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Leading the Church

The Relational Church

By Dr. Richard J. Krejcir
It is essential that we know that building healthy relationships is essential and vital and what our Church is here on earth is all about. First, developing and encouraging a personal relationship with Christ as Savior and Lord, teaching His precepts in an uncompromised Way and leading others to Him by our word and example through His Word, Example and Spirit.
The bottom line is this; do you want your church healthy?


Then it is essential that we know that building healthy relationships is essential and vital and what our Church is here on earth is all about. First, developing and encouraging a personal relationship with Christ as Savior and Lord, teaching His precepts in an uncompromised Way and leading others to Him by our word and example through His Word, Example and Spirit. Then we will be able to get our relationship with ourselves as leaders healthy first, and then being able to commune with those around us with His Fruit. When we realize how important spiritual maturity on our part is as well as our relationships are and taking to heart that Jesus is there loving, equipping and empowering us, then we are able to carry on as He has called to those in our care. Subsequently, we can lead because we will be able to see where we need to go with Christ first. We can do this with wonder, confidence and without fear, even when we are not sure of the way, because we have His Way as a map with which to navigate our churches to righteousness and holiness. God knows the way. With His map in hand, we no longer see our relationships and path as mysterious or foreboding-if we choose to use the map God gives us and not the one we make for ourselves, or the cheap one with all the wrong directions we get from the world or some faulty trend. The map we are inclined to use in our harsh world is the map we make for ourselves from the ink of how we are treated by others or what we want from our desires, each will lead us in the wrong direction. But, God wants us to use His map from His Truth to lead our churches in His, right direction (Ezekiel 43:7-9; 48:35; John 8:34; 14:2, 23; 15; Colossians 1:24).

Why is the map important? Because, the map is His Word and lead by the Holy Spirit, helping us in every connection we experience in life as we build our church up. This empowerment and direction helps our relationships be the network that builds a great church that glorifies Christ. As these connections will either prosper or disappear; they will become just loose associations or friendships of real depth and meaning. They will either grow us or hurt us, build up or destroy us, and they will either make us content or bitter. The choice is ours as to which "or" will be the direction we go in our life and church. Why we need His Map! While in this journey of life, we are pursuing and engaging, and the direction we tend to go is usually determined by our reaction to life and the stress of church leadership. The focus and call He has for us is in how we are to treat others under our lead and learn from our experiences and setbacks. We have to know that relationships are not just about me and how I feel or desire, although these are prime factors; rather, it is more important how I am honoring God and His principles to others, especially as leaders. Then the joy and contentment will become louder and honoring to both us and to others. When the call to reverence Jesus first is heeded, we will start to get what relationships in building our church are really about, our connection to Him, and how we bring Him with us to all those around us. It is not about how I am treated; it is about how I treat others! As a pastor, leader or a member of life, we have to be able to build healthy relationships to build a healthy church!

Relational Churches Follow Christ

This means that we give up our personal plans and the goals and ambitions we have for our churches future. Yes, it will be a difficult struggle to leave the plans of our committees and personal ideas-our perceived needs-behind, and to surrender this all to Christ so to humbly follow as a servant to give our LORD first, to His glory with our obedience, doing what our LORD desires over our own ambitions. And this is what will help us prosper in making better decisions, including others, empowering people and building His Kingdom His Way. So, are you willing? Are you eager to do greater things for Christ? Consider how important this is for your maturity, character development, and your relationships, which translates to our joy and contentment in life. Following His precepts gives Christ the Glory. And to make this happen new have to get rid of what is in us that is in His way. And, when we follow through with what Christ has done for us by letting His Fruit of relationship building flow to others around us, we bring the results of love and obedience. The deeper commitment we bring to our LORD personally, the deeper impact we have on our church for the glory of His kingdom and people around us.

The key to the success of finding and building quality relationships in life and in a church is simple: obedience, the willingness to know and serve God over our needs, and even before we know what the call may be, taking this mindset into our personal and public life and to family and to others! God's will for our lives is for us to totally surrender and trust in His power and authority. Abide in Him. He will shape our destiny if we allow Him. He will teach us His ways if we will walk in His ways. Trust yourself and your church to our LORD and receive His call to build yourself and your church up because you are building others up too!

