One of the "Big 3" values at 180 Chicago is Allies: Align your life with God and allies who want you to win. This is a critical value that will make us stronger or drag us under. When we get relationships right it's a beautiful thing. Today on-air we're calling it "Build Your Squad".
For years I underestimated just how critical relationships are in taking hold of God's promises. If you surround yourself with people who can strengthen you when you're down and cheer with you when you're winning you have a true comrade in Christ.
This is touchy to discuss but even in the church, there are people who are not spiritually healthy. This doesn't mean that we discard them at all. But it also doesn't mean that we have to share the deepest part of our lives with them. Being selective with those we share our deepest thoughts, our sin, our shame, and even our victories, is a selection process that God calls us to be mindful of. Consider Psalm 1, the first three verses:
Blessed is the man
who walks not in the counsel of the wicked,
nor stands in the way of sinners,
nor sits in the seat of scoffers;
but his delight is in the law of the Lord,
and on his law, he meditates day and night.
He is like a tree
planted by streams of water
that yields its fruit in its season,
and its leaf does not wither.
In all that he does, he prospers.
The clear implication is that we're better off walking alone with God and his word than to surround ourselves with the wrong people. There are unwise people both outside and even inside the church who we should not sit with, stand with, or walk with. Want to really grow up in Christ? We need to get the wrong people out and the right people in – build your squad.
The church is the greatest possible institution on earth, but not everyone who calls themselves a Christian is able to help us grow up in Christ – some are even pretenders. We can't have a spirit of judgment, but we must ask the Holy Spirit to help us exercise judgment for those we should share our lives with.
Getting our life aligned with God and finding allies who will exhort us, cry with us, and even cheer for us when we get a win, is critical to our spiritual prosperity – build your squad.
But here's a few questions that will help us think through relationships: Who is the church? How many friends do I need? What should I expect from all the people in attendance? Where do I go for help? What is my role? This requires we see our squad, our relationships/Allies in the church through a few different lenses.
Benefit Allies - Allies that benefit us are those who we may know little of, but when we see them or hear of them we are the better for it. These are those brothers and sisters across town or across the world who are on the mission but not in our congregation or our daily lives. They send messages or we hear a word of their faith and it emboldens us to stand strong on the rock. The Iranian underground church is that kind of benefit to us. To hear of saints who smuggle and share pieces of a bible so everyone will have something and no one is caught, is a direct benefit to our faith. These allies are in the battle – all around the world!
Builder Allies - Some Allies build us up. This is why Paul wrote to a central group of followers in a city who were meeting together and encouraged them to each use the gifts God had given them. Some of the phrases Paul used were, "varieties of gifts", "are one body", "the parts of the body that seem weaker are indispensable" (I Cor. 12). Here's the bottom line: In the local congregation, it's all hands on deck, or whatever part you are. We can't have anyone on the sidelines because we are stronger when we all do our part together.
Buddy Allies - There is a level of relationship that can only be shared with a few. Jesus modeled this with Peter, James, and John, and he did it for a reason – we're not designed to have more than a few really close friends. These buddies are people who love you no matter what you've done, are doing, or will do in the future. They are in for the long haul. There are unfazed by your blunders and not overwhelmed by your victories. They love you and you love them enough to say, "wait a minute", and they always believe God for big things in your life. Everybody needs a buddy or two, or three. But not much more than that. Unapologetically pray for a few close spiritual buddies, your vitality in Christ is riding on it.
These lenses can help us see relationships in the church with fresh eyes. We'll be the better for it.