Relationships are important to me. And I enjoy connecting with new people. My desire is to know and minister to my neighbors and others that I come in contact with. A primary motivation for anyone going into full time ministry should be a burden and love for people. But working with people is going to be painful at times. I can’t tell you how many pastors I’ve talked to who are afraid to open up. They have a wall up because they are afraid, certain that if they let someone in, they will get hurt — again.
Honesty is important in any relationship. It is a requirement for authenticity. But sometimes the church reminds me of the the court room scene in the movie “A Few Good Men” with Tom Cruise and Jack Nicholson. Do you remember that? Jack is being interrogated by Tom Cruise and then screams “You can’t handle the truth.” Have you known people like that? You begin to ask questions or share observations and they freak out. And then maybe turn on you. All of a sudden they don’t want a relationship with you and blow you off. They don’t return calls or emails. Maybe they leave the church.
Pastor Steven Furtick of Elevation church posted a great blog in 2008 titled “People Will Turn On You.” But if we don’t let people in we will never become all that God wants us to be. Nor will be be effective in ministry. Even if one is not in ministry, a life without rich relationships is a pitiful and lonely existance. Going deep with individuals is a requirement for real fellowship. Our responsibility is to work through the pain of relationships, discover what we can learn from the experience, get up, brush ourselves off and continue the race.
The following is an excerpt from Pastor Craig Groeschel in his book “It” on ministry in the church: “It’s not surprising that many twenty-first century people are afraid. With as much relational pain as they endure, especially those who have served in ministry and leadership roles, it’s no wonder they’re gun shy. Amy and I talk often about our ministry scars. We’ve lost some of our closest friends to misunderstandings and false accusations. Doing what we believed was the right thing, we’ve had to fire people we cared about. Some still hate us to this day. Good friends have left the church bitter at us, or God, or both. People we opened up to betrayed confidences, dragging us through awkward seasons of pain and fear. For a while, we didn’t ever want to trust again.”
Regardless of past pain and current fear, God want’s you to share your life with others. Beware of the temptation to protect yourself by becoming emotionally isolated and independent. Watch carefully against the attitude of tolerating one another. (see previous post titled “Do You Love People or Just Think You Do?” ) To be independent is to be distinctly non-Christian. God designed us to be inter-dependent. To experience the rich and abundant life that God desires for us we must live in authentic community with God’s people.
Are you afraid to trust people because of past hurt? Has a betrayal motivated you to set up relational walls? Do you feel that something is missing in your life?
Here is a verse that has helped me through every time someone has turned on me: No weapon formed against you shall prosper, and every tongue which rises against you in judgement shall be condemned. This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord, and their righteousness is from me says the Lord. Isaiah 54:17