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When R before T is not the way to go

It struck me after writing last week’s post on Relationship before Tasks that there are times when churches get into problems and they think they are doing Relationships  before Tasks. That mistaken formula is when we practice Relationship before Truth or Relationship before accounTabiliTy. We need to remember the Relationship with the person is in fact not all-important, it is just more important than the task or the needs of the institution. Of prime importance is the person’s relationship with God. Our choices need to be around the goal of helping build that relationship first. But sometimes we let people who should know better (those new to the faith may not know better) get away with bad behaviour (that actually shows a lack of fruit of a robust relationship with God) and we overlook and ignore the improper behaviour to “keep the relationship.” To do that is to practice Relationship before Truth, and is in fact putting the relationship with the person who should know better ahead of the needs of the church to stay healthy. And so everyone gets slightly off track because the community is allowing obvious ‘sin’ in the camp.

So, a congregation may have a member who bullies committees or councils into doing what that member wants, and no one dares challenge that approach. Often family connections make this more complicated. People will say they are applying R before Tasks, when in fact, in not holding the person accountable for their bullying behaviour they are practicing R before Truth and spiritually weakening the community.

A church may have a member who is sneaky and manipulative, and secretly politics and orchestrates ways to make what they want to happen happen outside of the delegated authority of Elders and council. That is unhealthy, and needs to be challenged. In one church I served, a building expansion plan was in place, and it was pretty clear which choice was favoured. But one person took exception, and spent a week going and having coffee with people, and when the congregational vote came it went the opposite of what everyone expected because this person had agitated many to vote for the option he preferred. That is one small example of manipulative behaviour. And it is manipulative, no matter how sincere the person doing it is that the option they support is better.

Other times there may be a member who behaves and/or speaks in sexually inappropriate ways. And we don’t challenge the behaviour, and we don’t support and protect the vulnerable targets. This is another situation where Truth and the spiritual wellbeing of the group is put at risk in not correcting and rebuking the member and helping them change, if they are willing.

Each of these examples are examples of the behaviour of spiritually unhealthy people, people who are not showing the fruit of the Spirit and in fact are operating by the forces of the powers of this world. It works, for them, but it is not healthy for the body of Christ.

The positive focus on Relationships I’m making the case for is so that we can be growing together in fellowship and Christlikeness. God is about relationship, we went and go our own way, making ourselves masters of our domain, but through Christ a way has been made for us to be in relationship with the Creator again. In a way God invites us to be an extension of the fellowship of the Trinity. We make relationships important so that Tasks and Duties don’t take over and smother relationship. But, there are times when relationship has to be used to challenge each other to better behaviour. Sometimes even, the existing relationship has to be put at risk to do what is right in God’s eyes.

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