Reformed Quarterly Volume 8, Issue 1
The greatest single cause of ministerial ineffectiveness is a failure in the area of interpersonal relationships, according to Alvin Lindgren. Surprised? You should not be. That is not to minimize the importance of preaching and teaching, but rather to remind us that relationships may contribute to the receptivity of the church member or they may eliminate it entirely. It is difficult to secure a receptive ear from an alienated member of your congregation.
In fact, the late Francis Schaeffer, after observing and participating in many bitter squabbles and controversies during his early years as a Christian minister, finally was ready to jettison the Christian faith and return to his former agnosticism, so hurt and disillusioned was he by his experiences.
“That does not sound very biblical,” someone might respond. But, as a matter of fact, it is biblical through and through, for the Bible indicates that one’s relationship to God is revealed through his relationship with other people (I John 4:19-21). The Apostle Paul notes that the church is to be marked by a unified, harmonious coordination of all its members under the headship of Christ (Eph. 4:1-16, I Cor. 12:12-30). Paul’s own relationship with believers at Ephesus (as a result of his several years of ministry there) is a good example and is marked by the emotional visit at Miletus (Acts 36-38). That is why Francis Schaeffer insisted that when the Holy Spirit is really at work in a person’s life, beauty and harmony in human relationships will inevitably result.
So, the pastor who neglects relationships in his family or his congregation is wrong. The same can be said of any believer who neglects or abuses relationships with those around him. In spite of the lip service those people may give to the Bible and biblical doctrines, their lives are more a reflection of our secular culture than the Bible. We do not have to look very far to be reminded of the way in which social fragmentation is destroying the world in which we live as we see marriages disintegrate, families fall apart, and insidious estrangement infect our entire society.
In fact, it is to this broken, bleeding world that the gospel speaks most powerfully, reminding us of how God reached out when we were His enemies to reconcile us to Himself. Ultimately, Jesus was completely forsaken on the cross, suffering the punishment for our sins so that we might be brought back into fellowship with the Father, becoming members of His family, finding a new, wonderful, and wholesome relationship with Him and with each other. It is that gospel of hope and reconciliation which our world so desperately needs and which we must offer clearly. But it must pervade our behavior as well as our vocabulary if we expect to see any significant changes occur.
That is why RTS exists — to spread that gospel of reconciliation and healing. In this issue you are reminded of how powerful a force God’s people can be as their lives are transformed by His grace. Briarwood, led by Frank Barker — humble, loving pastor and evangelist — is an outstanding example, as well as a goal to which we may all press. Within these pages you’ll also see how North Coast Presbyterian Church, under the leadership of Don Seltzer, is bringing practical Christianity to hundreds of unchurched people, giving many a chance for the first time to reconcile broken relationships with God and others.
This is our mission — to provide the church with godly ministers who understand how to build effective personal relationships and heal hurting ones through the power of the gospel.