Make a Relationship Investment Plan This Year

Yesterday in my disciple-making class, we focused on developing a relationships investment plan for the new year. We plan for a lot of things. There’s financial planning, educational planning, vacation planning, retirement planning, etc. But one of the most important plans you could make as a disciple of Jesus is planning your relationships.

Jesus planned his relationships. He entered into relationships with a specific group of people with a purpose in mind. Those relationships were meaningful and intentional. Those relationships also had a stewardship to them, meaning that the exchange (giving and receiving) of life would carry on into the lives of others. Just a cursory look, for example, in the life of the Apostle Paul you see how sweet and endearing his relationships were with the people of whom he invested his life.

Relationships are the interconnected superhighway for gospel advance. The stronger the relationships in gospel community, the greater the success of the mission. When relationships are not strong (or nonexistent), substitutes attempt to fill in, such as programs, events, or classes. I am not saying those are bad things in and of themselves, but they are inadequate replacements for life on life and handicap the mission of the church when they do.

When making your relational investment plan, I am not talking about adding a superstructure to your life and schedule. Rather, the goal is to integrate your life in the fabric of community so that your relational investments can be intentionally leveraged for gospel growth and missional advance. It is living skillfully (walking with wisdom as Paul puts it) and seeing all of life along as a classroom to make, mature, and multiply disciples of Jesus.

One way of beginning the planning process is to know who the Paul’s, Timothy’s, and Barnabas’ are in your life.

The Paul’s are the spiritual pacesetters in your life. They are the people who coach, mentor, or disciple you. They are the life templates you want to follow and emulate, who press you and challenge you to greater pursuit of God and practical usefulness in His kingdom. You need the Paul’s who go before you to give counsel, direction, and guidance.

The Timothy’s are the people with whom you serve as a Paul. You pour into them, teaching them, training them, walking with them through everyday life with the aim of applying the gospel and God’s Word to all of life. In terms of parenting, you are like a spiritual father and mother and take personal ownership in their spiritual growth and maturity. You need the Timothy’s who come after you to transfer the gospel to the next spiritual generation in the family (by that, I’m not talking about time but the next new believers who will need someone to train them).

The Barnabas’ are the people who partner with you in gospel ministry. They work alongside you to bring encouragement and edification as you together seek to learn from one another and mutual benefit from the lessons and experiences you have in the process. Opening your life to messes, struggles, disappointments, and challenges is real spiritual warfare, and you need Barnabas’ around you who will encourage you to keep pressing into the lives of others for the good of the gospel and their advance in it.

Another way to assess your relational investment planning is to begin with the relationships closest to you. Begin with your family. In my case, I am investing my time in strengthening my relationship with my wife and two boys (and girl on the way). From there, I think about my covenant community (local church). God will open doors and create opportunities to invest and be invested in through the fellow believers he has placed in your life. Next is your neighborhood and community. Look for ways to invest in neighbors, to build relationships with them. Finally, work to develop rhythms in your daily life where relationships are forged through a life on mission. You will get to know people quite well after repeated efforts in an intentional plan to press into the lives of people you encounter, whether they be a waitress, a clerk, or anyone else you likely see in the rhythm you have developed.

As a disciple of Jesus, you need to be discipled by somebody (Paul), be discipling somebody (Timothy), and be surrounded by disciple-making disciples (Barnabas). Your relationship investment plan should include unbelievers who are seeking to win to Christ, new believers you are seeking to establish in the gospel, and maturing Christians you are seeking to grow in the gospel.

Do you have meaningful relationships with unbelievers in your community with the intention of seeing them brought to Christ? If not, now is a great time to start. It is very unhealthy for Christians to be disconnected from the world they are called to reach. If the gospel is going to run through the streets of your city, it will happen not through a blimp but beautiful feet. Knock on your neighbor’s door. Invite them for dinner. Invite folks in your community to share prayer requests and commit to pray for them. Who else should care more for their soul than rescued sinners like you and me?

