Reflections – 2017.11

Defining the Relationship

“Just friends” … this death-kiss has been delivered many times … a young man and a young woman spend some time together, one party is interested in a deeper relationship, a romantic attachment, and it becomes necessary to “define the relationship”.  “Just friends” often does the trick. The unhappy young man or young woman who receives these words knows exactly where he or she stands.

We live in a world of more or less clearly-defined relationships.  Before I became a pastor, I worked in a healthcare database management and software firm for many years and I had a measure of success there.  I learned a lot and grew as a Christian in some real good foundational kinds of ways.  I had a few titles over my eleven years there, but employee-turned-management probably gives you the best sense of it.  I had authority over others and I was also under authority.  It was all well defined, the relationships totally understood by all parties.

One of the hardest things about coming out of a business environment into the pastorate is that whatever understanding I might have had in terms of how things work in that environment had to be quickly jettisoned or I would be in danger of adopting a thoroughly unbiblical approach to ministry.  The change in relationship terminology of course suggested this: from manager / supervisor to “shepherd.”    I have never even met a shepherd.

So what is the relationship I have with you?   Boss – employee just doesn’t work … am I the employee as a pastor?  Am I “employed” to teach the boss what to believe, to humbly make suggestions to the boss about how to live his or her life?  Or am I the boss, responsible for identifying goals and vision and then taking the church in my direction, trying to get you all in line so that we can produce something measurable?

We all have a great gift, God’s Word, that we can go to with our questions.  It is here where we come across  I Thessalonians 2.  It is a beautiful pastor passage, a passage that defines our relationship.  My wife took bits and pieces of this text and made a collage of Scripture verses – it is framed and sits on my bedroom dresser.  It reminds me of who and what I am, and of who and what I am not.

What I discovered when I read this text was that our relationship is multi-faceted.  So I want to spend the next few Seedling articles “defining our relationship,” with I Thessalonians 2 as our guide.  As we do this, pastor and congregation, may our faith in Christ grow, may our labors together be the fruit of our love for Christ and may our hope always be set on Christ.  And may Christ be glorified in it all.