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Disconnected Church Connections – Of Speakers at Seminars, Conferences, and More

Posted by on May 9, 2013 in community, discipleship, fellowship, gathering | 15 comments

Disconnected Church Connections – Of Speakers at Seminars, Conferences, and More

In a previous post, I explained that I was starting a new series on the topic of “disconnected connections.” (See my post “Disconnected Church Connections – Introduction.”) I’ve already discussed the “disconnected connections” that we make by reading books, articles, essays, and, yes, even blog posts and the “disconnected connections” that make online. (See my posts “Disconnected Church Connections – Of Authors and Similar Personalities” and “Disconnected Church Connections – Of Online Friends and Followers” respectively.)

What do I mean by “disconnected connections”? We can often feel “connected” to other Christians without face-to-face interactions. We often feel like we “know” people who we have never met. (As I explained in the introduction, I am not condemning disconnected connections. Instead, I’m cautioning that these types of relationships should be supplemental (and secondary) to real life, face-to-face interactions.

There’s another common source of “disconnected connections” among the church: speakers. Conference speakers. Seminar speakers. TV and radio personalities. People attend a conference or listen to a radio or TV broadcast – perhaps several times – and begin to think that they know the speaker. They don’t. They can’t. The speakers can provide information, but that’s all. And, as I’ve stated before, information is not the basis of growth and maturity in Jesus Christ.

Many people would agree with what I just said, and would caution against the overemphasis on conference, seminar, radio, and TV personalities. But, there’s another group of speakers who we need to think about as well.

Preachers.

Now, don’t misunderstand me… there are some preachers among traditional churches who share their lives with other people regularly – day in and day out. But, I think these are few and far between – not necessarily because of the preachers themselves, but because of the nature of the system they are part of. (I’m using the term “preacher” to refer to a person who speaks regularly – usually weekly at least – to a church audience.)

A few years ago, a young man who became a very close friend of mine explained his own experience with this. He had been part of a very popular church organization in our area. This church is known for some very good things, including their preacher. One day, my friend told me, this preacher was talking about loving others. He realized that he had no idea what the preacher meant by “love one another,” because he had never seen the preacher living it out. There was no “teaching through life” to accompany the “teaching by words.” (By the way, I’m sure this preacher shares his life with others, but he cannot share his life with everyone he speaks to every week.)

So, among the church, we often have “disconnected connections” with preachers, pastors, elders, whatever we call them. Then, we look to them as our primary leaders and teachers among the church. This is a problem. This is not the way that God works among the church. Instead, he works through the real life, face-to-face interactions between his children.

Of all of these “disconnected connections,” the shallow (sometimes nonexistent) relationship that we have with people who claim to be our leaders (and we accept their claim all too easily) is perhaps the most harmful to the health of the church.

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Series on “Disconnected Church Connections”

  1. Introduction
  2. Of Authors and Similar Personalities
  3. Of Online Friends and Followers
  4. Of Speakers at Seminars, Conferences, and More
  5. Of the Lack of Relationships Among the Church

Disconnected Church Connections – Of Online Friends and Followers

Posted by on May 8, 2013 in community, discipleship, fellowship, gathering | 12 comments

Disconnected Church Connections – Of Online Friends and Followers

In a previous post, I explained that I was starting a new series on the topic of “disconnected connections.” (See my post “Disconnected Church Connections – Introduction.”) I’ve already discussed the “disconnected connections” that we make by reading books, articles, essays, and, yes, even blog posts. (See my post “Disconnected Church Connections – Of Authors and Similar Personalities.”)

What do I mean by “disconnected connections”? We can often feel “connected” to other Christians without face-to-face interactions. We often feel like we “know” people who we have never met. (As I explained in the introduction, I am not condemning disconnected connections. Instead, I’m cautioning that these types of relationships should be supplemental (and secondary) to real life, face-to-face interactions.

In today’s cyber world, we are “interconnected” with people all over the world. We have Facebook friends, LinkedIn connections, and Twitter followers. After we read someone’s updates, statuses, and tweets day-after-day, week-after-week, month-after-month, and even year-after-year, it can seem that we actually know each other.