It always seems easier not to obey, but in the long run it only creates further hardships and results in a dysfunctional church. If you are thinking that this is too much, remember God's supernatural power that He has for us to make it happen. He creates the impossible relationship. Let your relationship to God be as natural as taking a breath so your other relationships become natural. Remember, this takes work and obedience as well as our continual effort and consistence. But, the more we do, the easier it is to do. It becomes even easier when we stop dictating our demands to God and others and start to commune with Him and relate to others. And what is the secret to make this work? Simple, be friendly, friendly people make friends, standoffish or snobbish or selfish people do not. This is not about being an introvert or extrovert; it is simply allowing your friendship with Christ to impact your personality and friendship making ability to others.

At first, you may clearly see God's will, like in breaking off a bad relationship, or in changing a bad behavior or habit. But, in other areas, it may not be as clear. However, God will guide you by your faith. Relationships are work, whether in junior high school or in the church board room, but they are worth the work; they are worth the risk even when we fail and get hurt. Do not allow your stubborn nature or fears or past hurts to rule your will or your church.It is not just what God gives to us that make our relationships grow; it is Christ's redemption and who He is in me. Our call is to respond to Him (Psalm 1; 15; 40:8; John, chapters 13-15; Romans 5:8; 1 Corinthians 13; Galatians 5:22-23; Colossians 3:15).

Relational Church Leaders Live their Lives Worthy

If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose. Philippians 2:1-2

Allow me to ask you this, is your joy complete? Have you considered the power and impact the Holy Spirit has on you? As you can't be an impact in others lives for the Lord unless He has impacted you first. We can't do the work of God unless we are the people of God. Not the grand stances and the show some so called pastors put on, then claim it is the Spirit, but the way the Spirit works from the Word of God. There is another spirit the Bible also talks about that is important and often overlooked-the spirit of community. As Believers, we are one in Spirit and are to be in one spirit. One in spirit means our connection to one another is to be as in one mind-to be in unity. In the context of Philippians, we are to conduct ourselves as being worthy of citizens of the Kingdom of God as representatives of Christ. One spirit is the result of living in the Spirit and exhibiting the conduct and call of Christ.

"…stand fast in one spirit with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel" Philippians 1:27

This one in spirit is the character of Christ living in us all year long. The point of the Christian life is not about self-realization, but in knowing Jesus Christ. It is my recognition of Him in me and not allowing anything to take His place in my thinking, my emotions, and the daily experiences of life. In so doing I am not held back from leading the church He has called me to His Way. The spiritual and mature Christian leader will never think their circumstances are merely haphazard, nor will they think of themselves as the center of the universe. Rather, Christians are to be Christ-like in what this Philippians passage calls "attitude" and in "form." Usually, we just skip over such words and miss their depth and meaning. In the Greek, "attitude" in NIV, or "mind" in NKJV, (Philippians 2:5) means a mental state based on feeling, rather than just thinking. It signifies a concern for others; whereas just thinking keeps the focus upon us. The opposite of this is "pride," which is what Paul was confronting in these verses.

The characteristics of "nature" or "form" in the Greek mean an "inward character and goodness that is reflected from a primary source." It does not mean a shape, but rather imitating; we are to imitate Christ's character so we can help others build it too! It comes from Plato's Philosophy of Imitation, in which he used the illustration of how a fire reflects a shadow on a cave wall, that life and all that we perceive as real is just a shadow on the wall. So, all that we see and experience in life is a shadow of the true reality that is hidden from us. Thus, Paul is drawing upon Plato's themes in pointing us to the ONE true reality, and that is Christ. We only see a mere shadow of Him until we are called home.

This "attitude" and "form" are key words for Paul and what the book of Philippians is all about-not to mention what life and being a healthy church is all about! This is what helps produce our attitude and successful relationships in your church. This is why Christ came. Yes, He came to save you from your sins, but then what? Are you to sit in a pew and complain, to throw pity parties when things do not go your way? Or just lord over a small group of people who do little to nothing for the Kingdom? Are you free to push people away and live a life of discontent? Are you to hate the trivialities of daily management or decision making or what to preach on during the holidays or be a loner at your own church (many pastors as well as leaders are), NO! NO! The Holy Spirit is determined that we realize Jesus Christ in every aspect of our personal life and church. This means all aspects! There is to be no part of our lives cut off or off limits to His work. If not, He will bring us back to the same scenario repeatedly until we learn the lessons He has for us, and until we get it right.

