Can We Talk About This?

I’ve found, in my relatively short life span, that the best way to carry on a conversation is to come to an understanding of terms. It keeps both parties honest in how they use them and they will come to a mutual understanding of each other’s statements. Matt and I have thrown this term around a few times and I’ve heard it come up in conversation as I’ve discussed our blog with people in the community around me and my church. The term I’m referring to is “open relationship.”

What does that mean? How can we have them in our churches if we can’t put a definition on the term? Here we go, let’s try to define a very trendy, but very important phrase in our churches.

Let’s start with a definition that I got from a medical journal article that a friend sent me.

“An ‘open’ relationship system is one in which an individual is free to communicate a high percentage of inner thoughts, feelings, and fantasies to another who can reciprocate.”1

To my knowledge the author of this article is not a Christian, but this doctor was able to capture in a sentence what I know many in our churches very desperately need and want.

We need relationships that will allow us to share our inner thoughts. What are the questions that are plaguing our minds at night? What are the “issues” that we are trying to come to an understanding of? The church is facing many cultural issues now that it didn’t have or didn’t talk about 20 years ago and we need to be able to have conversations about them. Like what do I do when my professor is flagrantly anti-Christian? How do I treat my sibling or close friend that just came out as gay or transgender? How can I feel like I live in a community, when I don’t understand what true community is because I’ve never seen it in my own family? How can I believe God is good, when my entire childhood is riddled with sexual abuse? Realities that need Bible answers.

We need relationships that let us ask Bible questions. The church was the center for learning theology at the beginning of Christianity. They didn’t have Christian colleges to send kids to in order for them to learn the fundamentals of their faith. Doctrine was taught in the church and by their members. The church needs relationships that let those in them ask the hard doctrine and Bible questions. They need to be able to ask what does it mean to “be all things to all men in order that I might win some” in our culture today? How was Jesus both completely God and completely man? How can what I read in my Bible and what read in my science textbook be so different? Which is right? If God were love, then how can He condemn someone to hell? How did we arrive at this standard on (insert standard here) Biblically? Where does the Bible say that?

We need relationships that let us share our feelings. That felt so weird typing that. I’m a guy that takes a while for me to be willing to share how I really feel about something, but once I know you a bit be prepared for an outpouring (my brother-in-law will attest to this). Our church members need someone to be able to share our sorrows, frustrations, joys, and victories. It’s only in these types of relationships that we can truly share our feelings and fulfill Romans 12 and “rejoice with those who rejoice, [and] weep with those who weep.”

We need relationships that allow us to dream both spiritually and personally. I know I’ve enjoyed a mentoring relationship that where my mentor supports me in my dreams both spiritually and professionally. He gives me guidance in my professional career, but also helps me grow in my spiritual walk as well. I have a close friend that knows where I want to be in the future spiritually and prays that I will someday be there if God directs and permits. Our churches need to be filled with relationships that will help push each other to our next goal and next step toward Jesus.

Doesn’t that sound amazing. Hopefully you can see the need for this type of relationship and maybe you’ve experienced it. How different would your spiritual walk be if you had that type of relationship? I know my walk with Jesus would have been much different than it was in college and high school if I had someone that I felt I could have been completely open with.

I want to give just three ideas that can help you start these types of relationships with someone in your church. These are ideas that I’ve come to cherish in a couple of my mentoring relationships.

Listen.

Don’t listen to answer. Listen to hear what’s really being said. Let them vent. Let them talk, and eventually they’ll really say what’s on their heart. You’ll be amazed at what someone can work out on their own if someone were to just listen in silence. Listen to hear and understand, not to answer.

“If one gives an answer before he hears, it is his folly and shame.” (Prov. 18:13)

Share Bible. Not preference.

If there is one thing I’ve had the privilege of having is a mentor that shares more Bible than opinion. I’m pretty sure this is what Paul had in mind when he wrote “but as for you, teach what accords with sound doctrine” to Timothy. After you’ve listened to hear and understand within the next minute whatever you say should have SCRIPTURE in it, not your opinions on the matter. God’s Word will not return void, I can’t say the same about our opinions.

“But as for you, teach what accords with sound doctrine.” (Titus 2:1)

“Let the word of Christ dwell in your richly.” (Col. 3:16)

Point to Jesus.

When Paul addressed the church at Corinth he could have made his knowledge of Scripture known. Instead he pointed to Jesus. He preached Jesus to them, and let the Spirit do the rest.

“For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.” (I Cor. 2:2)

 

I hope that I’m a person that can have an open relationship with those in my congregation. I want to be able to talk about the hard things and point to Scripture and Christ. I pray the Church can start having more open relationships and conversations and grow closer together by asking the hard questions.

 

1 Bowen, Murray. “Family Reaction to Death.” 335–336. Print.

2 thoughts on “Can We Talk About This?

  1. Pingback: When Your Kids Don’t Agree – The Church Accords

  2. Yes, we can talk about this … and we should … but we need some quality time.

    “Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ” (I Cor 11:11) says much to 1) the responsibility of believers who are in positions of authority to display a life that is pleasing to Christ (Titus 2:7) and also to 2) the responsibility of those under that authority to watch and walk in a similar way as they have seen it shown them. All of us have followers … and all of us are followers. All believers are responsible how we live out our lives because the spiritual walk of others depend upon it (I Tim 4:16.)

    Parents who were teens and young adults even just a few decades ago realize that today’s Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, videos, video games and music are stealing precious time where conversations with our children could have happened. We want more time with our kids … but we seem to be fighting time itself. “Twitter time” is not enough … conversations must be much longer than that if we expect to build strong relationships that can stand the rough spots that are going to come. Every conversation doesn’t have to be about issues …and most shouldn’t… but every conversation can be about a parent lovingly instilling his/her life into their child. We need time to laugh, time to think, time to rest, time to pray, time to worship, time to cry.

    I wouldn’t throw out the opinions of parents when these opinions are justified through careful consideration and observation and where there is Scriptural wisdom in them. When I say to my kids, “alcohol is not a good thing. It will destroy your life,” I say it with memories of my father drinking night after night, treating us wrongly, etc. All of my kids know the story. I shared the dangers of alcohol with each of them. Would a parent who loves their child do otherwise? Scripture says much about the value of attaining wisdom. The truth is, that our words should be wise … and they will be if they fit with sound doctrine (Titus 2:1.) If we should gain wisdom by watching ants at work (prov 6:6), then there is wisdom to be found whenever Biblical principles are visualized in real-life situations. An opinion based upon Scriptural principles is a good thing. To neglect Biblically-based opinions, looking only for Bible text that deals precisely with the exact issues at hand leaves gray-areas ripe for the taking by someone who has no desire to live anywhere but on the line. Not wise.

    This is not an easy time for our children. The Judaeo-Christian ethic pretty much resides only in the memory of those who were living while it still existed. Not at any time in the history of the United States has our society/culture been as void of God as it is now. There is so much going on … so much to do … so much noise. Time is being consumed (in schooling, in relationships, in jobs, in free time) at an alarming rate. Where can we go anymore to hear …. quietness …. to hear… silence? The music in every restaurant, every grocery store, every shopping mall .. the sounds of our text alerts, our phones ringing, our notifications … where is there any quietness?

    My prayer for this generation and all generations is that they learn to listen to God’s voice in quietness where His Word can speak to their heart and that they heed the encouragement of Paul, the spiritual father of Timothy as he reminded Timothy that in light of roadblocks he was to “Let no man despise thy youth; but be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity.” (I Tim 4:12)

    Proverbs 4:7 “Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom: and with all thy getting get understanding.”

    Like

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