We worship together. We pray together. We do THINGS together. But do we ever just BE together?
A lot of time, money, energy and attention is given to the things people in a church DO together. Whether it’s services, ministry activities, or other things, these are the things church’s tend to form around and be sustained by. Even if a percentage of participants come and go, these activities can keep a church going.
But should that be the case? Should a church be investing really heavily into the activities it does together, many times so much so that there’s no time, money, energy or attention left for anything else? Is this really how what’s supposed to be the foundation of a church (godly relationships) best develop? Let’s explore.
You are all brothers and sisters
Relationships worth investing deeply in are those where the people share a strong, convicting purpose that each person in the relationship is willing to build their life around for the long haul and take responsibility for making happen. No, not everyone needs to be close friends.
While some them will be, there’s a good and natural reason members of the family of God call each other brother and sister. Because that’s what you are. You’re not all going to be friends, but you are all siblings.
Relationships will form (not develop) best around shared activities that accomplish the specific purpose you share. If those activities are really accomplishing the purpose, people will show up and keep showing up.
But long term, stuff is going to happen, and activities won’t be the glue that keeps you together. The glue will be if and how your spiritual sibling relationships have formed. How strong that glue is will determine if you stay in it with each other for the long haul.
Even if you’re all passionate about the activities you’re doing together, the glamour of those fade away as time goes on and the relationships will be exposed for what they are. What they are is what will determine the future.
There must be more than activities
So once you share a purpose and activities, the next step is taking relationships that get formed and developing them. If your activities are productive, most of them will have seasons. For relationships to develop, there must be more than activities. There has to be connection.
Certainly some of that will happen through participating in the same activities. But it will be limited unless there’s also something more.
But you can’t manufacture connection. You can only create an environment where it happens naturally. Connection tends to happen best in spaces that facilitate it.
Awhile back I wrote about authentic community being the result of people being good environmentalists instead of good programmers. In a series of posts I call “What It Means To Be Organic,” we discover how a community forms and develops with the Life of Christ as its source.
One of the takeaways of that series is that where you meet, how you meet and how you think about one another in relation to each other matters. Anything that has life inside of it needs the right environment to grow and flourish. It’s the same with relationships in a church.
Connecting spaces are places where people have the freedom to connect on their own time and in their own ways. They decide when to show up. They decide what to talk about. They decide how to be together. The book Get Together says this…
For any community to flourish, it’s essential that members have a space where they can speak directly to each other, without having to depend on a founder or leader to play intermediary.
The community needs to depend on the purpose. In a healthy church, it depends on the Spirit, who brings and motivates the action of the Purpose of God. The best way for relationships to develop in a church is to consistently give the Spirit of God space to operate through His people freely.
People have to have a space where interaction isn’t programmed or centralized. They are free to allow the Holy Spirit to build them together with others.
Many times relationships stay in spaces where the connection is indirect. Think about activities that are always at the same time and same place on the same day doing basically the same thing. There’s nothing wrong with that. In fact, it’s one of the keys to relationships forming.
But without more than that, they will be very limited and unsustainable. People have to connect with each other on their own terms to feel real bonds.
If relationships lack spaces where people are free to do what they are led to do together and be spontaneous about it, they will have trouble breathing and will always essentially be on life support or die altogether.
Create the space and get out of the way
In order to create these spaces, someone has to identify the space, communicate that it exists and invite people into it. Then they have to let go and get out of the way. It must be a space where everyone can decide to show up and act independently. If they are truly passionate about the purpose you’re together, they’ll fulfill that purpose on their own in ways that are unique to them.
The first Christians lived and worked in and around each other. These spaces were their homes and common hangouts around town. Depending on where and how the people in your church live, you may have to get a little more creative.
Whatever you come up with, it’s essential to any church that there be spaces where they can come and just be together to fulfill the purpose that brought them together in their own ways.