Relationships are Essential
by Verlyn Bergen
After 50 years of marriage and 48 years of ministry as well as some significant health issues, I have had opportunity to reflect on God's incredible grace and goodness. I have also begun to contemplate some of the really difficult questions about God and the church. Phillip Yancey has just completed another wonderful book where he considers "Where is God when it hurts?" I heard another prognosticator announce again this week that denominations are dead. These statements as well as the daily news have caused me to reconsider some of my assumptions about God and the church. Having spent 28 years of my ministry serving on a denominational level causes me to ask the question, was it worth it? If denominations really are dead, is the church next to go? Oh, I know it is not "religiously correct" to ask questions like these but I don't feel I have anything to lose by being completely honest with myself, others, and, most importantly, with God.
I believe that our assumptions about God and the church are linked to our personal experiences with family and friends and our experiences, as well as the teaching we received, in the life of the church. Therefore, I began to seek answers to some of these questions from others who are as deeply committed to God and the church as I am. "Why do you keep coming back week after week?", "You have worked with preschoolers for many years, why do you keep doing that?", "What do you miss most about denominational life as we once knew it?" and other similar questions are good conversation starters. The responses are varied and come in many different words but there does seem to be a common theme. The responses inevitably come around to relationships, relationship with God and others.
To be clear, the questions are not centered on what brought them to the church but rather what keeps them coming back over many years. I do believe some persons are initially attracted to the church by various factors - style of worship, location, facilities, leadership, children's ministries, youth ministries, etc. However, my experience tells me that they must develop a deepening relationship with God and others if they are to return week after week and year after year.
So what does this mean? It means that I am very optimistic about the future of any church that has as its main focus the deepening of relationships - God and others. All the other factors will change with the changing culture. People need a vibrant relationship to God and others. As long as the church is God's instrument to help people develop a relationship with him and others it will be a powerful force in the world. If it fails on the relationship front it will ultimately go down the same path as denominations.
The Resources & Relationships Team of Churchnet will be exploring ways we can assist churches and leaders in developing relationships with God and others.
You can contact Verlyn Bergn, Churchnet Resources & Relationships Team Leader, at (888) 420-2426 ext. 702 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.