February 21, 2013
When urban church planters make contact with new people, they hope to build growing relationships. In the context of that relationship they seek to introduce people to Jesus and help them grow as his followers. Each of them emphasized the need to build relationships. Matthew said, “We use relationships as a foundation for building a church.” Mark said, “The main goal is to just build relationships with the people” And Luke said, “But when it comes to relating to people you’ve gotta let them know who you are—no pretense—because they’ll see right through you. You just have to love them. That’s the major factor.”
Those interviewed explained the attitudes, activities, and content needed for building relationships that will help people grow in Christ. While each church planter expressed differing emphases, all would generally agree with each other.
Building relationships that promote growth require urban church planters to possess friendly, open, accepting attitudes toward others. Because many seeking a relationship with Jesus bring the baggage of sin with them, a critical, judgmental spirit will not do. Luke says, “You gotta be willing to deal with a lot of junk. You know if you want a clean stall, don’t let any ox in because they’re gonna make a mess. If you don’t want to get involved in the messiness, than you’d better not be here because it’s not pretty. You’re gonna deal with a lot of junk.”
Urban church planters must be genuine. They must not present a phony attitude or some elaborate façade. They must feel free to be themselves, willing to be known by others regardless of their strengths and weaknesses. Failure to allow others to know their real person will hamper the building of real relationships. Those preparing for urban church planting should practice living in community where their true character is exposed to others in the group.
Compassion is an important quality for urban church planters. They must demonstrate concern for the needs of others. They should express their care in words and actions. They should develop a love for the people in their community. They should seek God’s best for them. Potential church planters must exhibit a capacity for compassion at this level.
Relational attitudes should be accompanied by actions. Openness, sincerity and compassion should result in tangible expression. The church planters interviewed sought to express these qualities in a variety of ways.
First, they tried to spend time with the people they were meeting. They looked for ways to hang out with their new contacts. They met them on their turf on the streets, at the coffee house, and at the gym. They would visit people where they lived. They invited people into their homes so they could get to know them better. Mark said, ‘I think homes that are open are important. Hospitality is very, very important because that’s how we start off. Pretty much it’s in people’s living rooms—and we sit around the table, have food, and just get to know people.” Developing church planters should practice building relationships by spending time with people in a variety of different venues. They should learn to use their homes as a tool for growing friendships with those who need to grow in Christ.
Those who were interviewed actively sought ways to help people with whom they had contact. They would ask questions about needs, intending to find ways to meet those needs. Matthew asked the question, “What are the needs here? And, the biggest cry we heard was the need for youth and children’s programs.. .Well it came out that [an] after school program was a big need. Funding was cut and programs [were] cut by the city. So, we came alongside to help.”
Building relationships that help new contacts grow in Christ requires sensitive attitudes, compassionate actions, and spiritual direction. The urban church planters who were interviewed recognized that a supernatural act of God was required to transform the lives of individuals, families, and communities. No human reformation program would do. They each seek to provide spiritual direction that will enable contacts that have become friends to grow in the Lord.