John Robert Lucas Portait

If all we do is deliver an anointed, powerful word, and afterwards do not reach out and build new relationships, we have accomplished little.

I remember a few years ago where it was so normal for a popular minister to deliver a powerful, anointed message from God, and as soon as the service ended they bolted for the door. Because I worked behind the scenes it became clear that there was an “in” crowd of fellow ministers who would fellowship after the meeting, but it was always restricted to that tight circle of friends. It was a day of elite ministers.

Today, the same spirit abounds, but with less of the elitism. If we give a powerful word, we really and truly feel like we have done our job. We are tired, and we find it awkward to reach out a build new relationships. In spite of all of this, there is a duty on ministers that requires us to reach out, to leave comfort zones, and to receive grace to seek out those new and unlikely relationships that are God appointed.

The response for those more introverted is that they are uncomfortable, it awkward striking up a conversation with someone they do not know, and it is simply too much effort. Some may be hindered by the risk of the other person not responding well, or  reciprocating. For those that are naturally introverted, it is most hard because it is not a natural personality trait. Regardless, we have to get past all of this.

I can tell you from someone that might have been the most introverted teenager, with all kinds of inner hurts, and low confidence until I was in my late 20’s, and that is was painful for me to break out. It is, however, the way of God for all of us to break out, and no minister is excluded, no matter how successful or popular.

So, first ask yourself, when was the last time you approached someone out of the blue, totally random, and initiated a conversation? And did, you follow-up with that conversation with a phone call, an email, a Facebook invitation? One thought that the enemy will plant is, “wait for them to respond”? I can tell you now, that if I waited for someone to call me, to reach out to me, I would have few personal friends, and my career would be half as successful, and ministry would be overall weak, with little of God’s approval. As we use to say in 1980, God will speak through a donkey. Ministry perfomance, crowd response, popularity, mean little to God. But man esteems them as success.

When I am on a new project, at a company such as Walmart, I always sought out others to grab lunch or dinner with. If they worked for me, I really wanted them to take part in after hours relationship building. In the professional world, this is what we do. For me, it goes a little further, though. Whether ministry or career, I simply like people and want to know more about them. What their interests are, their ambitions, and what makes them tick. I also do my part in making their careers successful, not just my own. I am not alone in the corporate in doing this. Other successful leaders do the same, and they treat the lowest person in the ranks equal to everyone else.

So, why in ministry do we find leaders more preoccupied by their ministry, and their tight circle of friends? Human nature. You have to make yourself break out of it, and for some of us, the break is most difficult. I had such a broken, hurting heart that it took years for God to do that healing and make me fit to be used.  If I had not been connected to the body of Christ, it would have taken longer, if at all. God used so many people to reach out to me and pull me from the pit of despair, hurt, loneliness, right after I was born again. I was fragile and could have easily fell away, and ended my life tragically.

So, where are you at? Are you in that broken, hurt place? Then reach out for help. Find a part of the body that will be your support, even if you have to drive far to find it. Allow people to enter your life, even though it seems risky.

Are you successful in ministry but are not creating new relationships that will be eternal? Then drop any spiritual pride that normally comes with being used with God and reach out. If you minister in the pulpit, you should be the last one to leave. If there is a line to see you, your job is not over because the line ends. Take contact information. Go out and seek others. Be random if you have to. You may think it is totally random, but that may be when God puts His greatest stamp of approval on your life.

In the end, you must be a minister that rescues people from the pit, building enduring realtionships to mature those rescued people.

5 steps to applying this article in your gatherings

First, who does this really apply to, just the Pastor(s)?

This applies to everyone, but I have an expectation that anyone who is a leader, or on the ministry team, including worship leader(s), should make steps now in this direction. But, additionally, those in the congregation who feel they have attained a level of spiritual growth and can outflow God’s life, and the fruit of the Spirit, should also be challenged and start stepping out.

  1. Before and after service, do not just greet people, look around and allow God’s Spirit to target someone you should greet, and ask some questions to. Maybe, before you approach them, rehearse in your mind a couple of starting questions. Take a small step forward and just make progress.
  2. Allow God to pinpoint at least one relationship that God wants you to cultivate. That means you can ask a specific question about how they did at work, how their vacation was, and then probe deeper based on the response. Again, rehearse in your mind if needed.
  3. Follow up! If they are on Facebook, Twitter, or email, get the contact information and make sure that you connect with them when you get home. Better yet, get their phone number and invite them to your house for dinner, or at least out to eat.
  4. Grow a relationship. Find something in common that you can do together, like hiking, a sport, or go to a museum. Different settings help grow a relationship.
  5. Demonstrate Christ to them. Be more interested in them than you. Ask them questions, probe, take interest in what makes them happy, and then encourage. There is nothing worse than someone who tries to build a relationship but it is one way. Which means, you also have to talk about yourself. You have to even given your struggles, weaknesses, and do not be afraid to speak of you successes. It is not always bragging, we are sharing our joy.

In a home church or group setting, the dynamics are different, and much easier, so I think you can challenge yourself by just seeing and doing. But I will not talk about the logistics in those settings because they usually lend themselves to this practice already. When I attended a home church a few years ago, we spent all Sunday afternoon together and became a family. This is certainly a model of church gatherings that accomplish relationship building.

On Sunday morning, most services end and the large percentage of attendees exit the building quickly. They think it is over. Not so. It is just beginning.

John Robert Lucas

July 2011

 

 

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