I am writing this just a couple days after coming home from Break Forth 2007, the largest worship and leadership conference in North America. I have been attending this annual conference for the past eight years and each year it has been a great time of renewal and learning for me.
This year, time and time again, an emphasis on relationships kept popping up. For example, Josh McDowell, in his message during the conference’s closing assembly on Sunday afternoon, said that, for a long time, he has known that our actions are guided by our values, and our values are based on our beliefs. But what influences our beliefs? This is a very important question for parents and for the Christian Church, who are both very concerned about beliefs. McDowell went on to say that, in recent years, through his research, he has realized that our beliefs are formed through our relationships.
An example of this is the connection between positive family relationships (relationships) and the tendency of a child to get involved in alcohol, drugs, pre-marital sex or other destructive behaviours (actions). If a child is being raised by their mother alone, they are 30% more likely to use drugs than the average child raised in a two parent home. But if the child is being raised by his or her two biological parents and the father is either emotionally distant or rarely present physically, that child is 68% more likely to use drugs than a child in the average two parent home. On the other hand, if a child is raised by her or his two biological parents and has an excellent relationship with both parents, that child is 94% LESS likely to use drugs than a child in the average two parent home.
This maybe news to us, but it isn’t to God. He has already told us about the importance of relationships and, specifically, unconditional love in relationships in His Word. In Psalm 26:3, David writes, “For I am constantly aware of your unfailing love, and I have lived according to your truth.” It is because David has experienced and knows the unfailing love of God that, as a result, he lives according to God’s truth.
The implications for Christian parents is this: If you want your child to live according to what you know to be true, you need to constantly and continually show them unconditional love.
The implication for the Christian church is this: If we want the people in our community to live according to what we know to be true, we need to constantly and continually show them unconditional love. It is through relationships that people are invited to believe in Jesus. It is through relationships that people are encouraged to grow in their faith. It is through relationships that people live out their faith, serving with love those in need around them. And the best way to build and nurture relationships in a Christian congregation is through small groups.
In small groups, people have an opportunity to learn about God’s love and truth in the context of loving relationships. And that helps them to grow in their faith. Some even become willing to do things they would not have otherwise, like serve in positions of leadership in our congregation.
For those of you who are not presently involved in a small group of some kind, I would encourage you to become involved. Also, please invite your friends to come with you to a small group. Offer to pick them up and bring them along. If you would like me to help you start up a small group, please let me know. I will gladly help in whatever way that I can. My hope and my prayer is that being part of a small group will be a wonderful blessing to you as it has been for me and many others. However, if you can’t come because you want to spend more time with your children, I would completely understand.
Relationships are so very, very important. God wrapped himself in human flesh and became one of us so that we could know and experience his wonderful unfailing love for us and then live according to his truth as a result. Let’s put more love and effort into the relationships that we already have. Let’s build new relationships with people that we do not know. Let us live out God’s unfailing love towards others so that they might know his love for them and walk in his truth. Why? Not to make our church grow. People are not saved by being members of our congregation. We do it to make God’s kingdom grow. People are saved through faith in Jesus Christ. That is what will make an eternal difference in people’s lives.
For I am constantly aware of your unfailing love, and I have lived according to your truth. (Psalm 26:3)
(This article was written for the January 2007 edition of The Binder, the monthly newsletter of Mt. Calvary Lutheran Church, Swift Current SK. It has been slightly modified from its original form.)
Josh McDowell, “Josh McDowell’s personal notes on parenting,” p. 108-9; Internet; available at: http://www.josh.org/notes/file/Internet1-Parenting.pdf; downloaded 31 January 2007.