On Monday afternoon I had an energizing meeting, by phone, with a highly regarded church leader. Our phone meeting was part of my research, in preparation for the launch of The Well on September 7, 2008. We talked about everything from message content, to the delivery of multimedia, to promotional strategies. We even spent some time assessing the value of providing comfortable chairs! This was a hugely helpful, and inspiring, conversation and I learned a great deal about what is required to create an ‘irresistible environment’. I’ve been thinking a lot about that conversation these last couple days, but one subject in particular has been lingering in my mind: Relationships.
My colleague explained how, in his previous ministry, a huge commitment from volunteers was required to get things moving. He went on to explain how these key volunteers would gather weekly to plan, study, and pray. The result was that close relationships were formed, and that these relationships became a kind of currency, which energized their work. They so enjoyed being together that the ‘work’ aspect of their volunteerism was muted. Setting up video, stacking chairs, parking cars…no problem. They were together, and the ministry became a kind of conduit for them to express their friendship.
That really resonated with me. Too often, volunteerism in the church descends into little more than a huge ‘To Do’ list that needs to be completed. My experience leads me to believe that when the notion of task completion becomes supreme, some really important things get lost in the shuffle……like relationships.
When The Well launches in September, I don’t want newcomers to see a bunch of volunteers frantically racing around doing things. I want newcomers to come in, look around, and discern a group of volunteers who care deeply for one another. I want newcomers to come in and see an irresistible community of people. My hope is that they’ll want to know what’s behind that. My hope is that they’ll wonder why we care so much.
Thinking of motivation for a service, it is possible that you are reading this blog post and are wondering: ‘Bryn, what happened to Sola Deo Gloria*? (Latin, for ‘God’s glory alone’). Isn’t God’s glory supposed to be our supreme motivation for Christian service?’
So why the emphasis on relationships? As I survey the New Testament, I get the distinct sense that God is glorified when we humbly serve one another, and defer to one another as Christians. Jesus has said, ‘By this all men will know you are My disciples, if you love one another’ (John 13:35). Similarly, the apostle Paul instructs: ‘Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ’ (Ephesians 5:21). In other words, it’s like God is saying, ‘Defer to one another as you would to Me. Take all that respect, love, and commitment you have for Me, and pour that into one another.’
I don’t see an emphasis on relationships to be at odds with an emphasis on God’s glory. By every appearance, God wants to be glorified in our relationships.
I suppose I could message to volunteers of The Well that everything we’re doing is for God’s glory (I’m sure I will do that). But some of them might struggle to know what that looks like in the context of their volunteerism.
I’m suggesting that growing in our affection for one another will say something about the God whom we serve. I’m suggesting that the degree to which we prioritize serving one another will say something about our commitment to Christ.
Yes, the motivation for service is God’s glory. His honour is supreme. But, when you’re looking for a way to express that, I recommend the currency of relationships.