Relationships created and formed by the love of God and established and maintained in the unity of the Spirit are the pillars of the Church the Lord is building today. As the Lord continues to shake everything that can be shaken in the 21st century, we are coming to realize that nothing but love will remain.
“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
The last statement is a really important one in the Bible – the chief hallmark of discipleship is agape love. It is the most important trait by which a true disciple is known. If we don’t have that, all we build is literally being built on sand.
As organizations based on doctrines tumble, and relationships based on agendas or the almighty dollar crash, we are coming to understand how serious God is about all this. Nothing but the love of God will stand at the very end.
Many today chase worthwhile causes such as city unity, prayer for the nations, justice, peace, and revival in America hoping that the enormity of the task would somehow rally us together. Our temporal and shallow relationships have not been able to sustain the task over time. As soon as the initial fanfare associated with a project goes away, the fizz is gone like an open Coke can in the blazing sun, and with it all energy for the cause. Our efforts will be sustained as far as our relationships can take them—no further.
Another detour to true Christian relationships is the so-called “quest for Christ” in our meetings. We care about you sharing as long as you don’t get real and personal, as long as the conversation is about mystical, ideal, and spiritual things. Let’s talk out the “deep things of Christ,” but please don’t bring our relational reality with one another, or the poor, or why we don’t demonstrate His love on a daily basis for each other. I call it mini-Church because it’s the same institutional system but in a smaller context. Proof it isn’t Christ, is that the next time they will probably talk to each other, will be the next time they schedule a meeting. The meeting is the bond, not love in fraternity.
Recently the worldly “coaching” sensation has entered Christian life. We will help coach you to success they say. It’s nothing but glorified Christian counseling for a fee. First, Christianity is about fruitfulness not success. Second, real fruitfulness costs to the point of sacrifice.
“Most assuredly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much grain.
Take away the money and you will see how quickly the so-called coaching goes away too. Coaching is fine for engaging with the world. The scriptures speak of discipleship through familial relationships: fathers/mothers, brothers, sisters. Family lays down its life for its members. Coaches leave when the money stops flowing.
While we are on the subject of detours how about the popular house of prayer movement? People come to worship God and pray together for hours in a building without forming any real deep relationships. It’s all about getting in His presence. Well, how can you be in the Presence of Christ for so many hours and not have the nature of Christ afterwards for your brother? If you really rest your head on the bosom of the Lord, you can’t help but leave with His heartbeat for a hurting world. No sacrifice here. Being devoted to prayer can be a hiding place for those who cannot face the hard work of building lasting relationships.
Fixating on the manifestation of supernatural signs and wonders is also another enticing distraction. Supernatural works are the result of faith, and faith works by love. To emphasize and teach spiritual techniques to “release the supernatural” is a carnal shortcut that attempts to bypass the costly requirement of love in relationship. Where love abounds, supernatural power follows as easy as falling off a log–when we don’t care who gets the credit, and whose résumé and ministry is built through the manifestation of power. We do not need to spend hundreds, if not thousands of dollars, going to “schools of the Holy Spirit” to learn techniques of the supernatural. The Spirit of the Lord is producing sons and daughters, not technicians who view others as test objects for their great prowess in the spirit. If we are missing supernatural manifestations in our midst, it is a love failure, not a power shortage.
It has been said that the greatest enemy of God’s best is the good we can do today. The enemy loves to keep the church focused on the minors (causes) so they don’t concentrate on the major (love) that in the long run produce all those things we all want.
Again, I don’t want to stereotype here, and yes there are delightful exceptions in every system. However, the facts are, the majority of Christians are living in a self–centered delusion of their own making–chasing leaders who will prophesy what their itching ears want to hear.
I know. I was there. For years I would have argued with you that the basis for all we did was love, but that simply was not true. I pastored for 16 years in the religious system until 2003, but people still come up to me all the time and ask me if I remember them. Depending on the relationship level we had at the time, sometimes I do. Weak relationships do not naturally remain where they were last. Since love is not the foundational principle behind many relationships, they take a giant nose dive when the pastor–member function of the religious system no longer exists.
I want to provide a relationship chart with the hopes that the Holy Spirit would help you make an honest inventory of your present relationships. It will come as no surprise that the word friendship has tumbled to an all-time low and really doesn’t mean much in this day and age.
Seven Levels of Church Relationships
Remember, these are current definitions in the 21st Century. Each progressive level includes the good of all the previous levels.
- Acquaintance– Both parties know each other by name. Probably greet each other weekly.
- Ministry associate– We do stuff together in a Christian setting. Then everyone goes his/her own way.
- Friend- We generally like each other. We are Facebook friends, I would invite you to my parties.
- Brother/Sister- We like the same things. We occasionally meet outside regular church functions. We interrelate at a distance. We do not share personal/intimate things.
