One day I was giving a guy from Atlanta a tour of our beautiful community, showing him some of the incredible ministry successes we have seen that have happened through collaboration between our churches, non-profits, businesses, and government officials. He was amazed at what God had done in our “neck of the woods”.
I love it when big city folks are amazed that God also moves in the sticks.
As we concluded our tour, he stated that our community looked like we were operating in a Jesus’ ministry model. Curious, I asked him, “What is that exactly?” He said, “Jesus always provided relief, which then created a margin to have a spiritual conversation.” He encouraged me to go back and review the gospels. Jesus would meet someone along the way, identify their torment, deliver them from their ailment, and provide relief. Once relief was established, the person then had space or margin to make a choice to enter into a relationship with Jesus, or not.
I have noticed this as a pastor. I, or someone on our staff, meet someone at a point of need, and once that person has experienced relief, some go on their way, but others take the opportunity to further develop a relationship with myself or with our church family.
Later, I was talking to a Christian counselor about this and he said, “Ah, yes, but nothing builds relationships like conflict. If the relationship can’t handle conflict; you don’t really have a relationship. During times of deep conflict, you have the opportunity to truly navigate what is important to you and the other party. Never aim to resolve conflict too early, rather aim to grow the relationship to its maximum potential during a conflict.”
I thought both ideas were good advice. Use relief as an invitation for relationship. Let people make a choice for relationship based on want, not need. Once a relationship is established, don’t be afraid of conflict. It is the ingredient that seasons your relationship. For more on this subject go to http://www.newcovenantchurch.com/resources/media/sermons/partner,-position,-and-purpose.html