I still remember the emotions I experienced sixteen years ago as I pulled into the parking lot to attend my first Sectional Fellowship as a new minister in the PennDel Network. I was completely out of my element and unfamiliar with my surroundings. I felt insecure, self-conscious and was totally riding on the coattails of the only relational connections I had at the time – the two pastors that I was on staff with at our church. I had a deep longing to be accepted and came hard-wired for authentic community. But the looming question that day and for the first year was, “Will these leaders welcome me or will I remain on the outside?”
I’m happy to say, all these years later, that I felt wanted and valued as a new addition to the Section. That sense of inclusion continued as I began to attend Network events and formed casual relationships that have become the deepest of friendships. I am blessed by the ongoing connections that have been forged in the fires of frontline ministry and consider those who are in my Connect Group among God’s greatest gifts in my life.
I want this for you. It’s my hope and prayer that you’ll find the kind of love, support and encouragement that is found when we live life together like the first followers of Christ did. But what I want isn’t nearly as important as what Jesus wants for you. As it turns out, I’m convinced He longs for the same thing for you. On the night He was betrayed, He asked for us to have Trinity-level oneness in the bonds of community…
[blockquote“]My prayer is that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you.” John 17:20-21[/blockquote]
One of the obstacles we face is that our culture devalues personal relationships and interdependency. We can more easily isolate ourselves these days than ever. From ATM machines and online banking to internet shopping and self checkout lanes, we simply don’t have to interact with others. Add to that the thinking that church leaders should show no weaknesses and you have a recipe for loneliness, isolation and seclusion. Our heavenly Father made us in His image and as the Father, Son and Holy Spirit interact in community with one another, we carry within our DNA the core need to know others and be known by them.
To this end I invite you to join one of the Connect Groups that have been designed to help you live and lead in the context of genuine, transparent community. I acknowledge this can be intimidating, but in the long run taking the relational risk is worth it. You weren’t designed to follow Jesus alone, and there are benefits to having other Christian leaders who understand the unique challenges of ministry in your life to speak truth and grace to you when needed. If you don’t find a Connect Group that fits what you’re sensing is needed, please contact us, and we’ll work together to explore adding new groups.
If you’re an elder or board member, I implore you to insist that the pastoral staff in your church find support and accountability in the context of community with spiritual leaders outside your church who will help provide wisdom, counsel and friendship. They need it more than they might ever let on. I encourage you to help resource them so that they have the time and necessary funds to invest in relationships that will help them to be healthy in the most important areas of life.
To those who are facilitating our Connect Groups – “Thank You!” I appreciate your leadership, and my prayer is that you will create the kinds of environments where those who are new to our Network will find a place to belong and call home just as I did so long ago. Jesus said that the world would know that we belong to Him by our love. So may we extend His love to one another and be the answer to Jesus’ prayer.
We’re Better Together! David
As printed in the 2015 Network ConneXions