A little while back I wrote this post discussing that developing relationships within the church isn't something that can be organized, programed or rushed. Rather it is something that needs to develop within the natural, unexpected margins of our life.
But isn't it the church's job to make sure people are connecting within the church...connecting with one another?
Last week I had a conversation with a friend over email, we were discussing this issue when he said this statement that stopped me in my tracks,
"connecting at church is weird to me anyway...it’s like you are expected to meet friends and hang out with people just because you go to church together...seems weird to me...my friends don’t necessarily go to this church and just because you do doesn’t mean I want to go to lunch with you after church"
As a leader in the church and a pastor whose job description it was to "connecting" people within the church - then according to my friend, is that really the church's responsibility and role?
Is the church supposed to create relationships for you just because you are part of the church, and are your relationships supposed to exclusively come from the church? Have we made the whole connecting thing artificial and contrived?
Has all of these church programs and events designed to develop "forced friendships" become a giant, glorified church "dating" service? Isn't it each individual's responsibility to invest in developing relationships? Should people be angry or disappointed at the church if they for some reason haven't "connected"?
Perhaps all the church is required to do is to create "relational spaces" or environments where relationship can easily cultivate and flourish.
As these thoughts had been tossing around in my mind all week, I then come across a new post from Tony Morgan that further stoked these ideas.
Tony Morgan ponders the issue, "for whatever reason, when it comes to church, we think the church needs to find us a friend." Then Tony goes on to ask...
-Have we made people too reliant on the church for putting them in relationship with other people?
-Have we made people too reliant on the church for “growing them” in their faith?
-Have we pulled people into relationship with other Christians at the expense of their relationships with people who need Jesus?
Tony continues on to make these observations:
It just strikes me as odd that people seem to be very capable of finding friends outside the church. In fact, the social networking craze has made it even easier to connect with people both face-to-face and virtually. I wonder if social networking has any clues for the Church when it comes to biblical community. If we create the right framework for relationships to happen, will people find their own friends? If we create the right environments, will people take that step on their own?Relationships are important, no one is saying otherwise...but is it the church's role to create "friendships" and relationships? Are we just setting up the church for failure and people for disappointment in the church?
What would happen if we put less attention on organizing relationships and more attention on giving people something to organize around? For example, what if we focused on serving opportunities? Would people naturally gather around those initiatives to serve others? What if we focused on the content we were generating to help people better understand the Bible and its application to our daily lives? Would people naturally organize around that content for conversations together?