Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Do you have an agenda?

So I had a speaking engagement this weekend about the book and some of the principles that I've been talking about on here.  I talked some about emotional barriers to faith and how we can engage those.  And then I tried to give some practical suggestions about how to walk beside people in their faith journeys.  I encouraged people to be thinking about how to invite others to do works of God with them, or about how to think ahead about what spiritual conversations might come up in the normal course of a person's life.

I'm always a little uncomfortable with this kind of thinking and planning ahead, because it seems like it takes some of the authenticity out of a relationship.  One thing that I don't want is to have someone feeling like I'm only talking to them about spiritual things or I'm only their friend because I have this goal for their spiritual lives.  It's important to me that I am developing real relationships with people that encompass all of life - not just the spiritual side.

But I had a question from the audience about whether all of the things I was saying are just like being someone's friend.  In other words, why couldn't he just be their friends?  Why all this other thinking?  Why all this planning ahead?

And I have to say that I think that some thinking is important.  But I would say that this kind of thinking in my own life is applied to all relationships.  I think it's a matter of perspective, of looking at relationships in life as an opportunity to grow.  I'm always entering relationships trying to learn what I can from other people, trying to allow myself to change and grow and become more Christ-like in how I'm learning to interact.  There's always something to learn.  At the same time, I look at all my relationships as a chance to encourage the people around me to grow - not just spiritually but as whole people.

I think I've been incredibly blessed with the kind of community I've lived within these past years.  I have people in my life who really know me and really love me.  In my community, we're always seeking to challenge one another and encourage growth in every area.  This carries over to the way I view the relationships outside my community too.  I want to see people becoming more whole and more healed and more loved and more secure. 

So I don't know.  There's a tension here.  The current cultural value of tolerance and respect demands that we not enter relationships with an agenda.  Agendas alienate people.  What do you think?  Do you think it's possible to have the goal of encouraging people to grow without being perceived as having an agenda?

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