Relational Intentionality

Recently I’ve been chewing on the implications of the phrase “relational intentionality,” especially with reference to mentoring followers of Jesus Christ. It’s essentially a phrase that reminds me of the need for balance and holism as I minister to my fellow believers. It’s a reminder that every time two people relate to each other there needs to be both a natural ease that flows from genuinely liking each other as well as a commitment to grow and develop, together and as individuals.

To illustrate what it means to strike the balance of relational intentionality, it helps to develop an analogy that Jesus gave us. Jesus called his followers the light of the world. The basic metaphor is simple; the godless world is dark, and we are to bring illumination by sharing with the world the truth about Jesus. Yet in a world that is dark, not all light is helpful. DiscipleshipMichael Sabo tells the story of touring a cavern as a boy, when the tour guide doused the lights to show them just how dark the cavern was without a single spark to illuminate. After everyone’s eyes had fully adjusted to the pitch darkness, the guide lit his headlamp to show the tourists how powerful a little light could be. Unfortunately, the guide was looking directly at Michael when he flipped on his light, sending the searing brightness into his fully dilated pupils. The light blinded him painfully. Followers of Christ who approach others with intentionality alone are like people with flashlights who approach darkness dwellers and shine their brightness directly into their eyes. At best, this is incredibly annoying; at worst, this is painful and blinding. No matter how good the message these Christians have to share, their method undercuts and negates that message. People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care. On the other hand, followers of Christ who approach others with relational goodwill alone are like people who leave their flashlights at home and stumble into the darkness to connect with darkness dwellers with no light at all. At best, this is frustrating; at worst, this is incredibly dangerous. Those stumbling in the darkness may laugh and joke for awhile, but if they can’t find the way to their destination, or someone gets hurt in the dark, the fun evaporates. These Christians have shelved the good truths of Christ for the sake of their friendships, and in the process endangered not only their friends but also themselves.

Relational intentionality requires that we keep a firm grip on the biblical truths that illuminate our lives, but position ourselves alongside darkness dwellers so that the light can shine on the path where it is helpful to us both. Only a true friend will come alongside another and walk with him or her through the dark times of life. Only a truly helpful, intentional friend will bring wisdom and godly experience to shed light on the situation as they do so. God calls us to do both. So how do we develop relational intentionality? For practical ideas, visit my blog to see the full post.

This post was written by McKeel Bowden, who serves as Spiritual Growth and Worship Leader at Crossroad Community Church in Shelbyville, Indiana. He has a passion to walk closer and closer with Jesus Christ, and to help others come to know and follow the Master as well.

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