And, remember, I’m not condemning these kinds of online relationships. As you can tell from the links above, I participate in online relationships, and I’ve benefited greatly from them.

However, as is the case with authors, online relationships should be secondary to our face-to-face, real life relationships with our brothers and sisters in Christ. It’s primarily through these face-to-face relationships – not pixel-to-pixel relationships – that God works in our lives to help us grow in maturity in Jesus Christ.

Of course, like I said above, there are many benefits to our cyber connections – especially when it comes to understanding other Christians who are different from us and when it comes to seeing how God is working around the world. Often, these online relationships can even become face-to-face, real life relationships.

Four years ago, when I first joined the titterverse, I met a fellow tweeter named Art. A few weeks after that, we met face-to-face for the first time. Since then, we have coffee or lunch together a few times. Today, we work together, and see each other almost daily.

I’ve met other people online who I’ve also later had the pleasure of meeting face-to-face once, twice, or a few times. As great as online relationships may be, the interaction becomes even better and more discipline the more we spend time together in real life.

The best online interactions – in my opinion – are with those people who I already know in real life. In this way, cyber connections become an extension of our real life relationships instead of a replacement for real life relationships. (I think this is very similar to what we see in Scripture concerning letters. They were almost always written to people who the author already knew. Even when the author had never met the recipients, the letters were sent with someone who would then give that face-to-face interaction that is so important.)

So, yes, maintain and build those online disconnected connections. But, don’t allow those cyber interactions to take the place of real life, face-to-face interactions. It is through the latter kinds of relationships that we truly come to know one another and that we help one another grow and mature in Jesus Christ.

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Series on “Disconnected Church Connections”

  1. Introduction
  2. Of Authors and Similar Personalities
  3. Of Online Friends and Followers
  4. Of Speakers at Seminars, Conferences, and More
  5. Of the Lack of Relationships Among the Church

Disconnected Church Connections – Of Authors and Similar Personalities

Posted by on May 7, 2013 in community, discipleship, fellowship, gathering | 10 comments

Disconnected Church Connections – Of Authors and Similar Personalities

In a previous post, I explained that I was starting a new series on the topic of “disconnected connections.” (See my post “Disconnected Church Connections – Introduction.”)

What do I mean by “disconnected connections”? We can often feel “connected” to other Christians without face-to-face interactions. We often feel like we “know” people who we have never met. (As I explained in the introduction, I am not condemning disconnected connections. Instead, I’m cautioning that these types of relationships should be supplemental (and secondary) to real life, face-to-face interactions.

Of course, the existence “disconnected connections” is not a modern phenomenon. But, as we’ll see later, in recent years these long-distance, non-face-to-face relationships have become take primary place among many Christians when it comes to fellowship, disciples, and unity.

For example, it’s easy to feel a connection to an author, especially when reading several books by the same author. We begin to think that we actually know the person, while – in reality – we don’t. We only know the part of the person that is published – and, usually, it’s a highly edited and highly planned portion of that person.

That same kind of “disconnected connection” can be found in magazine articles and blogs… yes, blogs such as this one. Very few of my readers actually know me. And, while I try to be “real” on my blog, it’s impossible for anyone to truly know me by only reading my blog. (Of course, for those who actually know me, reading my blog can help them know me even more.)

While we can learn something from authors, books, articles, essays, and even blog posts (such as this one), this is not the kind of learning that we need (primarily) to grow in Christ. We (I and other authors) are sharing information. Even when we share examples, they are only information. You are not observing the example. You are not learning from the example. You are learning from our words… it’s a transfer of knowledge.

Can a transfer of knowledge be helpful? Of course it can. But, it is not the primary method that God uses to help us help one another grow and mature in Jesus Christ. Sharing information can be PART of that growth, but it must only be part. Example, observation, and sharing life are the most important (and often more missing) part of maturing together in Jesus Christ.

