- 1 Relationism
- 1.1 Is Christianity a Relational Religion?
- 1.2 2 Kinds of Relationships
- 1.3 5 Dimensions of Relationships
- 1.4 Why Are Relationships So Fragmented?
- 1.5 Small Groups of 5 Maximum
- 1.6 Building Relationships in the Family
- 1.7 Building Relationship
- 1.8 How do You Build Deeper Relationships Within a Church? Categorise According to Category.
From a lecture given by Dr Michael Schluter © 1993
When the crowds heard this, they were astonished at his teaching. Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: "Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?" Jesus replied: "'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbour as yourself.' All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments."
On these 2 laws hangs all the laws and the prophets. Imagine all the laws in hanging baskets held up by 2 chains - Love God and love your neighbour. It is in relationships that God judges everything in public and in private life. We understand that in private but God considers it in public too. When you read the OT ask: "What is this passage telling me about relationship with God and with people."
"Charge no interest"? It is about relationships. What is the relationship between people when interest is involved.
Isn't the law written off in the NT? Isn't Christ the fulfilment of the law. In Matthew 5:11-20. We are the salt of the world and light of the world as the prophets were. 'Don't think I have come to abolish the Law but to fulfil it.' The agenda is the law. Jesus says to look back at the law if you want to get involved in society. There is such a link between the kingdom of God and the law.
Is Christianity a Relational Religion?
The more we look the more we see it is the crux of the business. It is a fundamentally difference to all other religions including Judaism. Consider the Trinity. They are relational. Let us make man in our image. And made 2 different sorts because it is needed to exhibit relationships. Judaism, a god of solitarity for ever and ever content suddenly makes people? Doesn't make sense. Eastern religions have people absorbed into the cosmic all. It is the antithesis of Christianity.
Salvation-becoming the children of God. Reconciliation-relationship language.
John 17:3 Eternal life is this: a developing relationship. Heaven is about a community of people.
Ethics and lifestyle are relationships. 1 Corinthians 13, the greatest is love.
Mike Ovey's paper - "Why do we need the Trinity" and Chris Hancock's paper on - "Is Christianity relational?"
2 Kinds of Relationships
A few categories of relationships. They are more than just good and bad. How can we think of relationships.
- encounter relationships face-to-face and
- contingent - never any meeting but still communication. Do you know your bank manager, the taxman, John Major....
More and more our relationships are contingent. We have contact with far more people but cannot get to know them much.
Global village is a misnomer. Village is encounter, global is contingent.
We believe in choice. It is the only basis on which people can exercise responsibility. But we also believe in obligation. Because if we have less relationship there is less obligation.
Third one is that obligation depends of relationship. If my golf partner gets ME then I will send a card and visit once but won't visit with meals every day for 2 years. If it is my mum that gets ME then I am callous not to.
A film crew got a woman to collapse in a village. It took 2 minutes for someone to stop and look after her but 40 minutes in a shopping mall. It is not an environment where we wish to communicate. Our goal is to rush there and back without speaking to anyone.
Obligation is conditioned by closeness of relationship in culture. It is like a blob of butter on toast. Can have one blob in the corner or spread over the whole toast but thin. Our relationships are like the latter. If we want to do the former in our culture we must work hard at it. Consider Jesus who had the choice of spending time with the many or the few as time went on.
5 Dimensions of Relationships
How do you develop relationship with others? Here are the issues.
- Directness. 70% of communication is non-verbal. Strong biblical theme - Moses sees God face-to-face. Now we see dimly, then face-to-face.
- Continuity. There are no instant deep relationships. Don't know someone immediately. If you are walking down the street and see a depressed person walking down the road do you stop and ask if they are feeling down and how might you help? No, because you don't know how to read their moods. Prisoners have difficulty fitting back into their families because of lack of continuity.
- Multiplexity - getting to know someone in different settings. Meet them in home and office, with mother, playing tennis. A nurse visits a woman with back problems. She is missing her son in Australia whom she hasn't heard from for 2 months and she is worried. YWAM or any other organisation will work better if they visit one another for hospitality. In America most church hospitality is in restaurants.
