When I was just four I became a part of a family of churches that was subsequently called Newfrontiers. Terry Virgo was the founder of that group. One of our rallying calls was a call to “relational Christianity.” This call is as relevant now as it has ever been. A few days ago Terry posted a couple of tweets about this:
You are welcome to church life shaped & formatted by business psychology and procedure. I prize brotherly love and comradeship always!
— Terry Virgo (@TerryVirgo) May 29, 2014
Non-relational Christianity is not only unpleasant, it is also totally foreign to the New Testament.
— Terry Virgo (@TerryVirgo) May 29, 2014
I immediately knew what he meant. But it struck me suddenly how this concept is something that I am in danger of taking for granted. It’s also something that is open for misunderstanding, and even for misapplication. So, I have started a stream of tweets about it. I’d love for you to suggest further additions in the comments section or on Twitter.
Here are my bite-size comments on relational Christianity:
- You know you are experiencing relational Christianity when the “business” meeting isn’t just called a family meeting, but it FEELS like one.
- Relational Christianity means that you have real friends at church even if you are one of the pastors. It values people over programmes.
- Relational Christianity is not being a cosy pastoral group patting each other on the back, but a prophetic people prodding each other onward!
- Relational Christianity means that pastors don’t feel they are alone at the top of a pyramid, but have people they can be really honest with.
- Relational Christianity is not so much about applying to join a movement/ denomination but rather about joining hands in brotherly partnership with friends around the globe.
- Relational Christianity is simply biblical Christianity where we follow the great commands to really love God and love each other.
- Relational Christianity: involves fulfilling the Great Commission TOGETHER with others not building the empire of a denomination or group.
- Relational Christianity means that you have church friends you could ring at 2am in an emergency and they’d take your call, and get up to help
- Relational Christianity recognises that although creeds and statements of faith may have a place, godly & gifted PEOPLE ensure Church purity
- Relational Christianity: I will never forget collapsing in a lecture, rushed to hospital, brain scan, then my pastor @colingeorge45 visited (a number of years ago).
- Solo Christianity like solo sex is ultimately unsatisfying. We were built for authentic relationship, not business-like companionship.
- Relational Christianity forms churches that love a pastor too much to bleed him dry, burn him out, and spit him out. They ALL learn to pastor.
- Relational Christianity: If a member of “your” church will clearly be better served by a different church then you should encourage them to go in peace.
- Relational Christianity would never dare to hate ANY part of the Church: the bride for which our Lord Jesus died to save and be betrothed to.
- Relational Christianity is based on an exclusive relationship with the One who saved and loved us, but it leads to an inclusive love for ALL
- Relational Christianity: If a church must part with a member of the pastoral team, it will be over-generous remembering the sacrifices that have been made.
- Relational Christianity is about people not processes, trust not contracts, friendship not leadership, organic structure not org charts.
- Relational Christianity is about forging a community, and allowing it to flourish not using business principles more astutely than others.
- Relational Christianity does not see the other churches in your city as rivals, but as allies fighting in the same army against the same enemy.
- Relational Christianity does NOT have to be small minded. It loves everybody and so wants them all to be saved. Growth is not bad!
- Relational Christianity uses the language of the family not business. Father, son, beloved, brother, imitate vs boss, employee, client, obey.
- Relational Christianity builds communities where grace is lived out and embodied not merely studied as a doctrine.
- Relational Christianity doesn’t exist if before the service everyone sits in silent reverence, are passive during and after they all rush straight home
- Relational Christianity: God designed us to need each other if we want to be sanctified E.G. marriage helps us realise we’re still selfish.
- Relational Christianity gives honour to other Christians because we realise that only TOGETHER can we all reflect God’s multifaceted glory.
- Relational Christianity is more interested in forging a culture and transmitting it to others than writing standard operating procedures.
- Relational Christianity is sacred. The church corporately embodies the experience of the Trinity who eternally relate.
- Relational Christianity probably doesn’t exist in your church if none ever eats meals with each other. Jesus ate a LOT of meals with people.
- Relational Christianity is not friendships based on common interests but fellowship with a common Lord causing fellowship with each other.
- No matter how good your church service, relational Christianity can never happen in 1 to 2 hours of passivity on a Sunday and nothing else.
- The truth is the Work of the Spirit is required to forge the kind of relationships required in relational Christianity: supernatural bonding.
- Many Christians know the joy of hearts being knit together in an instant as Jonathan and David were and friendships that survive separation over great distances and time.
- Relational Christianity: Something is seriously wrong with your church if it contains only people you’d naturally have chosen to be with.
- I would challenge anyone to show me how pursuing the “homogenous unit principle” and not diversity is compatible with relational Christianity.
- An ideal local church reflects the make up of its local population in terms of race, gender, and socioeconomic status as God loves everyone.
- If your church is not attracting local people of a certain race, gender, or socioeconomic group ask, “How are we we putting them off?”
- If your town is 99% one racial group don’t beat yourself up if your church reflects that. But do seek ways to specifically love the 1%.
- Relational Christianity is about being “brothers in arms,” together on a mission, not a social club together for the sake of being together.
- Relational Christianity is really simply about loving God first and therefore loving your neighbour who is made in God’s image.
- Relational Christianity: because of love the prophetic will always trump the pragmatic and the pastoral will always trump professionalism
- Church should be God aware first and foremost so they may not seem “seeker friendly” but they must be “seeker aware” & not “seeker hostile!”
- Relational Christianity: There should be no conflict between the missional purpose and the pastoral because our task IS the people
One of the delights of my life is being part of Jubilee Church that is seeking to embody these ideas. We are an international family together for a purpose. And we have a lot of fun along the way. This was well demonstrated in our recent International Day. I will close this post by embedding a video from that day, and you can see more here and here.