So, should we stop writing and reading? Of course not. Like I said, I’m not condemning these “disconnected connections.” But, it will be helpful to recognize that this is what we have. We have a disconnected connection. And, until we spend time with one another – or until we spend time with our favorite author(s) – that is all we will have.

The danger is seeing an author as our primary discipler. And, unfortunately, I’ve heard this too many time: “So-and-so has discipled me more through his/her books than anyone else.” This is a dangerous situation. If you find it true in your life, then I would highly caution you to recognize that this is not the way that God has designed us to help one another grow in Jesus Christ.

So, what do we do if this is the case? Look for people to share our lives with… and even share the books with… then we can interact face-to-face over the same subjects and help one another grow in Christ through real life connections.

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Series on “Disconnected Church Connections”

  1. Introduction
  2. Of Authors and Similar Personalities
  3. Of Online Friends and Followers
  4. Of Speakers at Seminars, Conferences, and More
  5. Of the Lack of Relationships Among the Church

Disconnected Church Connections – Introduction

Posted by on May 6, 2013 in community, discipleship, fellowship, gathering | 8 comments

Disconnected Church Connections – Introduction

For the last several weeks, I’ve wanted to write a post about this topic. But, for some reason, it never came out right. So, I thought about it… and thought about it… and thought about it some more. And, now, I think I’m ready to write… but I’m not going to write a post; I’m going to write a series of posts.

So, what does “Disconnected Church Connections” mean? What exactly is this topic? What is this series going to be about?

Well, in today’s church, we often feel “connected” to other Christians without face-to-face interactions. We often feel like we “know” people who we have never met. (Of course, this isn’t a new thing, but I’ll get to that later.)

One of the reasons that I struggled so much in writing about this topic is that I did not want to come across as completely negative about this. Yes, I believe there are inherent dangers in this kind of disconnected connection. However, there are also some good things that can come from long distance (never met and never will meet) relationships.

So, please don’t read this series as a condemnation of disconnected connections. Instead, I hope you can read this article in the way that it was intended: a word of caution concerning these types of relationships, especially when these kind of relationships form the basis of someone’s fellowship in Christ.

Can we help and encourage and teach and admonish and train and comfort people we have never met and over long distances? Yes, of course we can. This happens all the time, and it is very beneficial when it happens. (And, in rare instances, “disconnected connections” are the only type of relationships that are available to people.)

But, I don’t think this is the way that God has designed us to interact with one another primarily. Instead, I think that fellowship, discipleship, community, etc. is best experienced in Christ when we are together – face-to-face.

Again, as you read through this series, and as you consider the descriptions and warnings that I offer, please understand that I’m not condemning “disconnected connections.” Instead, I’m only suggesting that these kinds of relationships are best as supplements to real, live face-to-face interactions with brothers and sisters in Christ.

I’ll try to state that clearly with each example, but I want to point it out up front as well.

So, what kind of relationships am I talking about? Well, you’ve probably figured out that I would include online/internet type relationships as “disconnected connections.” But, I would also include relationships such as television, video, radio, etc. as “disconnected connections.” And, I think that books and magazines are types of “disconnected connections.” Finally, conferences, seminars, and other speaking engagements are forms of “disconnected connections.”

Before I begin this series by looking at some of the examples above, what do you think about “disconnected connections” and our life and fellowship in Jesus Christ?

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Series on “Disconnected Church Connections”

  1. Introduction
  2. Of Authors and Similar Personalities
  3. Of Online Friends and Followers
  4. Of Speakers at Seminars, Conferences, and More
  5. Of the Lack of Relationships Among the Church

Introverts, Extraverts, and Community in Christ

Posted by on May 3, 2013 in community | 4 comments

Introverts, Extraverts, and Community in Christ

Yesterday, Dan from “Cerulean Sanctum” left an excellent question/statement/comment on my post “He invites us to live side by side as a family.” Because of his comment, I’ve been thinking alot about introverts and extraverts as part of community in Christ. (Please read Dan’s whole comment, because he brings up several other excellent points.)