- Parity is of worth and not work. How can the checkout operator feel of same worth as the director of Sainsbury's who earns 200 times as much per hour. Do you stop what you are doing as much when your children come in as when Lynn Green comes in?
- Commonality - common purpose and objective binds people together. In a prison they got staff and inmates to work together to think about food. They were now on the same side.
All these things are perfect in the Trinity. These 5 have been very helpful.
Why Are Relationships So Fragmented?
It is reaching rock bottom in New York city, California and other places. There are major problems. Britain is following down the same road. The fragmentation in Western society is because we are ignoring God's law. Ignore his patterns and get fragmentation.
How did God order land holding in Israelite society. Every tribe divided into clans and family. No individual ownership of land. It was all family and in perpetuity. In the 50th year the people had to return to their ancestral land. In Israel you could lease land to others but not sell except in cities. It meant your neighbours were your relatives. Many towns were clan names. Bethlehem was where the clan lived. The roots idea was very strong. The land was associated with a family and it was their identity. In NT roots has now nothing to do with land - they are in Christ. Ephesians 4 the fellowship of believers is our roots and should support us financially as the family did in the OT. Christ is the fulfilment of land in the OT. In heaven we are going to a new land typified by the New Jerusalem. In the NT we should be highly mobile in order to serve the Kingdom of God. 1 Peter 2 it is the scattered people. Does the NT teaching on high mobility conflict with OT teaching on roots. We should interpret OT law in several ways including thinking of it as a paradigm. Ask; "How do we apply this today?"
How do we apply this today? We must take care of all the people. We stand with one foot in the old age with the rootedness and one in Christ with the mobility. Christ may overrule it for the sake of the gospel.
Mobility is destructive for relationships. Our present Western societies mobility is a new thing. In the past it was people movements. Polish people moved en masse to Chicago. Now it is like an electron dance. 70% of Britons don't know the name of their next door neighbours. What produces the mobility? In most cases it is going to university. Also career issues. Many businesses expect you to move. Shell has a core of about 3000 people who don't really belong to any country. They move at the drop of a hat. People lose their sense of roots. Plan where you are going to retire. It determines your career moves. We should take our roots seriously. Always be ready to move for Christ's sake but don't assume that you will be mobile. Must develop deep relationships. Cannot easily communicate the gospel without building those relationships. There is much literature on the trauma of moving. Immense stress comes on marriages. Teenagers too suffer trying to develop new friendships. Stop divorce growing then stop mobility! Vicar in Tooting had no one left in his church from when he began 10 years earlier.
Deep commitment in church implies years of developing relationship. Local government is difficult when people expect to move. It becomes irrelevant to them. Shall we get to know the people who have just moved in? No, they'll probably move on in 2 years. Imagine it happening a million times over in this country.
God thinks of poverty in terms of poor relationships and not money.
There are choices here. To pursue some career choices requires moving and it can be very advantageous and beneficial. Michael lived in England, America, India, Africa but doesn't now expect ever to move from Cambridge. Cannot keep up with the relationships.
Rootedness and the need for society to organise roots is an important issue.
Capital markets - Investment money takes money out of where it is generated and should be used to where it can get one tenth of one percent more. A miner's pension was invested in London rather than Yorkshire and shunted around the world. His son cannot now work in Yorkshire and has to move away. Wouldn't the father rather have lost 1%, invested it at home and had his son live next door.
Look at a big hospital/shop and a small one. Consider the relationships, the continuity, the multiplexity, parity etc. Weigh it with the 5 factors. Or look at a school. A school of 300-600 are very different to a school of 1500-2000. In the old days children would stay in the same school all their career and would gain responsibility to run programmes for the younger ones. Now they simply relate to their peers. In the old days they had vertically structured school houses with responsibility and obligations.
Impact of Technology.
