The body of Christ is an the elaborate composition of several different people known for their steady, pure devotion first to their Father God, and second to their brothers and sisters in Christ. These elements are critical for stability and growth in a church family.
The One, The Few, The Many
Every person needs to see three levels of relational interaction with people. They need to have a sense of identity in a community, a personality in a group, and an intimacy in friendship. This is really the way a person is designed to function. We all need to know one deep friend, several close friends, and many acquaintances. The church needs to be known for it’s intimacy. People should be nurtured here, and brought closer to God through relationship.
This kind of relationship is an essential “intimacy” shared between two people, aside from marriage. This is for the perpose of reaching a place no other person can in relationship. It may exist in one of three styles: a mentor, and peer, or an apprentice. A person needs to see this kind of connection met in their lives, otherwise alternatives will be sought that will actually unbalance subordinate relationships. This kind of relationship permits individuals to “bear their soul”. The deeper elements of life come out only confiding in one totally trusted individual. This relationship should be under the guidance of a larger, more intimate group who knows both well, interweaving into a larger tapestry.
This is a group of close-knit individuals that have covenanted together to see each other through hardships, and are composed of individuals who all hold deeper relational relationships within the group. This “team” looks out for one another, specifically encourages one another, and connects with God together. This group can see strengths and weaknesses in an individual, a deep friend will not, and call them out. There is accountability here that cannot be accomplished in a larger context.
The Family of the church includes all different kinds of people who come together to celebrate life, and to move in a particular direction as a larger family. This kind of fellowship can commit to several general doctrines, and propose them on a public level for those outside the family can see and choose to enter into covenant with. This level generally oversees small group relationships, and does not try to reach people at an intimate level here. The church family is tied together as a family entity, but it will not know each family member an appropriately-intimate level to reach them meaningfully.
Paul, Barnabas and Timothy Relationships
Every individual needs to learn, to teach, and to partner. This is the mentality with these three different kinds of relationships. Those who are teaching need to be learning, those who are learning need to be encouraged, and those learning need to be teaching.
Paul is considered the “mentor” individual. He is a wise, mature individual that can impart truths to those Timothies who are still young, or immature in their faith. This is considered a relational position, however, not a maturity or age position! If an individual has a been a Christian for any considerable length of time, they can begin to lead another on the journey. They can impart truths that will have deep effects on a person. The mentor may also grow as he/she counsels in this position.
Barnabas is considered “the partner”. He was known to encourage, and exhort others in their faith. He came alongside them, and worked with them as a partner. The peer is someone who is not above us, or intimidates us. There are times a person will only open up to someone at the same maturity level as them, and the peer is there to receive this kind of interaction with another, and partner with that individual as they grow.
Timothy is “the learner”. Timothy is someone who recognizes he has more to learn, and isn’t necessarily someone young in the faith. Even older Christians should adopt a mentor to guide them. Every person can grow, and the apprentice recognizes his need to grow closer to God. The wisdom, counsel, and guidance of a mentor will be received in this position.
Up, In, and Out
The philosophy of every church should ultimately link to God first. The church should also be sending the message that individuals need to be connecting with God individually as well. But in addition to connecting with God, people need to be connected to the church, and the church needs to be interacting with the world.
God is the foundation of our whole lives as Christians. It is essential that He is fundamental who our relational interactions. Individuals should be connecting with Him, small groups should be connecting with Him, and church families should be connecting with Him. God breathes life into individuals as well as groups. Every kind of relationship needs to be tethered back to God, or unbalances will take place in all other relationships where He is the depended on foundation.
Individuals and Small groups need to meet together as a larger family organization. They need to have the guidance of the family, the structure and tradition that it brings, and be able to pour into the family those revelations God has given on a more intimate basis. The church needs to relate deeply with the body of Christ. This is the Kingdom of God, and it is in our DNA to share with each other what God is doing, and receive what is being presented.
The church is the Salt and Light of the world. Jesus’ mission on earth was actually for the sick, not the healthy (Matt. 9:12; Mk. 2:17; Lk. 5:31). It is the church’s place to be a “light in the darkness”, and the “hands and feet of Jesus. But, in the words of St. Francis of Assisi, “Preach the gospel, if necessary – use words. The goal is to spread the good news. But if the Kingdom of God is about relationship with God and with others, this makes evangelism very natural and organic. They very strength promoted throughout every aspect of the church is relationship, and so friendship evangelism allows Christians to connect with non-Christians in a way that all people universally connect with – friendship, mercy, justice.