In all our planning and strategy, sometimes we forget that the most potent tool we have for ministry is friendship. Making strong, healthy, and meaningful friendships with both a handful of people who aren't following Jesus and a handful that are could be the best kept secret for transformation and church growth. Overcomplicating things could just be an avoidance tactic, keeping us in surface relationships. The lack of real friendship allows us to hide our own pain, failure, and confusion while also making us immune to those parts of other people's lives as well.
I think what I appreciated most about Hugh's heart and message this last week (posted here) is the profoundly simple reminder to just be with people. That making time for those whose hearts are hungry for God is the most sacred use of our lives. The image he gave of sitting every Sunday night, planning his meals and free time to build relationships that would express the kingdom, has remained with me. That kind of intentionality is at the heart of every life that is truly effective. I want to remember that both the currency and the treasure of the kingdom is people. They are the process and the outcome. People — and the relationships we build with them — are everything, and for that, we don't need much money (or even much time) as long as what we have is spent on people. And when some of our friends who are far from God finally find him, it can be the most natural thing to deepen that friendship even more in the pursuit of God together. Discipleship, like good evangelism, is based on friendship. Jesus commanded us to make disciples and friendship is the first step.
In three weeks we will all celebrate Easter together. We have again reserved the Tampa Theater so we will have plenty of seats for new and old friends. I can't think of a better time to rekindle friendships in Jesus name and to start being intentional now about a few people in your life who need to hear the good news. It could even be people who have drifted from God and need to be reminded, or people who have never really known the lengths that God has gone to in order to have a friendship with them. I want Easter this year to be a real celebration for us. I want us to stand and marvel at the cross and the empty tomb so that we might all together (even those who are far off) know the truth in the words of the hymn, "Oh the deep deep love of Jesus, vast, unmeasured boundless, free. Rolling as a mighty ocean, in its fullness over me."