In last week’s article, I mentioned the book Life is all about Relationships by Leo Endel. In the opening chapter, entitled God is about Relationships, Leo points to one of the clearest passages in scripture regarding the triune nature of God—John 14:23-26.
Jesus answered and said to him, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him. He who does not love Me does not keep My words; and the word which you hear is not Mine but the Father’s who sent Me. These things I have spoken to you while being present with you. But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you.”
As Christians, we believe in one God who has described Himself in relational terms as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Genesis tells us that humanity was created by Him in His image and likeness (Genesis 1:26). We too are relational beings, and as such, our spiritual and physical health depends upon having good relationships with one another and with God.
Another recent read of mine has been Finishing Strong by Steve Farrar. [You can find a discussion summary of it on the HCN website resource library] In it, Farrar reminds us of four different research projects that point to the importance that relationships play in our physical health.
At Ohio State University College of Medicine, scientists found that patients who scored above average in loneliness had significantly poorer functioning of their immune system.
As we enter the New Year, Be It Resolved that we will place a higher priority on relationships. One way we can do this is by not letting the “new normal” blind us in this critical area. A prime example of “relational blindness” comes from what we now accept as an appropriate response to COVID. I am absolutely convinced that as serious as this virus is; as many unknowns as there are related to its long-term health impact; and as many variables as there are regarding the vaccines being developed for it; that politicians and medical administrators, for the most part, have been blind to the relational needs of people as they are establishing COVID protocols.
Doctors and nurses, who are already under great stress, have to constantly adjust to ever-evolving protocols with little, if any, input into what makes sense. Patients are being isolated as hospitals don’t permit even a single family member to visit. This isolation is creating emotional stress for both the patient and the family. As such, they are ignoring the findings of long-established social science AND the basic relational nature of human beings.
Be It Resolved that those of us who have the responsibility to make decisions regarding how our church responds to the ever-evolving COVID restrictions, that we will not fall prey to “relational blindness.” Every church will have people who are spread across the full spectrum of the COVID Perspective Scale. As such, any decision you make will upset someone. Be patient with those who take these positions. My council has been for everyone to use common sense, common courtesy, and uncommon grace. But as is often the case, it preaches easier than it is lived out.
Be It Resolved that you will sustain key relationships in spite of the challenges. One of Satan’s tried and true ways to keep pastors and church leaders from long-term success is to get them isolated—to cut them out from the herd. Relational blindness applies to those of us who think we can do ministry alone. Farrar’s book on finishing strong points out that one of the key indicators for failing to finish strong is not being involved in a personal accountability group (page 40). If you are not currently involved in a small accountability group with other pastors or church leaders, then I exhort you; I plead with you; I beg you to give me a call, and we can work together to get you plugged into one.
May your 2021 be filled with healthy growing relationships!
Yours in Christ,
Mark R. Elliott, DoM
Mark is in his twenty-seventh year of serving as an Associational Missions Strategist. He served in western Iowa for almost eight years, and is in his nineteenth year with HCN. He has a passion to see pastors and church leaders grow in their abilities to lead their churches. He continues to have a heart and desire to see new churches planted and God continues to use his strategic thinking skills in this area. Mark also has a wealth of experience in helping churches clarify who God has created them to be, and what they can do best to reach their community. He has had ample opportunities to help churches in times of conflict, and has seen God do exciting things to restore a spirit of harmony, returning churches to a time of fruitfulness. He also helps churches in transition by working with search committees. Mark and Phyllis who were married in November of 2018 have four children and three grandchildren. They will enjoy their combined 87th anniversary in just a few days.