Relationships are important in the Kingdom and thus, of course, in the Church. However, much of what we do does not encourage the building of healthy and dynamic relationships.
Think about it, we sit in pews or chairs facing the back of someone’s head. We have a set program that we dutifully go through each time we assemble for worship – welcome, worship, greet one another (now there is a great relationship builder), announcement and offering, and then a teaching followed by another hymn, prayer time, or simply a dismissal.
Of course there is the pre-service coffee fellowship (or mid-service or end of service) where people talk with their friends and those they know are safe. But, again, this seldom encourages existing relationships to grow and mature and certainly does not build new ones.
It takes time and effort to build quality relationships upon which the Kingdom and the Church are then built. It requires time because it actually takes a good length of time to build trust within a new relationship. And, without trust the relational sharing will lack any serious depth and simply be taking about the weather or recent sports game. Seldom about Jesus and never any sharing of personal issues, life circumstances and related feelings.
Not only must there be time for trust to be built up so that it then forms one of the foundations for healthy relationships. But, you and those you are relating to must feel safe enough to share. In other words, there must be a safe place where people can then be vulnerable. Vunerability is key to building relationally.
You must feel that others are truly interested in what you have to say and what you are feeling. But, even more than that, they care about how you are feeling. To continue to be vulnerable the person you are sharing with must respond to what you are sharing. Continued vulnerability requires more than a passive receiving of information from the person listening. It requires that person to embrace and engage with what is being shared and the person who is doing the sharing. Again, this, like trust, does not come easily or naturally and takes time.
Add to this a large dose of confidentiality where you know that what you share will be received and responded to. But, more than that, it will remain confidential and not become the center of the latest gossip circle or the gossip chain often disguised as a prayer chain. People need to feel that you are trustworthy and confidential and will keep their confidences regardless. Not spreading them all over the local church.
These three – trust, vulnerability, and confidentiality – are the basic requirements for healthy inter-personal relationships. And healthy relationships are essential for both the local church and the Kingdom to continue to grow and reach the lost with the Gospel of the Kingdom.