Whether we do menial activities, like cleaning the toilet or sweeping the floor, arranging the chairs, or tackle big projects for the church such as an evangelism campaign, the mature Christian leader will see everything as Christ does, even in those times when it seems He has "dumped" on them. Thus, our daily activities, as well as those bad circumstances such as stress, setbacks, failures, and such, are a means of growth and learning and becoming more like Him. We are to see all that there is in life as a journey to further secure the knowledge of Jesus Christ in our lives, even to the point of being recklessly abandoned to Him.

After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples' feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him. John 13:5

When Jesus walked this earth in human form, Christ Himself realized His relationship to the Father even in his normal, day-to-day activities. Jesus knew that He was God, but as a man He "took a towel," the most low and menial task of His day. It would compare today to our washing a toilet. Can you imagine Bill Gates going down to the warehouse and washing the dockworkers feet? Or President Bush going to people's homes and cleaning their toilets? Yet, Christ did, and He is God, Creator and Sustainer of all things! So, if the Creator of the universe was able to be humble and be guided by the seemingly small voice in a loud and large world to build relationships, why cannot we as His leaders?

Self-realization is thinking that we are all that leads to the believing. We are the centers of the universe. It is in thinking that if we are good, we will go to heaven, or that we are good persons, and we work hard, so we do not need Christ in our lives. It is saying that if He is there, we will keep Him on a "short leash." This is total anti-Biblical thinking. When we have this mindset, no growth will accrue in us in maturity or in our church as in spirituality and fruit. There will be no maturity, no seizing the maturity of the Christian life, and no partaking in the real meaning of an effectual church life. Instead, the focus in life is on the trivialities, desires, pleasures, agendas, or the chasing of the latest fad and not the example of our Lord as He demonstrated in the washing of the disciples' feet. We forsake each other for ourselves or use others as a means to gain status or whatever it is we desire. The Holy Spirit is there all along, trying to guide us in, calling us to relationships like an airport attendant with two flashlights guiding in a jumbo jet. The pilot must keep a careful eye on the person guiding him as well as the controls of the aircraft or else the multi-million dollar plane and the hundreds on board will be in dire jeopardy. We too, must keep watch on the Spirit and His guiding, a teaching that is clearly seen in these verses.

So, we must watch. We must give up the controls of our life and church so He can steer our life His way, lest we crash, resulting in a consequence to all those around us. He is our Pilot, not a copilot, navigator, or traffic controller. How does one do this? By keeping our eyes on Christ as LORD. It may come small, like a small man with an even smaller flashlight as compared to the monstrous 747 jet. However, the 747 cannot park in the dark, nor can the passengers go on their way without the guidance from two very small flashlights. We have to take the initiative of realizing Jesus Christ in every phase of our daily life. If we don't, a counterfeit will invade in the place of Jesus.

…that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. Philippians 2:10-11

The aim of the mature, spiritual Christian leader, who desires to live in "true spiritually" as Schaeffer coined, the true Christian faith, is to have this Christ-like theme imprinted upon their heart and mind. This theme will permeate every activity and aspect of his life from preaching a sermon to washing a toilet, from sitting in boring meetings, visiting a dysfunctional person to leading a person to the Lord, that I may know Him (Philippians 3:10). Do you know Him where you are today? If not, you are failing Him. This may seem harsh and un-Christ-like from what is popular in the pulpit today, but very biblically true. Let us not be confused in our culture, our desires, our needs and wants, or our ideas of what we think the Christian life is to be like, and let us surrender ourselves to what the Word is really calling us, to maturity and growth in Him!

We are not on this committee or church job to just appreciate ourselves, but to know Jesus and to make Him known. In our evangelical Christian subculture, the trends in thinking are too often placed solely on the idea that something needs to be fixed and I must be the one to do it. Yes, something must be fixed, work must be done, and we must do it. Nevertheless, we do it, not just for the aspect of work, but because of whom we are and what we have been called to do-mature and grow. What usually needs to be fixed is me! We need to allow Him to fix us. When everyday Christians are pursuing the heart of Christ by following His character in attitude and form, then we will see our relationships change; then our churches will change and then society will change. It all begins with you saying, I will abide in His work!

