God made us to connect with other people. Lasting life change, personal transformation and spiritual growth best occurs in the context of authentic, life-giving relationships.
What is an authentic life-giving relationship? Here’s the way I’d like to define it… an authentic, life-giving relationship is a relationship where two or more people love, encourage, inspire, serve and challenge one another to do stuff like:
- come out of hiding
- realize and recognize how loved you are
- live lights out for Jesus
- persevere when tested and pushed to the limits
- hang in there — stick-to-it — when you feel like giving up
- love your spouse like Jesus loves the church
- stand strong against temptation
- keep doing the right thing as a friend, employee, parent, you name it, not the easy or convenient thing!
He describes relationships that aren’t casually discarded and tossed. He writes about a group of friends who chose to pursue a friend when that friend started to disconnect and drift. It’s one of the most powerful stories on friendship I’ve ever read.
Here it is just as Mansfield wrote it:
“Let me close this with a story that captures everything I have to say about pursuing friends and those we love. There is a wonderful African-American church that has a wonderful men’s ministry and all because there is a wonderful men’s ministry leader named Taylor. This devoted man led that phenomenal group of loving, passionate, adventurous, largely African- American men for years. Then something hurtful happened, the kind of thing that occurs in churches when senior pastors change and vision changes with them. So Taylor got hurt. Deeply. And he resigned and left.
He was embarrassed. He didn’t know how to process it all. He felt best in isolation. He locked himself up in his house, wouldn’t answer the phone, wouldn’t see anybody and thought he could get through it—just Taylor and God. He was actually in decline.
Well, the hundreds of men in that wonderful men’s ministry at that wonderful church were disturbed. Thankfully, Taylor had taught them to love each other well. They had no intention of letting Taylor go quiet and wounded into the bitter night. So, they got his wife’s permission and they went camping—in Taylor’s yard. They literally pitched tents, brought in food, and sat around with big signs Taylor couldn’t help but see from his windows: “Taylor, We Love You,” “Talk to Us, Taylor,” “We Aren’t Leaving Without You,” “Taylor, You’re an Idiot. Get Out Here.”
Did Taylor come out of his house? No. He called the police. He was angry. So the police show up. Taylor’s wife and a few members of the Church Occupation Force tell the police what’s going on. When the two policemen have heard everything, one of them says, “I wish my church cared about each other this much. You stay right here until this fool realizes how many people love him.” And the police start patrolling the makeshift camp to make sure all is well—for the campers!
Then the police decide to help. Every day they stop by Taylor’s house, wade through the campers, eat some of the amazing barbeque that the guys are cooking in hopes of “smoking Taylor out,” and knock on Taylor’s door. Every single day: “Sir, we’ve been asked to make sure you’re okay. We’ve received calls. Sir, are there any guns in here. Sir, are you alright? Are you in any danger of harming yourself?”
Of course, none of this overzealous policing is necessary but it is legal and it does make a point. More importantly, it brings Taylor to the door once a day and this gives the men camping in his yard a chance to shout their love.
Finally, Taylor breaks. There are tears, apologies, group hugs and—because it’s a men’s ministry—massive amounts of food. All is restored. Why? Because a group of men pursued. They didn’t let isolation become the norm. They didn’t sit around scratching themselves and saying, “Whatever happened to ol’ Taylor? He was a good guy. Haven’t seen him in years.” No, they decided that Taylor and the friendship and the good they all did together was worth taking a week off and risking everything to win Taylor back...”
Wow! Wow! Wow! I read that on the flight to Kenya and it wrecked me!
One of the problems we have today is that we have relationships that are a mile wide but only an inch deep.
"...RELATIONSHIPS ARE A MILE WIDE BUT ONLY AN INCH DEEP."
Today I want to talk about building DEEP, STRONG, VIBRANT, AUTHENTIC, LIFE-GIVING relationships. I want to talk about one of a2’s most important Core Values:
Everyone Belongs: We were made to do life together. We believe that lasting life change, personal transformation and spiritual growth best occur in the context of authentic, life-giving relationships. (Acts 2:42, 46-47; 1 Jn 4:7-13)
An authentic, life-giving relationship is a relationship where the REAL YOU can show up with all your real problems, real challenges, real needs, real joy, real sadness, real insecurities, real pride, real sin, real stuff, real breakthroughs; and be loved, encouraged, challenged, inspired and celebrated by other REAL PEOPLE experiencing the same real stuff you’re experiencing!
The result of an authentic, life giving relationship is dynamic, TRANSFORMATIONAL, life-changing SPIRITUAL GROWTH!
In the same book by Mansfield, he later writes:
“Friends are a sign. So is the absence of friends. If a man is thirty and can’t name a close friend, he’s already dysfunctional. If he’s forty and can’t name a friend to watch a game with or whom he trusts to help his wife when he’s out of town or who he wants to just hang [out with]..., then he’s a fool. If this is true at fifty, he’s already in trouble—and dying.”
You may not realize it now, but you need the power and joy of real, authentic, life-giving relationships! You need the messiness, rowdiness, friction and joy of life lived in community!
Maybe it’s in the area of a relationship — spouse, kid, boss... Maybe it’s with your finances, grades in school, or the fact that you feel disconnected from God? Spiritually, you’re in a funk...
Anyone confused? Anyone struggling with doubt? Anyone struggling with temptation? Anyone struggling with some habitual sin that you regularly fall prey to?
Anyone here tired, weary, frustrated, ticked off, depressed, angry, worn out, ready to give up?
If you answered “Yes” to any of the previous questions, this may be the most important question:
Do you have someone you can go to and share your struggle with sin, temptation, depression, anger, hurt, pain, confusion, frustration, secret sin, private doubts, etc.? Do you have anybody you can go to when you just want to celebrate?