In my post, I pointed out that the deep friendships that make up community in Christ do not happen overnight, especially among people who are not accustomed to those kinds of friendships. Of course, because the Spirit dwells in each of us, there is an immediate connection. However, it takes time to develop the kind of familiarity and trust necessary for community. (By the way, I think that any healthy community will actually have different people with different levels of relationships with one another. But, those relationships will be growing.)

So, what does this have to do with extraverts and introverts? Well, first, let’s admit that there are very few pure extraverts or pure introverts. Everyone is somewhere on the continuum between being a pure extravert and a pure introvert. And, in different situations, some people are extraverted or more introverted or vice versa. But, for the sake of this post, let’s consider people either introverts or extraverts.

For both introverts and extraverts, there are strengths and weaknesses related to community.

For example, extraverts typically meet people easily. They quickly come to know a little about a lot of people. They can have a tremendous number of acquaintances. But, extraverts often struggle at deeper relationships.

Introverts, on the other hand, struggle meeting people initially. They may not have very many acquaintances at all. But, for those people they do meet, they tend to relate to a few more deeply quicker.

If you’ve followed along so far, you may recognize something: extraverts and introverts need each other. (Of course, that should be pretty obvious, since God created us to need and rely on one another.)

So, why do extraverts and introverts have such a hard time getting along many times? Well, the same reason we have a hard time getting along with anyone. We focus on ourselves, our needs, our desires, and our personalities instead of focusing on the other person(s).

Extraverts won’t get to know introverts by forcing them to act like extraverts. Introverts won’t develop deep relationships with extraverts by forcing them to be introverted.

If this sounds familiar, it should. It’s the basis of our relationships with one another in Jesus Christ and the basis of our service to others in Jesus’ name. This passage probably says it about as good as any:

So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus… (Philippians 2:1-5 ESV)

How can extraverts and introverts relate to one another as community in Jesus Christ? By caring more about the other person(s) than themselves. How can they do that? By having the mind of Christ – a mind that pushes them away from their own rights and toward a life of serving others.

He invites us to live side by side as a family

Posted by on May 2, 2013 in blog links, community | 10 comments

He invites us to live side by side as a family

Kathleen at “Church in a Circle” has written a great post called “Community is irresistible.” The post is not very long, so I would encourage you to read it now. (And, as far as I can tell, she actually spells all of the words correctly, which is amazing for an Aussie.)

Kathleen begins her post lamenting the lack of community among the church and the wider society today. Even though we were designed for community, we seldom find it today. As she said, “Facebook is as good as it gets for many people.”

But, what can we do? She answers that question like this:

He [God] invites us to live side by side as a family, meeting each other’s needs through the seasons of life. If we are going to tap into the full potential for the church to shine in the darkness of this disconnected, dysfunctional world, we need to start meeting face-to-face, engaging in a two-way conversation, growing in strong relationships with each other and accepting one another as Jesus accepted each of us.

We were not designed to be fellow-attenders; we were designed to be family. We were not designed to live disconnected lives; we were designed to share our lives with one another.

But, today – at least in my “neck of the woods” – this kind of community is very unnatural. It was quite natural only a few years ago (as in a couple of generations ago), and it mostly centered on extended family and neighbors who lived close to one another for many, many years.

So, what do we do? Exactly what Kathleen says above. We must intentionally invite people into our lives, and we must intentionally be interested in other people when they are willing to share their lives with us. We must be patient… and wait… and wait… and wait more… trusting that God will bind our hearts and lives together. And, while we are waiting, we must continuously and consistently have interactions with one another like Kathleen describes above: “meeting face-to-face, engaging in a two-way conversation, growing in strong relationships with each other and accepting one another as Jesus accepted each of us.”

We can’t sit alone in our living rooms and expect community to suddenly spring up out of nothing.

We will have to beging by being acquaintances and listening to others around us. When the time is right, we’ll be invited and even encouraged to speak into their lives – when we show that we care and that we can be trusted. But, again, that will only happen when we are intentional to offer our time and energy and lives to others… and allow them to accept as much or as little as they will.