That I may know Him. Do you know Him where you are today? If so, what can you do to implement the Christ-like character? If not, what is in the way? Takes this to heart; what we experience in life, what we go through, what we suffer through, what we give up is all just a mere shadow compared to the eternity to come. What we seem to lose is of no comparison to what we gain in Him! Christianity and suffering are the ultimate in delayed gratification!

Do you know Him so that your personal direction and source of inspiration for leading your church must come only from Christ? Most of us will look to our creeds and confessions for that answer and for good reason and to fads and trends for bad reasons. But, I want to challenge you to go deeper in your faith and personal responsibility. That is, how do I take my faith so seriously that it becomes more personal, so it becomes more real, so all my thoughts, ideas, directions, goals, and inspirations are in the direction of serving our Lord? To take your faith to a deeper level, so it is about abide, so it is yours and personal and not just because this is what your church position is and role does, not just because you are part of a good church and school or work, that your faith is solely because of what Christ has done for you and nothing else is solely the work of the Holy Spirit! But, we have a responsibility to respond, to grow and build on what we are given! It takes trust, faith, and surrender of your will, surrender of your dreams, and surrender of your ideas to the LORDSHIP of Christ. You must acknowledge that He is Lord over you by His love for you, and that His ways are better than yours as you lead His Church His Way. Christ is our King, so let us live our lives and lead our church in response to what He did for us (John 13:5; 2 Corinthians 12:10: Galatians 2:20-21; Philippians 1:27- 2: 11; 3:10; Colossians 1:24-27; Titus 2:11-14; Hebrews 2:14-18)!

Relational Churches Follow Christ not the Trends

Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the kingdom of heaven in men's faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to. Matthew 23:23

In verse 29 of Matthew 7, not as the Scribes, was a putdown to those who like to just sit and talk and do nothing with it. The Jewish leaders placed their trust and faith in their knowledge, but did nothing with it. Their comfort was who they thought they were because of their position and acceptance in society, and the show they made with their works. They held onto the faith of their forefathers, but rarely, if ever, confessed that faith themselves. Rabbis would often go as far as to quote one another as their proof text to back up their arguments. Yet, they did nothing with it. The Pharisees had the Scribes transcribe their new laws called the Mishnah, a collection of commentaries and insights to the first five books of God's Word, going back to the time of Nehemiah in 400 B.C. and continuing through the third century. The Mishnah is reverenced; it is almost worshiped, yet not put into practice. The Jews still have this today as one of their main commentaries. The other main book the Jews use, besides the Torah, is the Talmud, which is made up of commentaries on the Mishnah. This is so sad, as it is so much commentary and great insights, and so little action to accommodate it.

We Christians do the same with our skewed focuses, traditions, and misdirected motivations, while our opportunities and relationships go distorted and slip away by the sands. For example, in the Talmud, there are 156 pages devoted just to the observing of the Sabbath as it applied to life! So, the Jews placed traditions and rules on top of traditions and rules, covering the original rules of God with their own roadblocks of reasoning and self-proclaimed devotion. Many Christians today do this, too. We can place so much emphasis on tradition that we forget what it is and who it is we are to worship and do church for. Then, we do this in our own life as our past experiences can become our personal traditions that form a pattern we keep repeating. If it is a bad pattern then the repetitions will be bad; if the pattern is good and based on God's precepts, then we do well.

We can see how serious the Pharisees were about keeping the Law. They wrote down all of the laws, such as the Ten Commandments, then applied layers and layers of duties and commentaries over them, perhaps as a hedge of protection, so the original meaning eventually became lost. Thus, when a rabbi wanted to speak on a topic or give a sermon, they went to the Talmud as their first and sometimes only prime source and not into the actual Word of God. Their authority was tradition and building more tradition. Jesus went straight to the Word with Himself/God as the authority, which astounded people. As a Christian, we are always to teach what the Word of God plainly says, adding none of our false presumptions or traditions. We have no teacher in Jewish history who taught with the authority that Jesus did. Authority was reserved for the Law itself, whereas Jesus came to fulfill the Law. Let us abide in His authority, build ourselves in Christ so we can build relationships and bridges for others to know Him too (Matthew 5:22-44; 6:1-8, 19, 25; 7:23-24; 23; Mark 1:21-22; 6:2).


© 2008, R. J. Krejcir, Ph.D., Francis A. Schaeffer Institute of Church Leadership Development
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