the weblog of Alan Knox

fellowship

Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes… and the church

Posted by on May 31, 2013 in discipleship, edification, fellowship, gathering | 3 comments

Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes… and the church

No, I’m not writing this post about changes on this blog or even about changes in my own life. Our family has been through several changes over the last year or so, but I’ve already written about those.

This post is about changes and the church.

Over the last few years, I’ve come to expect two things when it comes to change and the church: 1) Change should be expected and constant, and 2) Change is not comfortable.

The church is people – God’s people gathered together. Since we are God’s people who are indwelled by the Holy Spirit and following Jesus Christ, we are in a constant state of change. We are growing in maturity (hopefully); our life situations are changing; God is continually working in and through us.

Put us together, and there is even more change. And, this doesn’t even count the people who are moving away, or new people who start gathering with us.

If we are truly interacting with one another when we gather with the church, then that interaction will change as well. Our relationships are changing, our struggles are changing, and our manner of following Jesus is changing. All of this adds up to even more change.

But, do we see this change reflected among the church, especially when we gather together? Oh, we may tweak something here or there, but, for the most part, it’s all the same week after week, month after month, year after year.

All of this indicates that the way we are meeting (generally among the church) does not actually reflect the people at all.

However, most people are fine with that. Why? Because change is uncomfortable. We want things to stay the same, especially when things are actually changing. The apparent lack of change makes us think that everything is fine. We want the distraction from real life.

But, that’s just it… it’s not real life.

And, if it’s not real life, then we’re not helping each other with real life. Putting on something that’s stable and unchanging (even if it’s “excellent”) is not beneficial to the growth and health of the church.

Yes, change is uncomfortable. But, our goal should never be to help people remain comfortable where they are. Our goal should always be to help one another understand where we are and where God is taking us (both as individuals and as a group). This is only possible if we embrace that change that we are all going through, and allow that change to be reflected as we gather together.

Of course, that can only happen if the people (all of us – one another) truly participate with one another as we gather together.

Replay: Donkeys sleeping in the bathtub

Posted by on May 18, 2013 in community, definition, discipleship, fellowship | 5 comments

Replay: Donkeys sleeping in the bathtub

Four years ago, I published a post called “Donkeys sleeping in the bathtub.” The post was inspired a commercial that was airing around the time that I wrote the post. The commercial was about crazy laws that were on the books in certain states. It made me think about how there are certain traditions among the church, and how those traditions started, and how those traditions just seem to hang around… whether they are helpful or not.

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Donkeys sleeping in the bathtub

 
According to a commercial on the radio, there is a law in Arizona that makes it illegal to allow a donkey to sleep in your bathtub.

Also, apparently, in Minnesota, there is a law that makes it illegal to cross the Minnesota state line with a duck on your head.

While these laws seem funny and even ridiculous to us, there was probably a good reason for passing the laws in the first place. If we traced the history of these laws, we would probably understand why the laws are on the book. However, while the history may clear things up for us, history will not make the laws make sense today.

Why? Well, most people don’t own donkeys today, much less allow them to sleep in their bathtubs. And, I don’t think I’ve ever seen someone with a duck on their head.

But, of course, once a law is on the books, it is difficult to remove it.

The same thing happens with our traditions and practices and rules in the church. For very good reasons, the church begins doing things and begins doing them in certain ways. Eventually, the reasons disappear, but the practices continue.

Eventually, if we’re not careful, those practices become more important to us than who we are as the family of God in Christ. The way we do things becomes more important than the reason we started doing them in the first place. We become defined by our methods instead of being defined by our relationship with God and with one another.

I think we see this today in many aspects of our lives together as the church. We don’t know why we do the things we do or why we act the way we act or why we’re structured the way we’re structured, but someone must have had a good reason to start doing it this way, and we’re familiar and comfortable with these things, so we just let them continue.

But, the silly laws I mentioned at the beginning of this post – laws against donkeys sleeping in bathtubs and wearing a duck on your head – generally don’t affect people today. For many people, their lives will not be changed if the laws remain or are repealed.

But, it is completely different for the church. The things that we do day after day, week after week, year after year, simply because that’s the ways it’s been done, or the ways we’ve been taught, or the ways that have worked before, or even the ways that seem rational and logical… these things affect us as followers of Jesus Christ. They affect our relationship with God and our relationships with one another.

The things that we do or don’t do, the way that we’re structured or not structured, the way that we speak or don’t speak, all of these things work to either build us up toward maturity in Christ, or they hinder our development in Christ.

Laws against donkeys sleeping in the bathtub seem funny and ridiculous to us. But, I wonder if the way we treat one another as the church, the way we set up hierarchies among believers, the way we abandon our responsibilities toward one another and pay others to carry out our responsibilities… I wonder if these things seem funny to God.

Disconnected Church Connections – Of the Lack of Relationships Among the Church

Posted by on May 10, 2013 in community, discipleship, fellowship, gathering | 6 comments

Disconnected Church Connections – Of the Lack of Relationships Among the Church

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, the “disconnected connections” that we make online, and the “disconnected connections” we have with various types of speakers. (See my posts “Disconnected Church Connections – Of Authors and Similar Personalities,” “Disconnected Church Connections – Of Online Friends and Followers,” and “Disconnected Church Connections – Of Speakers at Seminars, Conferences, and More” 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.

In this conclusion to my series on “disconnected connections,” I’d like us to think about one question: Why are people drawn to “disconnected connections” among the church? So far, I’ve talked about various types of relationships that are often seen as very important among the church, and yet these relationships do not provide the face-to-face, intimate connections and interactions that we need for growth and maturity in Jesus Christ.

I think the answer is quite simple: Among the church today, those kinds of real, face-to-face, intimate relationships are extremely rare or, in some cases, nonexistent.

For too long, the church has emphasized activities and programs that hinder those kinds of relationships. Yes, Christians have always SAID that relationship was important. But, when the rubber hits the road, relationships were put on a back burner, at best. The church focused on information, organization, and attendance. Through all of these, Christians learned that relationships were not really important.

In past generations, community and relationship developed naturally, primarily because people tended to stay in one location their whole life. However, when that change, community and relationship became less natural. So, it was easy for Christians to set aside important relationships just as others in our culture were doing.

Instead of the important face-to-face interactions that God uses to help us grow and mature in Christ (expressed beautifully in Scripture through the many “one another” instructions), the church turned to “disconnected connections” and encouraged others (intentionally or unintentionally) to turn to “disconnected connections” as well.

What’s the answer? We cannot continue to emphasize the “disconnected connections” and expect people to build intimate relationships as well. Instead, we must emphasize those real, live, face-to-face kind of interactions that actually help people grow and mature in Jesus Christ. Instead of giving special time to “disconnected connections,” we must set those aside and give that time to building relationships – showing that these interactions (“one anothers”) are truly important to us and no longer only giving “lip service” to the importance of relationships.

Finally, we must model these kinds of discipling relationships, being willing to invite people into our lives, being willing to listen and learn from them, being willing to wait for God to work through the often slow and messy process of community.

Our relationships with one another in Jesus Christ are extremely important, and we must be willing to show people that they are important.

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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 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

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.

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?