As I said above, and as I’ve written previously, community is unnatural today. But, when we are living super-natural lives and intentionally giving God opportunities to bind our lives with others (or, as another blogger wrote recently, “entangling our lives together”) then we will find God building community in our midst – a community based on Jesus Christ.

Moving toward a community hermeneutic

Posted by on Apr 25, 2013 in community, discipleship, fellowship, scripture | 4 comments

Moving toward a community hermeneutic

In my last two posts (“Putting the ‘community’ in community hermeneutics” and “Some responses to ‘community hermeneutics’“), I argued that the church – as a whole, not just one or a small group – should work together to both interpret and apply Scripture, and I offered several answers to some of the “push back” responses that I often get when I talk about that kind of community hermeneutic. (Remember, “community hermeneutic” is simply the whole church interpreting Scripture together.)

But, let’s be honest, for the vast majority of Christians, this kind of community interpretation of Scripture is unfamiliar and often not allowed. For most follower of Jesus, the norm has been one person – or perhaps a small group of people – taking the responsibility to interpret and apply Scripture for the church.

So, how can these believers (assuming they have the desire) move toward a community hermeneutic?

First, we should recognize that among many churches, leaders control what happens when believers gather together. So, I’m going to answer this question in two parts: 1) What if someone desires to move toward community hermeneutics but the leaders do not? and 2) What if leaders desire to move toward a community hermeneutic?

What if someone desires to move toward community hermeneutics but the leaders do not?

Of course, this is the difficult position that many believers find themselves in. I always think it’s good to explain your desires (and the reasons) to the leaders. But, that doesn’t always result in a positive response. However, all is not lost. Begin spending time with believers who will study and discuss Scripture with you. If your church organization has decided to focus their energies on a sermon/homily type approach, then seek other opportunities to gather with your brothers and sisters in Christ for community interpretation. You do not always have to choose one or the other. Your example and growth may persuade others of the importance of community hermeneutics.

What if leaders desire to move toward a community hermeneutic?

Even if leaders among the church and some of the others among the church are ready for a community hermeneutic, there will be some among the church who are not ready. I would suggest several steps toward a community hermeneutic (without diving into the deep end right away).

1) Hold a study session outside of the normal gathering time, and share what some other people say about the passage when you teach/preach.

2) Invite either people from among the church to speak, either taking the entire teaching/preaching time or taking a small part of the preaching/teaching time. (When they speak, you sit down and listen.)

3) Have a time of discussion after the normal teaching/preaching time. Encourage questions and comments, and allow others to answer the questions or respond to the comments. Do not answer everything that’s asked or respond to every comment. (Otherwise, you will STILL be seen as THE person to interpret Scripture.) By the way, don’t be afraid of silence or times when no one speaks. It will take time for people to understand that they really can interpret Scripture and help others when they share.

What suggestions would have for people who are interested in community hermeneutics?

Some responses to “community hermeneutics”

Posted by on Apr 24, 2013 in community, discipleship, fellowship, scripture | 6 comments

Some responses to “community hermeneutics”

In my last post, I explained that I think that “community hermeneutics” (i.e., the whole church interpreting and applying Scripture together) to be extremely important for the health and growth of the church. (See my post “Putting the ‘community’ in community hermeneutics.”) In fact, I think that when we do not practice community hermeneutics – when only one person or only a few people interpret Scripture on behalf of the church – then I believe the maturity and growth of the church is hindered.

Whenever I begin talking about community hermeneutics and discussing Scripture together with the church, there are a few responses I receive as “push back.” Here are a few:

But they are not theologically educated
Theological education can be good and beneficial. But, it is not the most important aspect of interpreting and applying Scripture. While the Bible school and seminary students can help the church understand Scripture, the engineering students and business students can help as well. So can the farmers, mechanics, carpenters, realtors, etc. Everyone who is a child of God can and should take part in interpreting and applying Scripture. The best thing that a theologically trained person can do is to help others among the church by sharing those interpretive tools with them.