Do you have strategic relationships with new believers in your church community? If not, now is a great time to start. Find someone you could spiritually parent and share life together. Don’t just teach them how to pray and read the Bible. Show them how you read and pray, and how God is using that to change your life. God is our father, and the church is our family. You are put in this family to become like our elder brother (Jesus) and help others do the same. Make the time to meaningful contribute to that glorious goal.

Remember: relational investments is the pipeline for gospel transformation. To close your life off to others and hold them at a distance is to undermine the change God intends to bring in your life trough the gospel and sideline you from being useful for the very purposes God redeemed for you to play a vital role. May the portrait of our lives be deeply stamped by the fingerprints of others as we are conformed into the image of Jesus, and may we as in instrument in the Potter’s hands be used to help others become healthy, holy, and happy children of God.

Read more from Tim here.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Timmy Brister

My name is Timmy Brister. Those who know me call me Tim. Those who know me only from the Internet call me Timmy. I am 33 years old, the husband of Dusti (for nine years) and the father of Nolan, Aiden, and one on the way. I am a pastor and elder of Grace Baptist Church, founder/director of the PLNTD Network, director of The Haiti Collective, organizer for Band of Bloggers, and creator of P2R (Partnering to Remember) and the Memory Moleskine.

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A lot of comments were criticizing types of worship that they didn't like. Remember that different churches meet the needs of different people. You might like hymns, but someone else likes loud praise team songs. You might like in-depth sermons and others might like something lighter. Those differences were not what this article was about. People of various denominations looking for various worship experiences had ten similar things to say about looking for a church. Wandering into a tongues-filled church is far different than wandering into a KJV 1611 church then being disappointed. ALL churches should work on having clean and safe areas for children. My husband and I actually changed churches before we had children because our home church nursery was far from being clean and safe. ALL churches should work to have clear information about service times and directions on their websites/signs. ALL churches should encourage their members to be genuinely friendly. These are things that should be found regardless of one's personal taste in what they want from a church. It would be nice if websites had a sort of "what to expect" page for visitors as far as when services start, what they usually consist of, how children are handled, what to expect for communion or other rituals. This would make people feel welcomed. It's just like when you have someone in your home. You tell them where the bathroom is. You show them where to put their purse so your pet doesn't get into it. You point out drinkware and beverages. I think that many churches EXPECT that people will know what to do, but it can be very confusing going to a new church, even of the same denomination. Not knowing what to do can make people very uncomfortable. There's no reason not to make every effort to make everyone feel comfortable in church. And if a church does ALL it can and a person doesn't come back, it's not that the person is somehow unloving towards God. It could just be that the church wasn't what the person was looking for. This article was pointing out ways that churches could do better. I would like to comment about the whole "this is my pew" problem. A lot of schools have gone to randomly assigning seating from day to day in the lunchroom. This breaks up cliques and helps everyone feel included. Kids get to meet different kids than they might if they just sat at the same table all the time. Just think how it would be at church if everyone was encouraged to rotate where they sat and to never sit in the same pew in the same month. Talk about shaking things up!!
 
— Emalyn
 
A year ago in December we moved from Texas to Montana. At a Christmas Eve service we were told we were in the way and had to move to a back wall and stand the entire service. As we have met new people I always ask what church they go to. This would be a great opportunity for someone to invite us to their church, but no one ever has. We were very active in our church for over 30 years. It is hard being an outsider and being the new person. But I will get there.
 
— Beth
 
I have a lot to say but I will try to condense it because when its long nobody reads it all. I have traveled around the world with my Air Force husband and have attended many churches. The main reason I selected a church to attend was because I felt God had led me there and I heard the Word preached by a man of God. Some people are not looking for the right thing so they are not going to stay at any church. I go to a wonderful church where all people are treated equally and guest are our first priority. LOVE is what people are looking for whether they know it or not and when a church is built on the love of God LOVE will surround them and draw them in its circle. The best way to find the church you are looking for you need to pray about it and go to more than one or two churches to find where God wants you to serve. God love you and wants you to be a happy Christian. .
 
— Barbara Johnson
 

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