- Family- We share the same circle. We believe the same things. We are not ashamed to be seen together. We share together in paying for each other’s meals sometimes. We are quick to defend each other, as long as it doesn’t cost us.
- Sharing Family- We regularly share together. Everything external is shared, but the depths of our hearts stay closed. There are some limits. We are committed financially (verbal) to each other. We recognize together that all we have comes from the Lord, and we are part of His Kingdom (mental).
- Intimate Family- There are no boundaries or limits between us. We regularly share personal/intimate things. We keep each other’s secrets. We want the best for each other. I care as much for yours as I care for mine. We value each other, and see each other as the Lord sees us. We intentionally work at maintaining our relationship. We are willing to sacrifice all to maintain the relationship. There are no hidden agendas. The relationship has been tested in the crucible of trial (suffering) and time.
As current church models vacillate between 1 and 5, the enemy rejoices knowing The Lord’s army cannot sustain a viable attack against His stranglehold on this society. It’s not about being in the same room together (proximity) people. We have been doing that for years. Events and their promotions come and go. It’s about true and tested relationships being united in the Holy Spirit; then we will produce the deliverance needed. The unity of the Trinity already exists. Are we ONE with Him, or are we playing to the crowds? The answer hurts if we are honest with ourselves.
May the Lord who loves us so speak to our hearts. I am at peace. The King is on His throne. The shaking has not ended. In the midst of social and political turmoil, the pending economic crash, and the selfishness of the age, Father God is at work in His people. The Bride church shall come forth in all her beauty!
Those who are wise shall shine
Like the brightness of the firmament,
And those who turn many to righteousness
Like the stars forever and ever.
By Jose Bosque, with Steve Crosby
For a great Podcast on this subject from my friend Frank Viola Check out 7 Ways to Destroy a Friendship
Jose Bosque is Editor in Chief and founder of Viral Cast Media which oversees GodsLeader, JaxChristian now ViralChrist and 15 other websites. He has ministered in Jacksonville since 1987 and served the city since 1992 as a citywide servant leader. Jose is considered a resource and a spiritual father to many leaders in the city and in the 54 nations where the Lord has sent him to serve. Originally born in Cuba, Jose has resided in Jacksonville since 1966.
Contact Him at: www.RevivalPartners.net or ForRevival@aol.com
Editors Note: Please help us continue to get this word out for free- No amount is too small- Thanks for your generosity! DONATE CLICK HERE
See my previous article: Beyond Events http://viralchrist.com/churchministry/revival/674-beyond-events
Another great article on this subject: Why are Relationships and Love So Important in Discipleship? An excerpt from Discipleship is the Core Mission of the Church By Bobby Harrington http://discipleship.org/uncategorized/why-are-relationships-and-love-so-important-in-discipleship/
Jose, I think this is one of the best you have ever done.
I believe that one of my ministry callings is to encourage Pastors to take the time to discern Gods will (as distinct from the expectations of the organization, denomination or desires of the flesh) and then to do it. I also constantly remind them that the measure of sucess is faithfulness and that God provides the fruit in its season according to His time. I also continually stress that that relationship with God and others is not a program but is the first thing God calls them to.
it wasn’t always this way for me. In fact, I spent almost 30 years in ministry mostly relying on my own skills and wisdom to do ministry, judging mine and others sucess by “nickles and noses” and spending my time building programs instead of relationships. How did it change? Through the ministry of a Christian coach! The things you advocate for in the article are the very things I learned as he asked pointed questions, encouraged me to seek the Lord and held ne accountable to be faithful. The change has been remarkable. The greatest benefit has been the depth of new relationships within our church, in my marriage and in my walk with God. Ironically, this has also resulted in small growth in the things I once sought. So remarkable, in fact, that my wife and I are beginning to coach Pastors and church Planters, along with thier spouses. We have seen some similar growth in thier lives as well. It is not counseling – the difference being that we the focus is not on healing or emotional spiritual pains (since my wife is a counselor, recently winning our cities “best of” award in counseling, she could fill you in on other differences).
In short, i agree with the thrust and message of your article. Ironically, the tone, and some misinformation with negative characterizations, pushed me away. My concern is that If others follow your lead, they too may dismiss folks who can actually help them focus on the relational imperative of the gospel. Sad, since if I read it correctly you, were seeking to invite people into and encourage these relationships.
Hi Jim I am glad to hear your are exception to my comment on “coaching” unfortunately you are just that an exception. I do have a strong tone for those that claim affiliation with my Lord but used the platform to fleece the flock of God. I am not apologizing for what I believe to be the zeal of the Lord. I do want you to know that I don’t walk in my own opinion and I don’t just publish anything I want. I am in a very strong relationship with several key leaders in my life. blessings, Jose