What if someone makes a heretical statement?
We rarely hear heretical statements. However, let’s assume someone does say something heretical – truly heretical, not just against our pet doctrines. First, remember, that person has that belief whether he/she states it or not. If the person doesn’t state the heretical belief, then no one may ever know he/she has that wrong belief. Second, if someone states a heretical belief, that provides the perfect opportunity for the church (as a whole) to help that person come to understanding. This would never happen if the person is forced to remain quiet.

It will just become a time of everyone sharing their own opinions
It could, but only if there are no mature believers to keep everyone focused on Jesus. From what I’ve learned in the last few years, those who are mature among the church are not necessarily the ones who are always talking. Instead, they are the ones who know when to speak and to keep silent. When they speak, they often move the conversation / discussion / study in exactly the direction it needs to go.

A few people (who love to hear the sound of their own voice) will do all the talking
Again, that’s possible, but – again – only if the mature believers do not disciple those people. If we understand why we’re coming together – both to edify others AND to be edified by others – and if we truly care about what other people are saying, then we will all learn to listen more than we speak. Of course, there will always be those who struggle in this area. The time to help them is when we’re one-on-one… encouraging them in what they HEARD more than what they SAID.

There are other responses, of course. But, these are the responses that I hear most often.

Community hermeneutics and discussion when the church gathers can be a scary proposition to a group who is accustomed to a leader-controlled meeting and leader-interpreted message. But, overall, it’s much better for the church.

Putting the “community” in community hermeneutics

Posted by on Apr 23, 2013 in blog links, community, discipleship | 8 comments

Putting the “community” in community hermeneutics

Over the last few years, I’ve written several posts on the topic of “community hermeneutics.” (For a few examples, see my posts “Toward Mutual Hermeneutics,” “Listening to One Another,” “The First Interpreters,” and “Those pesky Bereans.”) If you’ve never heard the term before, “community hermeneutics” refers to interpreting and applying Scripture together in community with one another.

If you pushed me into a corner… ok, even if you didn’t push me into a corner… I’d say that the lack of community hermeneutics is one of the reasons that the church is in the mess that it’s in today. Our reliance on certain people to interpret Scripture for us – not only to tell us what it means but to tell us how to apply it – is one of the causes (perhaps a main cause) of continued immaturity among the church.

My good friend Maël from “The Adventures of Maël & Cindy” has recently started a series on “community heremeutics” using the German term gemeindetheologie. His first post is called “GEMEINDETHEOLOGIE: Who & How? – An Introduction.”

At one point, Maël writes this:

As Thiselton claims: “All the major traditions of the Christian church formally define doctrine in communal terms, although the emphasis and nature of the community in question varies.” [Anthony C. Thiselton, The Hermeneutics of Doctrine (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2007), xviii] For example, in the Catholic tradition, the hermeneutical community is embodied in the bishops that constitute the Magisterium, while in some Anabaptist traditions, the hermeneutical community is embodied by all the believers in the local congregation.

I think Maël makes a good point here (or actually, Thiselton makes a good point, and Maël expands on it). In almost all Christian groups, hermeneutics is a community task. The question is: who is included in that community who is allowed to interpret Scripture for others?

Instead of going into all the different options, I’d like to make a case for interpretation and application being the responsibility and privilege of all followers of Jesus Christ, not just a subset. Why do I think all Christians should (and must) be involved in hermeneutics?

1. Because all Christians are indwelled by the Holy Spirit who is the one who reveals and provides understanding.

Does that mean that we always listen to him and always respond properly and always interpret what God reveals (either through Scripture or through other means)? Of course not. And, that leads to the second reason…

2. Because all Christians need others to help them understand what the Spirit is revealing to them… all Christians… even the experts.

Add to this the fact that interpretation of Scripture is not usually about TELLING what it means as much as it is about SHOWING what it means. And, the “showing” happens best in community as well.

I’ve been part of a group who practices community hermeneutics (that includes the WHOLE community and not a subset of the community) for several years now. In years of schooling, I probably have more theological education than anyone else who is part of that community. But, because we interpret and apply Scripture together, I’m also able to learn from my brothers and sisters in Christ… even from my youngest brother or sister in Christ.

