I was looking at some old photo albums at church last week when I came across one from 1993. It was pictures of my first mission trip where we went to a small village in the heart of Mexico to build a church. Not only was I 20 years younger, I was 20 years skinnier! As I flipped through the pictures, I got excited all over again. I remembered the fun I had, the blessings I received, the people we touched and the work we did. I spent more time on that trip building relationships than building the church building.
That trip not only got me excited for a lifetime of doing missions work, but also taught me the value in building relationships. I believe that the best way to grow the church is through relationships. When you look at the ministry of Jesus, that’s what He did. He went place to place building relationships with the people He came into contact with. He focused His ministry on building the kingdom not buildings.
Paul is another great example of someone who built their ministry on relationships. All the books in the New Testament that he wrote were to people and churches he had relationships with. You can’t speak to people the way he did without having first built a relationship with them. He not only spent time ministering in places he went, he spent time working beside fellow believers. He wasn’t just trying to preach to a large crowd, get an offering and leave. He was investing in the people he was ministering to.
If it was good enough for Jesus and Paul, shouldn’t it be good enough for us today? How many of us truly spend quality time getting to know others we’re ministering to or with? In I Corinthians 3, Paul said that some plant seeds, some water and some harvest. Planting, watering and harvesting are all done through relationships. The harvest doesn’t come unless someone has invested time in a relationship planting seeds and watering them.
If God’s desire is to have a relationship with you and me, shouldn’t we desire to have relationships with others? The underlying story of the Bible is God trying desperately to find ways to connect with us so we can have that relationship with Him. Ministry isn’t only done behind the pulpit. Ministry is done on the streets, in people’s homes, at your job and at dinner tables. Each of us have been called to go and make disciples. Discipleship is done through relationships.
Preachers, evangelists and missionaries aren’t the only ones called to ministry. If you bear the name “Christian”, you are called to ministry. You are called to build relationships. You are called to plant seeds. You are called to water seeds. You are called to harvest. You are called to disciple. You may not think of yourself as a minister, but you are. It is the responsibility of each of us to share what God has done in our lives with others.
What relationships do you have in your life that need work? What relationships in your life have you neglected? Who do you have a relationship with now that needs Jesus? You don’t win them by forcing Him down their throat. You win them through relationship. You win them because you’ve earned the right to share what God has done for you personally. Don’t spend more time building a ministry than you do building relationships. If you build relationships, the ministry opportunities will come.