This past week, I had a text conversation about some church matters with one of our members. This member needed Sam to send something, but Sam was home sick. I have permission to share the following, so please allow me a moment to do this:
Me: Sure. I’ll have Sam send it tomorrow. I sent her home because she was sick.
Our member: No problem. I hope she feels better.
Me: Me too. Working without your secretary is like steering a boat without a rudder.
Our member: Awww, I am sure you do a great job. You are awesome.
Me: I am only as awesome as those I work and serve with.
Now, why would I say such a thing instead of blushing and offering a word of thanks? Why even say anything at all? Why not just let the comment stand alone since a response can either seem conceited or self-depreciating? Why tie this member’s thoughts about the job I do to the congregation as a whole? Why?
Because, I believe this whole Christianity thing is about individuals who live in relationship with one another.
Let’s talk a moment about the way a congregation works. All too often, our congregations are only focused upon the pastor and the job he or she does. But is this fair? I mean, don’t get me wrong, a pastor is very important to the life of a church. He or she serves as its spiritual leader.
If a pastor doesn’t have a solid relationship with God, can’t preach a decent sermon, and does not show kindness and compassion along with having a strong sense of doctrine, problems will arise. Effective pastors are essential to the health of a congregation.
But pastors can’t make a congregation thrive alone. I think you know this, but let me repeat it just so it sinks in: pastors can’t make a congregation thrive alone. I mean, what if a pastor preaches excellent sermons, shows kindness and compassion to everyone he or she meets, has a strong sense of doctrine and belief, and has a solid relationship with God–what if a pastor has all these traits, yet, his or her congregation continually bickers with each other, refuses to invite and welcome others into its midst, or refuses to give to support the ministries of the church or try to connect with the community and its needs? Do you think that congregation will thrive? Of course it won’t. The pastor and congregation must work together as a team in order for a church to thrive. This is why I said, "I am only as awesome as those I work with and serve." It’s about relationship.
But there is one more component to this whole dynamic. At this point, we have a pastor and a congregation. Is this enough? Is this alone enough to make a church thrive in this world? At this point, I will argue no. That might raise a few eyebrows, I am sure, but none the less, I believe I am correct. It is not enough for a church to thrive to have a good pastor and a good group of people. This relationship is not enough. Yes, you heard me correctly, this relationship is not enough.
For, you see, the Pastor and the congregation must be intimately connected to God. In order for a congregation to truly be effective in doing God’s work, in order for a pastor to be effective in doing God’s work, they each must be connected to Him. The relationship actually forms a triangle–a dance between three entities that work together to accomplish what needs to be done in spreading the good news of Jesus Christ to the world.
And how is that accomplished? Well, we have to move the points of the triangle a little bit. The pastor is now included into this entity that is called the congregation. There now exists a relationship between God and the congregation, but one more component is now added–the surrounding community. We bring people within the community into the relationship dance. The triangle continues and shifts. What I find interesting is how the relationships I am talking about need three entities.
God + the congregation + the pastor = a thriving church–relationship.
God + the congregation (including the pastor) + the community = fulfillment of the Great
Relationship is at the core of the Christian message, and can anyone here see the mirror yet with the nature of God Himself? If you can’t, please let me attempt to show it to you.
Today is Trinity Sunday. It is the Sunday of the church calendar where we celebrate the nature of God. God is the Father. God is the Son. God is the Holy Spirit. Yet, these three do not make up three Gods but one God. Logically, this does not make any sense. Mathematically, it doesn’t make any sense. But relationally, it makes plenty of sense. Relationally, three are one and one is three. At the core of God is a relationship; a relationship that is so strong between the entities that they cannot be seen as separate.
And, here is an intriguing thought based upon a portion of our gospel text for today. Jesus says about the Spirit, "14He will glorify me, because he will take what is mine and declare it to you. 15All that the Father has is mine. For this reason I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you." The Spirit will glorify Jesus. But we know later that Jesus says He strives to glorify the Father. And we also know that the Father glorifies the Son.
In this relationship called the Trinity, all three parts continuously strive to glorify each other. Let’s put this into different terms. In this relationship called the Trinity, God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit work diligently to make one another awesome. They love one another to the point that they strive diligently and with reckless abandon to build each other up in a glorious dance of eternal love.
Is it possible for us to do likewise?
We know that God loves us and wants us to be awesome.
We know God loves the community and wants it to be awesome.
Do pastors love their congregations and seek their awesomeness?
Do congregations love their pastors and seek their awesomeness?
Do congregations love their communities and seek their awesomeness?
And can you imagine what would happen if we set aside our own personal desires to implement those kinds of relationships in the world? What effect would that kind of love have in communities affected by disaster like in Oklahoma? What effect would that kind of love have with parents who have lost their children to tragedy? What kind of effect would that kind of love have with people who were striving to find their purpose in life? What kind of effect would that kind of love have on people who truly are seeking to know whether or not God existed? What kind of effect would that kind of love have on those who struggle with abusive relationships? What kind of effect would that kind of love have on the world?
Well, in a word, I guess it would be awesome. Amen.