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.
The most transforming relationship that you’ll ever be a part of is a relationship with Jesus.
But once in a relationship with Jesus, He leads us into relationships with His followers that have a transforming affect on our lives.
Transforming relationships are transparent, relational, and accountable.
They begin with transparency. You open up about your weakness and failures, your struggles, and your great need for a savior. Frequently this gives permission for others to be honest about their brokenness in a way that few have ever had. This is usually the missing element in transforming relationships.
Built on transparency, true brotherhood or sisterhood emerges. What wrecks relationships is jealousy, competition, and ego. So with the newfound transparency a true relationship is born. You help each other, not to get, but because you see and understand each other. Mutual relationship gives birth to love which gives birth to serving one another.
And finally (but usually the part we want first) is accountability. Once we have been honest about our weakness and have been in a relationship of love and service to one another, we can hold one another accountable. This isn’t the kind of accountability where you say “Try harder or I’m done with you,” but an accountability that’s birthed out of genuine care for a weak and broken human being. And because it’s birthed out of love and mutual understanding, this type of accountability (along with the power of Jesus) births transformation in the human heart.
We all want these types of relationships. The mechanics of these relationships aren’t difficult. The reason we see so few people enter into them is they are costly. Someone has to go first. But once you’ve had one or two, you’ll never go back.