Television is the one single factor that is smashing relationship in society. 20% of children have television in their bedroom. The critical factor is not what is being watched but in the reduction of time spent in relationship. Most families only eat together on Sunday for lunch. Television is on on average 4 hours per day. Most Christians are addicted to television. How do you know whether you are addicted? Don't watch it for 3 weeks. Michael used to watch mostly the news. Felt God tell him not to but found it incredibly difficult. Very difficult to just sit and talk to wife on Saturday for a couple of hours rather than watch television.
Got to get free. Got to get free. Got to get free.
Get in the car and don't switch on the radio. Reflect on relationships or pray.
Or meal times, think about the importance of meal times. Do you switch on the answer phone, 30-40 minutes absolute priority on the family.
Microwaves have a big impact on relationships. When mum cooks in the kitchen family comes for 30 minutes and stands around talking and watching. With microwaves everyone can prepare their own meal. Yes women's drudgery is reduced but what of the time saved? Is it just soaked up by more television? Ask not what saving but how will this affect my relational base. We think materially but not relationally.
E-mail can be very negative because if you don't communicate today there is no pressure. Computer games can be great but kids can play for hours on their own. In schools there are now kids who can't speak because no one talks to them. Walkmen - do they help anyone? It is anathema to relationalists. Money machines are convenient but the talking to someone is helpful.
Small Groups of 5 Maximum
Discussion - How can we increase the degree of relationship within our family through considering the 5 factors of relational proximity.
- Doing things together.
- Talk for 10 minutes and the other looks and listens then gets their 10 minutes. It takes a while to get beyond the superficiality. Speaking, listening, responding.
- Remove the television.
- Daily prayer walking.
- Go out with the boys.
- Regular night time stories.
- Breakfast together again.
- Barbecue every Saturday.
- What shared interest? Kids. Are there less obvious things?
- Invent new shared interests.
- How many different environments are we in?
- We need to go out more.
- Are we equal in the task? Is what they are doing equally important? Peter does and he works at it.
- Do we look down on non-Christians? Our own family.
- Discussing this very stuff.
- Choosing to take an interest in what the other does. Listen to what she is up to and what she has been doing. How she has felt about it.
- It isn't so much commonality but parity.
Building Relationships in the Family
1 Timothy 5:8 shows obligation to blood family. Denying the faith is akin to failing to care!
Consider a cricket ground with markers in the middle indicating that the stumps must be somewhere there. It doesn't matter quite where but it must be within the markers. God doesn't care who does the dishes etc.... They must be within the markers. Chief sin of men is neglect, chief sin of women is lack of respect - from husbands love wife and wife submit to husband.
Christians can't opt out of the relationship thing. Must work at it.
- Check on time spent with people in household. How much time and treat spouse and children with parity.
- Key importance of meal times.
- When do you go to a board meeting without thinking about it. When have you given 2 minutes to think about what you will talk about. What issues might be discussed at tonight's meal time. They are such important relational times - pray before and after.
- Television viewing. Testimony from Richard Lahey-James on television. Got rid of it 5 years ago. Kids haven't really missed it and teachers have commented on heightened creativity. Friends have reduced their television watching too. Played more together. People watch so much television because family are out in non-overlapping circles and return with nothing to talk about. Get involved in one another's circles outside the home. Beat it by more than just switching off the knob. Develop commonality. Don't think we will get revival in television until we get rid of television. Because they watch television they don't pray. It takes up prayer time and plotting time when Christians get together. Because church leaders are too busy to watch television they don't realise what a hold it has on others.
- Avoid overcommitment is a great obstacle to developing relationship within family.
- How do we handle interruptions? Jesus battles through the crowd to heal Jairus' daughter and when touched by the woman - though in a desperate struggle to get to the daughter - He identifies her and hears her whole story and then declares peace to her. Doesn't move on until He has dealt with the interruption entirely. More important to deal with the present relationship than to rush on to the next. It is so easily to ignore and apologise to the present in order to be not late at the next meeting. Jesus is more concerned with dealing with real need than in getting there on time. Matthew 9:18-26 Mark 5:21-43 Luke 8:40-56
- Walking and driving provides undivided attention.
