Blest be the tie that binds
Our hearts in Christian love;
The fellowship of kindred minds
Is like to that above.
Kim's post last week on the heels of my pastor's sermon on Acts 2:42-47 got me thinking about relationships in the local church. I love my church, and we care for one another very well. But if the standard is Jesus' command to love one another as He has loved us (John 13:34-35), who would dare say they do this 100% of the time and have no need for improvement? If I carefully examine my own life, I'm convicted of how often I fall short. So as I've considered this subject, here are a few ways that may help us strengthen the tie that binds. (Disclaimer: These suggestions are coming from an introvert's point of view. Any extroverts out there, please be patient with me.)
Don't wait for "them"
Why don't "they" (the elders/ministry leaders) start a program, change the church culture, or just do something? Have you thought this? I have. It's easy for me to hang back and wait for "them" to take the first step, but I don't do this in my family. I don't wait for a committee to institute a program before I go to my daughter or pick up the phone to call my sister. If the church is the family of God, which it is, shouldn't I treat them like family?
This is a converse to the previous point. We should encourage one another to step forward and inch our way out of our comfort zones, but it's not always easy. In fact it can be very difficult for those who are shy or just feel awkward. There may be folks who dread speaking in a group for fear of asking a stupid question or giving the wrong answer. May we be sensitive and not expect others to interact in the same way or with the same ease that we do. This is a practical way to think of others more highly than ourselves and put their needs first. (Phil. 2:3-4)
Be patient and persevere
If social media is our guide, face-to-face connections can seem slow to cultivate and hard work to maintain. I can "friend" and "follow" with a click of the mouse and "unfriend" and "unfollow" just as easily, if it doesn't suit me. It's not so easy in the local church. Life in 3-D can be a blessing, but it can also be messy. Yet I've made a covenant to pursue the well-being of this local expression of the Bride of Christ, which requires patience and perseverance. I don't expect my familial relationships to fly at the speed of Facebook, so why would I put time constraints on relationships in the church? And perhaps what I deem a mess is the very thing God is using to sanctify us and strengthen our ties, not only with each other, but to Him?
What ways do you strengthen the ties in your local church? Please share in the comments section so we can all be encouraged.