Friday, July 23, 2010

Relational Capacity

I am currently trying to piece together all my thinking about the church. Not an easy task! There are so many thoughts and ideas and challenges to process. It feels almost like trying to write a memoir but having forgotten the order of events! So I've started by writing a series of random paragraphs about questions and quotes that have influenced, clarified, or affirmed my thinking. I also find from time to time that a book comes along that helps provide a vocabulary for my thoughts.

So I thought I'd turn some of these paragraphs into blog posts and see if that triggers more thinking rather than dumping the whole thing on the internet in one go. After all, who has the time or inclination to read a 2,500 word blog post that isn't even finished!

Relational capacity is a phrase I came across. Put simply it is about our capacity to form meaningful relationships. Here's what I wrote:

A quote I heard recently went like this: "Your missional effectiveness is directly proportional to your relational capacity."

In other words, we can't reach people we don't know. Traditionally, the way we have done church has diminished our relational capacity and hindered our missional effectiveness. We simply do not have the time to meet unchurched people, people far from God, the very people God misses most.

When I talk about the way we have done church I'm not talking about Sundays as much as the rest of the week. When I look at the typical church calendar the simple truth is that very busy people become even more busy with church focused activities. Small groups, prayer meetings, leaders meetings, members' meetings, worship practices, planning meetings. They all pile into our diaries and leave precious little time to do anything else.

Maybe the only way we are ever going to open the door to increasing our relational capacity is to simplify church so that it doesn't demand so much of our time. But if we do that, we will need to commit ourselves to using the time released in a positive kingdom way.

Making such a change will also require a shift in thinking about what it means to be in church and more importantly what it means to not be in church! When I was a young Christian if you chose to spend time with unchurched friends rather than with Christians, it was a sign that you were backsliding. Your salvation was in doubt and your commitment questioned. Not exactly a supportive environment! I'm not so sure that such an attitude still exists, but it does highlight our perennial focus on being in church rather that on mission.

That leaves us with a simple question: How do we increase our relational capacity?

Answers on a postcard...

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