- It is easier to talk to others while doing something else like eating.
- Listening. Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. If you listen very carefully you will hear how they really are. Africans listen better and can tell you better how people are.
- And instant availability if someone pops in or just says something.
- Roots is an important part of it
- Extended family - always meeting them at weddings, funerals etc. There is almost always someone in the extended family whom you haven't forgiven. Is there anyone in the family you would rather not come to the party? And is there something to deal with? It may go back 5, 10 or 20 years. It is vital to tackle forgiveness. Relational thinking exposes sin.
- Priorities among non-families. Jesus prioritised his relationships ruthlessly. How do we do it? Jesus did it with much prayer. If you are going to develop deep meaningful relationships you must give up relationships with some to develop a few deeper. Jesus made those decisions, we too must. Trying to keep in touch with a lot reduces the ability to develop a few.
- Ethnicity - look at the Good Samaritan - a story of ethnic relationships. In OT the tribalism was diminished by visiting Jerusalem three times a year and mixing with everyone. And the Levites permeated the whole nation. Think about that in light of Yugoslavia and Rwanda. In Israel there was the common acceptance of the law.
- New friends and old friends? With much prayer must decide which old friends to keep and which ones to lose. There must be relationships now and future.
- Family traditions provide an element of stability.
- Family to visit place of work.
- Meeting with work colleagues outside work hours.
- Children's pantos et al.
- Holidays and expeditions to see children/spouse/friends in new settings.
- Take time to get to know the other person. Ask more feelings questions.
- Do something different everyday.
- There is very little for children to do on the base. It is good to work with others.
- How do you develop it among the kids? What variety of activities can there be for them?
- Putting value of spouses time and time together. Is her time a free good that I can do with what I want? How do I treat her and listen to her? It says a lot about the value I place on her.
- Listen to the children.
- Are you willing to admit you are wrong.
- Treat honour and respect for the boss and employees.
- In YWAM we are peers but hierarchy is not antithetical to parity. No one says God is more important than Christ. They are of the same value. We are too quick to overthrow authority structures to get parity but it is the only way to get something done. Especially in family. Must discipline children.
- Our society has certain cultural norms that are contrary to scripture. And he said to them: "You have a fine way of setting aside the commands of God in order to observe your own traditions! For Moses said, 'Honour your father and your mother,' and, 'Anyone who curses his father or mother must be put to death.' But you say that if a man says to his father or mother: 'Whatever help you might otherwise have received from me is Corban' (that is, a gift devoted to God), then you no longer let him do anything for his father or mother. Thus you nullify the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And you do many things like that." Mark 7:9-13
- It is right for adult children to keep in touch with their parents. Perhaps a weekly letter or phone call. If you are going to show this respect to your own elderly parents what about to other elderly people?
- Honouring and respecting parents can be difficult because they brought us into being.
- Spending time to agree family goals with spouse.
- Family saving syndicates - have the family each contribute a certain amount a week for unemployment, caring for the sick and a whole range of needs. Have a common financial interest - the old friendly societies. 1911 the National Insurance smashed it.
- The reason for family break-up is not just mobility - 1 in 4 American and 1 in 8 British families move every year - but lack of common interest. Home has become a multi-purpose leisure centre. There is no working together, no financial interest, no reaching another family together.
- Praying together. The family that prays together stays together.
How do You Build Deeper Relationships Within a Church? Categorise According to Category.
- Small groups.
- Small groups.
Multiplexity - getting to know people in other settings.
- Visit congregation at work.
- Helping people to focus.
- Affects all parts of the members' lives and help them to focus on the Kingdom of God.
- Discovering the Kingdom of God.
- Need to reread the Bible and ask; "What is going on here from a relationship point of view?" It is fundamentally what the Bible is about.
- Need to re-examine our own personal relationships. Audit them on a regular basis. It takes time to think it through and pray it through.