Joinings of the Lord. My friend Art Good used to use that phrase all the time. You could dress up the language a bit to express what he meant, but I think he got it just right.
A joining of the Lord takes place in that moment where you realize God has brought you and someone else together to partner in relationship toward the advancement of his kingdom. Sounds simple, doesn’t it? But I think most people miss it.
And here’s the reason. Our culture is very shallow, a mile wide and an inch deep. It’s not easy for most of us to develop depth in relationship. We prefer to keep our distance. And that attitude seeps into the church.
And we have a further problem with our church culture, which tends to be based on programmes, buildings and branding. Our primary motive in looking for a church is anything but the depth of relationship possibilities it may offer. We are looking for kids work, teen ministry, hi-tech worship and great platform oratory (not to mention valet parking).
Jesus seemed to have a rather different approach. His ministry was developed almost entirely on the basis of his personal discipleship of those around him, with a side of big meetings, which were great but not the heart of his ministry.
After the cross, the crowds had gone, and the 120 faithful disciples were left. And that is what he built his church on.
Elaine and I have just celebrated our 35th anniversary. Anyone who knows our story will know it was a joining of the Lord. It was God who brought us together. We are blessed today to have friendships in many parts of the body of Christ which are joinings of the Lord.
God has used those joinings to do many things over the years. And that is because the kingdom works best through relationship. I don’t care what kind of church or movement you are part of, the truth is the same. People with a title but little sense of relationship may build an organization, but they will never build a family. Organizations fade away or lose their vitality, but families remain.
I am always looking for more joinings of the Lord. I’ve found quite a few in the last year. Who is it I am to partner with in the Lord’s work? It’s wonderful to have fellowship in many places, but where and to whom am I truly joined?
Three of us were on the way to a leadership conference the other day. We were talking about the attraction of branding in the church world. Branding can easily become a cheap substitute for relationship. I’m not going to give examples, but it seems everyone is branding their church or movement as if it were a McDonalds or, in Canadian terms, a Tim Hortons. I have three comments.
One - what magic do you think your branding is going to work which you haven’t been able to accomplish up till now? Two - why are we taking our direction from the pagan corporate culture? Three - welcome to the world of denominations you so scornfully turned your back on a generation ago. If you’re going to be part of a denomination, and there’s nothing wrong with that, just find a good one. There are some great Presbyterian, Anglican and Baptist churches around today.
But wherever you are, make sure you’re there because of a joining of the Lord. If not, you’re in for a lot of disappointment.