This week, I will renew relationships.
God values long-term relationship. This is the essence of biblical community.
There’s nothing quite like ministry to challenge relationships.
I know God has called me; I have a God-given vision — so I naturally feel strongly about the tasks that make up my mission.
Which means that when someone disagrees, my instincts won’t tend toward listening quietly, responding gently, loving warm-heartedly. No. My instincts will tend toward outrage! Disgust! Righteous indignation!
Spend a few years in ministry, and you’ll probably have numerous opportunities for grudge-holding … and possibly even a few die-hard enemies. Or at least a short list of people you’re not speaking to.
But God seems to value my relationships even more than he values the tasks I’m accomplishing in the course of my ministry. There’s very little in the Bible promoting hit-and-run relationships. Hebrews 13:1 says, in the New International Version, “Keep on loving each other as brothers.” In the old days it was translated, “Let brotherly love continue.” In the original Greek, the word is meno — keep on — continue. It’s an ongoing concept.
In John 13:33,34, Jesus said very directly, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” Interestingly, he didn’t say people would recognize our discipleship by the accomplishment of our God-given vision for ministry. Indeed, if I have to choose between succeeding in ministry and succeeding in relationships, Christ’s priority is success in relationships!
The high value that God places on community should inspire me to go beyond the repairing of broken relationships; I need to take the initiative in finding ways to encourage long-term relationships. What is my ministry’s relationship turnover ratio? The people I serve with in ministry — my fellow-workers, our volunteers, donors and supporters — how frequently are people quitting, getting tired, feeling burned-out, drifting away? Are there ways I could make workers feel more loved … or make donors feel more appreciated … or make volunteers feel more valuable?
It is literally true — more than just a cliché — that my ministry would not be the same without the specific individuals who are involved in it right now. 1 Corinthians 12:18 says, “in fact God has arranged the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be.” Each worker, volunteer, and donor is making a very real difference. They are as certainly “called by God” to my ministry as I am!
How can I express love to them this week?
My Prayer for the Next Seven Days… God, help me to love the people I work with, and the people who make my ministry possible. And guide me specifically — even if it seems uncomfortable to me — into a renewal with someone whose relationship with me has been broken. Bring healing, by the power of your love; and use me, however you see fit, to be an agent of that healing. Amen.