You may be part of a church organization that does not practice community hermeneutics. Perhaps your denomination or your local church leaders tell you what Scripture means and how you should apply it. May I suggest that you can still practice community hermeneutics? It’s true. Gather together with some friends and begin working through Scripture and through life together.

You’ll be surprised at the difference that it makes…

Chain Blog: Real Relational Unity

Posted by on Apr 22, 2013 in chain blog, community, fellowship, service, unity | 31 comments

Chain Blog: Real Relational Unity

Last Friday, I posted that I’m interested in started another “chain blog.” (See my post “Time for another chain blog? But what topic…” for an introduction to and explanation of chain blogs.) I mentioned a few possible topics, and several people were interested in the topic of “unity.” One commenter, Greg, suggested that we include true stories of how we have prevented or overcome division in order to live in unity with other followers of Jesus Christ.

Greg’s comment reminded me of a book that I read a few years ago. The book is called Your Church is Too Small and was written by John Armstrong. In this book, Armstrong makes a distinction between a unity that is only conception, theoretical, or spiritual and a unity that is both real and relational.

“Relational unity” is visible, palpable. It can be pointed out and experienced. It can also be quenched and grieved.

Few (if any) would argue that the church today rarely shows relational unity across denominations, theological systems, historical traditions, institutions, organizations, or even “local churches.” We occasionally attempt to relate to those who are like us and who believe like us (although even this is difficult in today’s church where acquiescence to a set of beliefs has replaced true community). When we do show relational unity with coworkers, neighbors, family members, etc., it is often considered to be something different than church – less than the church.

Thus, the church today is splintered and fractured, and lives as an anti-apologetic to the good news of Jesus Christ.

How could I make such a strong statement? Well, it comes from one of Jesus’ prayers:

I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. (John 17:20-21 ESV)

If we are “one” as the Father and Son are one, then we are united. If the world around us is affected by the unity, then it is a unity that can be seen, experienced, recognized… it is real. If it is a unity related to “us,” then it is relational. Thus, in just this short part of Jesus’ prayer, we can see that it is our “real relational unity” that is an apologetic to the world that God the Father sent Jesus into the world. Our divisions, then, work against that proclamation.

So, in this chain blog, I’m asking you to consider “real relational unity” among brothers and sisters in Christ. Your posts can be theoretical, exegetical, conception, and ideal. But, I also ask you to include real examples of living in unity with other followers of Jesus Christ – especially with those who may be different than you. If you don’t have real examples to share, then please share some steps that you yourself are willing to take to live in that real relational unity that we have in Jesus Christ, remembering Paul’s exhortation:

I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. (Ephesians 4:1-3 ESV)

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Chain blog rules:

1) If you would like to write the next blog post (link) in this chain, leave a comment stating that you would like to do so. If someone else has already requested to write the next link, then please wait for that blog post and leave a comment there requesting to write the following link.

2) Feel free to leave comments here and discuss items in this blog post without taking part in the actual “chain.” Your comments and discussion are very important in this chain blog (both on this post and the other link posts in the chain).

3) When you write a link in this chain, please reply in the comments of the previous post to let everyone know that your link is ready. Also, please try to keep an updated list of links in the chain at the bottom of your post, and please include these rules at the bottom of your post.

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“Links” in the “Real Relational Unity” chain blog:

1. “Chain Blog: Real Relational Unity” by Alan
2. “The Treasure of Unity ‘in’ our Relationships” by Jim
3. “So The World May Know – Observations on the Road to Unity” by Christopher
4. “Christian Unity – What it is and What it’s not” by Nathan
5. “Steps to Relational Unity” by Randi
6. “Learn to Live or Live to Learn” by Greg
7. “The Limits on Unity” by Arthur
8. “Joints of Supply” by David
9. “Some Examples of Real Relational Unity” by Alan
10. “An Example of Relational Unity” by Greg
11. “Relational Unity Begins at Home” by Kathleen
12. “Do Not Seek Christian Unity” by Jeremy
13. Who will write the 13th link post in the chain?