“the ultimate reality is not substance but relations” (Sweet)
“the more connected the world gets, the more importance of Christianity getting over its propositional impotence. We must resign from the proposition business and retire into the people business” (Sweet)
These quotes remind me of two lessons I have learned about ministry from my father. My father has been a Southern Baptist pastor for 30+ years. When I was in 9th grade I learned my greatest pastoral lesson. My father and I were attending a conference for Christian men and I began to get bored. By the third day I was falling asleep in the stadium seats. At one point my dad leaned over and whispered, “Let’s get out of here.” We went to the mall next door to the convention center and spent the day together. My dad recognized that I was not at a place where I could fully experience the conference. His patience and his desire to spend time with me was the Gospel that learned during that trip.
The second lesson that I learned from my dad is ultimately a continuation of the first. When I was in 12th grade he took me to an elderly couple’s house to eat fried chicken with them. Mrs. Brinkley’s fried chicken was famous at my church. At the end of the meal Mr. Brinkley took me out back to show me something. I figured he was going to give me a graduation present. However, he handed me a ladder and asked me to clean his gutters. I chuckled and proceeded to work for him. I will never forget what my dad said as we were pulling out of the Brinkley’s drive way to go home. With tears in his eyes he said, “Coby, this is what so many minister’s miss out on. They get so caught up in power, politics, and doctrine that they miss out on people.”
Jesus grasped this concept like no other human. He patiently waited 30 years to “begin” his ministry. And what exactly did he do during that time? Luke 2:52 says, “Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men.” He spent his time growing in his relationship with the Father and in his relationships with others. He understood that relationships provided a context for encountering the Living God. Furthermore, before he “performed” a miracle or even preached a sermon Jesus spend the day with the first two disciples (John 1:39). I do not think the inclusion of this fact was a minor detail.
Relationships are not only a vehicle for healthy ministry. They are ministry. Relationships are not merely a catalyst for truth. Truth is a person (not a proposition). His name is Jesus.