around the bars. In the Jesus Movement we had a phrase: “witnessing in the bars”. It was code for hanging and partying with people who don’t know the Lord. The problem is there was very little “witnessing” going on, and the influence was mostly theirs on us.
We need to be connected with the Body of Christ–not just in corporate worship, though that is the best place to start. But by serving with them, studying with them, praying with them. How?
By joining groups whose purpose is to serve, study and pray together!
It sounds simple, but the more people we know, the more intimidating this feels. So, if you aren’t connected (if you can’t make a list of five people who fit the criteria above), join a small group in your church. If they don’t have any, join one in another church! If you can’t find one, start one–and invite others who are probably having the same problem you are having. Just get started.
And expect the level of trust you need to take 6-12 months of consistent contact, study and prayer before you are really connected and trust these folks.
One final note.
This does not mean you should not reach out to people who don’t know Jesus on their own territory.
And Jesus left us here after we came to Him to do just that.
But we have to be spiritually healthy enough to be part of God’s solution, and not part of the problem. That requires relationships with other mature Christians who will have our back as we battle the cares and distractions of the world.
Ultimately of course, the “who we know” has to refer to Jesus. But the body of Christ is His idea, not ours. So, be faithful, and get connected with others in His body.