The Inefficiency of Relationships

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Whenever I have a conversation about joining or starting a house church with someone who has never been part of one before, there are a number of things I tell them. But I always mention one thing every single time: Be prepared for things to take longer.

Why? Because relationships aren’t efficient. And for those of us who are part of the business world, or part of a highly structured church, or even just those among us with Type A personalities, this can be more than a little frustrating.

But relationships are built on things like trust, respect, and love. All of these elements require time: time to be shown, time to be earned, and time to develop. None of these happen quickly.

Think about your best friend. You’ve probably gotten things done together. But the times you remember best…the times that make that relationship more worthwhile than others…are the times you spent together doing things that didn’t accomplish much outwardly. Whatever those times were they communicated more than just a task. The times you look back on are the ones that say to you “You are important to me.”

A few years ago I had a disagreement with a brother who was part of our house church network about how we were going to make disciples. We went around and around talking about methods, but when we got to the heart of the matter, his real concern was that I was more concerned about our “church” succeeding and not about him. It was a real learning moment for me. I had put our mission above our relationship and I was wrong.

I wish I could say I never made that mistake again. I can say I’ve made it less and I work to deny that part of me that just wants results. But it’s meant letting projects and work take a back seat whenever a serious need comes up. It’s meant stopping a conversation when it becomes obvious we aren’t arguing about strategy, we’re missing each others’ heart. It’s meant meetings that should take an hour or two sometimes take three or four. But it’s been worth it.

I’m not saying things shouldn’t get done. Quite the contrary, we have a mission friends, and that mission is very important. But how we do the mission is just as important. If we devalue people as we pursue it, we invalidate the very mission we set out to accomplish.  If we use people to accomplish our mission, we may accomplish a mission we set out to do, but we’ll leave a trail of broken people in our wake.

My goal in saying this is not to persuade you that relationships are bad or that they hurt mission. They just come with a cost that you need to recognize up front. They are time consuming and don’t always move in straight lines. But over the long haul, if you stick with them, they pay off both now and in eternity.

Just don’t expect them to be efficient.

 

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About traviskolder

Travis Kolder is a follower of Jesus, a husband, a father of five, an organic church planter, and a writer. He lives in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, where he serves as part of the Cedar Rapids House Church Network.

6 responses to “The Inefficiency of Relationships”

  1. David Bolton says :

    So well said, Travis. For myself, I’ve had to reorient my thinking from seeing the church as a “product” that is to be obtained, or attained to, to that of an ongoing “process” that I am committed to. That process for me is boiled down to a practical commitment to the two greatest commandments: “Love the Lord your God with all of your heart, soul, mind, and strength”, and, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” To be committed to the church, then, is to be committed to an ongoing, never arriving, ever-dynamic process of relationship with God and His people. The “results”, “success”, “fruit”, etc. of my life and “ministry”, is in the Lord’s hands, and not what I am either ultimately responsible for or will be judged according to in the end. Faithfulness to the “process” is, and will be.

    Thanks for your daily encouragement! I am always inspired and edified!

    Blessings, David

    • traviskolder says :

      David

      Thanks for this. This was beautiful and frankly better than the post I wrote. May God continue to call us to this faithfulness to His process of loving and building people instead of agendas and mandates.

  2. Dan says :

    Relationship is the point of community and its gatherings. We have been invited into God’s eternal purpose – a big part of which is enjoyment of being in relationship with the Godhead and with all of the Body of Christ as one big wonderful family. Thank you, Travis, for making relationship a priority in addition to being missional.

    • traviskolder says :

      Dan

      Thanks for stopping by! It certainly took some unlearning on my part. Holding the two in tension is difficult and it seems the more I grow in the Lord, the easier it becomes, since He holds both realities in perfect balance in Himself. Keep praying for us. 🙂

  3. Alheri says :

    “If we devalue people as we pursue it, we invalidate the very mission we set out to accomplish. If we use people to accomplish our mission, we may accomplish a mission we set out to do, but we’ll leave a trail of broken people in our wake.” I loved that paragraph. So much truth!

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