Becoming a Relational Community

For years now, we have been talking about making a shift as a presbytery. We have talked about moving from being a regulatory agency to being a relational community to becoming a mission agency. In order to be a faithful and fruitful mission agency, it requires that we have strong relationships and a certain level of trust in our midst. We need to know the people we are working with, what they are going to do, and the content they are going to teach. Ministry is inherently relational. The Reformed concept of COVENANT describes our relationship with God through Jesus Christ. Our God is a relational God. God desires to have a relationship with each one of us. Ministry cannot happen outside of relationships. If we are going to be the covenant community that God wants us to be, we are going to have to know how to build positive relationships with one another. How can we do that?

1. We begin building a relational, covenant community by LISTENING to each other. James 1:19 tells us to be quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to anger. We need to listen before we speak. We need to understand what other people are thinking and where they are coming from. We can’t just sit back and assume we know their thoughts or their motives. We can’t just read a piece of paper that somebody or some committee wrote, and think we have the whole story. We still have to go and talk to the person(s), listen to the “back story”, and get a fuller picture, before making our determination. There is no substitute for face to face conversations.

2. We build a relational, covenant community by being HUMBLE. Philippians 2 tells us to do “nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility, value others above yourselves… Have the same mindset as Christ Jesus, Who being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, rather He made Himself nothing… He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross.” Jesus gave up so much when He came down from heaven to live among us. If Christ was willing to humble Himself for us, we need to be willing to live humbly with one another. We are not to consider ourselves as better than others, but to realize that we all have value in the eyes of God.

3. In a relational, covenant community, we resolve our differences in face to face CONVERSATIONS. In Matt 18, Jesus instructs us that if we see a brother or sister sinning, we should go to them and point out their fault. If they listen to us, then we have won them over. If they don’t listen to us, then we are to take one or two others and go and talk to them again. If they still refuse to listen, then we are to ask for help from the whole church. We cannot build a positive relational community with people who talk about others behind their backs. We cannot resolve our issues by talking to others who are not involved in the situation, or by complaining or taking action against an individual whom we have never talked to face to face. If we don’t have the courage to talk to people face to face, we should not be talking about people behind their backs.

4. In a relational, covenant community, we DO NOT FILE LAWSUITS against our brothers and sisters in Christ. In 1 Corinthians 6, Paul tells us that Christians should not be taking other Christians to court to ask unbelievers to settle their disputes. Within the Christian covenant community, there ought to be some wise people who can settle our own disputes internally. To have to go to a secular court is a poor witness to the world. Paul says the very fact that you have lawsuits among yourselves, means that you have lost already. Why not rather be wronged? Why not rather be cheated? That is a better Christian witness to the world than filing lawsuits and taking our fellow believers to court.

5. In a relational, covenant community, we need to have the right ATTITUDE towards one another. Galatians 5 tells us that the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, and self-control. Against such things, there is no law. These are the opposites of the acts of the flesh. We need to ask the Holy Spirit to produce this fruit in us, that we would have the right attitude towards one another.

6. In a relational, covenant community, we are called to LOVE OUR ENEMIES. In Matthew 5, Jesus says “You have heard that it was said ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy’. But, I tell you to love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” We should not be attacking our enemies. We should not be trying to “tear down” people we don’t like. We should not be trying to ruin other people’s careers. If we have serious, serious questions about another person, we should love them and pray for them, rather than hating them and seeking to do them harm. This is the opposite of the way the world acts. Christians are called to be different.

7. In a relational, covenant community, we have been given the ministry of RECONCILIATION. 2 Corinthians 5 tell us that God reconciled Himself to us through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation. He has given us the ministry of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, imploring people to be reconciled to God and reconciled to one another. If we are attacking one another, and not seeking reconciliation, then something is wrong.

8. In a relational, covenant community, we are called to HELP one another, not hurt one another. Galatians 6:1-2 tells us that “if someone is caught in sin, you who are spiritual, ought to restore that person in a spirit of gentleness. But watch yourselves, lest you too be tempted. Carry one another’s burdens, and thus fulfill the law of Christ.” We deal with people in a humble spirit of restoration, bearing each other’s burdens, knowing that at some point we will need others to act graciously with us.

All ministry is inherently relational. We serve a relational God. The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are in relationship with each other. God desires to have a personal relationship with each one of us through His Son Jesus Christ. God invites us to live in a covenant community of believers, where we are working together as we are on mission with God in our world. It is our desire as a presbytery, that we become a positive relational, covenant community with one another. Let us follow the teachings of these scriptures that we may build up the Body of Christ in our midst.

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3 Responses to “Becoming a Relational Community”

  1. Walter Ray Says:

    Wonderful thoughts by Clark Cowden on the Bible’s teaching re how we treat each other. If only Republicans and Democrats would apply these thoughts to how they treat one another!!! Love, rather than destroy!

  2. David M. Watson Says:

    Thank you, Clark, for this reminder of who we truly are as the church of Jesus Christ. Too often the church slips into the wrong way of relating to each other. In Christ we are brothers and sisters in the same family, and we need to work hard at maintaining that relationship. Yes, loving each other is work–glorious work.

  3. candorland Says:

    Dear Clark- I especially appreciate your commentary on humility. I find myself repeating the WWJD line. To be more Christlike, what a beautiful goal. Moderation of annual meetings can be tough. I do not believe there was a quorum this morning. Thank you for your service. Elder Marsha Wenskay

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