Last week I took a week to step back, not completely, I still had to find housing and ministry for a huge team coming in and keep my German lessons going. But I did step back from many of my duties here at the YWAM Berlin base.
Over this week off, this week pulling back and plugging back in with God and my family, God did some big repair work in my heart. Life began again to come at a more manageable pace. My kids started to recognize me, and I felt alive again.
So Monday came around, and I decided to rejoin the work here on base in a more careful and measured way. Right away I saw the lure of doing more, better, and newer things. Things that were all good ideas… for anyone… but not for me.
So I went to the Lord that afternoon, and I asked Him to shed some light on how I was feeling, and to show me the way forward, the way out of the noisy life that had been crowding him out, drowning out his voice.
And he gave me something that I think is quite remarkable. He gave me seven categories, or levels, of relationship.
God – The one and only God of the Bible
Family- My actual, blood and marital relations
Church- Not the organization or the building, but the people I am running after God with
Colleagues- People I work out my specific calling alongside, not necessarily Jesus followers
Nations- The people for who God has given me a burden, my specific calling.
Fellowship of All Believers- Jesus worshippers that I don’t know, or don’t know well
The Unbelieving World- People who don’t know Jesus, that I am not called to specifically
I’m a missionary, so my job is out there, among the people who do not know Jesus. This is not the only calling that is to be had, but it is my calling.
So if I find myself spending all of my time and relationships over in the church category, I am in fact quenching the Spirit, and missing my calling.
I can also get it wrong if I am spending too much time in the Nations category. I need church, family, time with God and colleagues to help me and to be healthy. In other words, like everyone else, I am also called there.
Another thing to consider is that there may be people occupying multiple levels on this grid. For example, I have a friend David who is also a colleague. We are doing similar work, we have a similar focus, but his experience, wisdom and friendship puts him into the church category, I do well to relate to him on a deeper level. My wife Angie is family, friend, and colleague, and so on.
Then there are people I place where they do not belong, sometimes I have to say no to a meeting, or a gathering, a social time or a ministry. Sometimes I find myself investing in people that don’t belong in my picture. People who are good people, even people I like, but people going in a different direction. Paul and Barnabas went their separate ways and this was a good thing.
Last point, as I prune who I deal with at various levels, always going to God and seeking His best for them and for myself, I find I have more room for my specific calling. More time to help find an apartment for a refugee, or to sit with an Arab kid who is being mocked on the bus. And, hopefully, as I disciple them and disciple my unbelieving colleagues, I am building my church, I am building His church.
Though God inspired me to be able to look at my relationships in this way, it is still just a tool. It is only a snapshot, seen through a glass very darkly, of something that is fluid and dynamic and beyond anything I could actually write down.
I am grateful for this tool he has given me, and I hope it blesses you too. Take some time with it to consider where you are in your relationships relative to your calling. But don’t think of it as prescriptive or universal. Our God is a relational God, He wants us to love with abandon. And he wants us to seek Him daily, even moment by moment, to follow His Spirit in all that we say, do, or speak. He is the God of our hearts, and of our minds. And no diagnostic tool, however inspired will take His place.