I recently read Friend of a Friend by David Burkus and was challenged by the idea that diverse networks of friends create unique and challenging opportunities. The book contains great research and compelling stories about the importance of the relationships we have with our friends, and friends of friends.
While listening (twice, so far) to the audio book, I was challenged by how the principles in the book also applied to our faith networks. A diverse faith network, made up of loose connections and not-so-close relationships, offers greater depth of experience and opportunities we might not otherwise experience. Do all of your closest friends and family attend your church? How many churches would you say have one or more of your friends as members?
Why is it, when we join one church, we often feel we must leave all the others? In some denominations, you move your membership. In other traditions, you simply become a dormant member of the rolls.
Years ago, I was employed by a company that was about to experience a reorganization. For over two months, people from all levels expressed opinions about what other parts of the organization should be cut so they could remain and do their job better. After this contentious reorganization, I started trying to speak openly about faith issues with my coworkers.
I learned 2 key things about believers in the workplace:
- Many of the most vocal critics and many department heads were Christians;
- Most attended different churches and seldom (maybe never) spoke with others about how Jesus wanted them to address the reorganization.
Do our churches divide us?
How can we find ways to build relationships based on our common faith when we each attend a different church or none at all?
One idea would be to focus on what we have in common. Most of us have little in common but a desire to follow Jesus. Some of us don’t even spend much time following Jesus, but we “put our faith” in Jesus to get us to heaven one day when we die.
As a follower of Jesus, I want to find common ground with others and then build from there. We all fall short, but I want to move one notch closer to Jesus every day. Furthermore, I want to help others do the same. So, I start by knowing where I (think I) am and building on what I have in common with others.
Do you have any conversations about faith with fellow Christ-followers who don’t attend your same church? Maybe it’s time to start establishing those relationships. You never know how Jesus might use us and our relationship with others to strengthen his message to our world.