ThoughtShades FrameWork

Essays, Themes, Opinions

Constructs, Practical Ideas, Applications

Poetry, Impression Writing

Sermons, Devotions

Personal Revelations, Illustrations

Viewpoint: Politics, Contemporary Issues, Editorials


Choice Offerings by Others

Powered by Squarespace
« Racial Conundrums | Main | Creating an Environment of Growth through Leadership Training »

Relation Ships

Relationships; the word itself has become so clichéd, so overused and commonplace that it has nearly lost its impact.  In thinking about this, I wanted to create an image for this article that would convey a powerful definition of the word.  Here’s the way my mind traveled on this trajectory.  Two words:  relation and ships.  Two ships.  Two ships that collided with each other.  The bow of one ship smashing into the hull of the other ship.  In that event, each ship would bear the unmistakable evidence of the impact.  They would both be very different than they were before the collision.  Thus, a relationship is the interaction (or perhaps the collision) that happens between two or more people.  What is the point?  Just this:  you cannot be in a relationship without giving and receiving an unmistakable impact on yourself and the other person or persons.  

Now, let’s step back for a moment.  Why do we need to re-think relationships, especially with regard to the church?  We need it because I see strong evidence of compartmentalization, of a stand-alone mentality, of a special interest focus, of co-existence, of a segregation of components in the body of Christ.  “You do your thing and I’ll do mine!” It has happened gradually, incrementally, without prejudice and without intention.  Ladies, men, young men, young women, young marrieds, singles, seniors, toddlers, children, adolescents, older saints, new converts, visitors, members, contributors, families, professionals, spiritual, non-spiritual, worshippers, pew-sitters, passionate, passive, and the list goes on.  Certainly there is good reason to separate individuals into different categories.  Pronounced differences between them make it impossible for us to efficiently carry on the work of teaching, leading, organizing and execution of duties unless we group ourselves around common traits.  I get that.  

But, there is a law of unintended consequences that comes into play as well.  By separation, we may unwittingly sanction competition, comparison, and an unhealthy rivalry between groups.  This means that people who should be working for each other may instead be working against each other to achieve some contrived goal or reward.  Support may be withdrawn or withheld from one group to another because it sees a loss of advantage, a diversion of energy or even a forfeiture of financial gain.  This can even go to extremes of selfishness and lead to sabotage and infighting.  Surely, all mature Christians would understand that such practices clearly violate the brotherly love the mutual support that should characterize the church. 

Yet, there is a more insidious, and less obvious consequence of dysfunctional relationships in the church.  It manifests itself in the form of the supposed “generational gap,” or the disparity between older saints worship customs and the more youthful cultural preferences.  We see it in music styles, lyric compositions, rhythmic choices, and volume levels.  We see it in dress, in vocabulary, in demeanor and behavioral patterns.  We even see it in changing definitions of how we should discipline our children, whether or not we should impose cultural preferences or norms on the younger generation, or whether we should hold the performance of recent converts to the same standards as in the past.  There is no doubt that the twenty-first century social realities are rocking our world.  Of course, all of our activities must come under the regulation and definition of the scriptures—that is a given.  There are other customs we have, however, that are based more on traditions than on scriptural teachings. It is in these areas that we receive our greatest challenges, and threats, to the overarching law of relationships.

I point you to the words of the Apostle Paul.  “But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ: From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love.” Ephesians 4:15-16. That doesn’t sound like an endorsement of a “separate, but equal” philosophy.  He is not urging the members of the church to major on their differences, but to understand that the true purpose of each part is to relate to the whole. 

An orchestra consists of brass, woodwinds, strings, and percussive segments.  Sometimes different sections take the lead.  Sometimes individual instruments play a solo part.  But the rich and full music, and the brilliance of the composer, can only be expressed as the entire orchestra plays as one.  In the same vein, the body of Christ is not merely a collection of parts, but an integration of parts that only become useful as they interact with every other part.  The purpose of the parts is the make the body function as one entity.  Let me put it into perspective.  A successful youth group at the expense of the church as a whole is not a success.  A strong Sunday School that drains the life out of every other part of the church is not a success.  A great worship program that undermines discipleship and prayer signals the failure of the purpose of the church.  A beautiful edifice and campus with great curb appeal that neglects Biblical preaching and teaching is counterproductive to God’s design for the church.  Each part is ugly when isolated and standing by itself!  It is the relationship that each component has to the whole that makes it beautiful!  It seems way too simple to state it this way, but you cannot be a parent without a child.  You cannot be a son or daughter without a mother and a father.  An arm has no purpose unless it is attached to a body, regardless of how strong and well-proportioned it appears.  A church thrives on its relationships, not on its several components. 

It is time for each local assembly to subordinate departmentalization and groupings to the far more superior need for strong, solid and loving relationships.  Instead of promoting our differences, we need to be searching out ways to promote interaction and support.  Different age groupings need to cultivate respect, love and even deference to each other.  Elders need to build a bridge to the youth; young people need to associate with their elders; ministries in the church need to promote understanding and support of each other.  Everyone needs to listen to each other and search out pathways to unify and embrace each other.  These ideas must not be affirmed in theory alone; they must be expressed and experienced in practical ways as well.  

“But in fact God has arranged the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be.  If they were all one part, where would the body be?  As it is, there are many parts, but one body.  The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!”   On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has combined the members of the body and has given greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other.” 1 Corinthians 12:18-25 (NIV)

A dysfunctional church has nothing to offer a hurting world.  We cannot be disjointed, detached, existing in a solitary role, as though each of us could do the Master’s bidding by exalting and asserting ourselves.  No part can find its true meaning in a solo rendition of its own will.  The ships of relation need to impact each other in real, loving, serving ways if the church is to realize its mission in the world. 


PrintView Printer Friendly Version

EmailEmail Article to Friend

Reader Comments

There are no comments for this journal entry. To create a new comment, use the form below.

PostPost a New Comment

Enter your information below to add a new comment.
Author Email (optional):
Author URL (optional):
Some HTML allowed: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <code> <em> <i> <strike> <strong>