Intentional relationships are relationships “done on purpose” or “deliberate” according to the dictionary. Intentional relationships are actively engaged and do not happen casually or by happenstance. Intentional relationships are more than friendships founded upon convenience; they dig deeper than ground level. They do not begin with the end in mind. They are in it for the long haul and seek to give more than they receive.
Before discipleship was a buzzword, a common place in our weekly vernacular, I found myself being forced into creating intentional, discipleship relationships. Sound harsh? It felt like it was at the time! Let me explain further. Dr. Bill Hossler, President of the Missionary Church, looked around the conference table made up of regional leaders of our denomination and called us to each live in intentional discipleship relationships with others. He took the challenge further by requiring us to identify the relationships we were engaged in prior to each semi-annual leadership meeting. He believed that if we expect the several hundred pastors under each of our care to make this a priority, it must first become a priority for us individually. He was right, but I was uncomfortable. I had options. I could learn to live in intentional relationships with others or lie twice a year. The first option was intimidating, the second seemed unbecoming a leader. While I stumbled my way through my initial attempts, I ultimately chose to make intentional relationships a priority.
The strange thing about my discomfort is that I am the product of intentional relationships. My family has been changed by intentional relationships. Rev. Mel Coil, pastor of the LaGrange Missionary Church, in LaGrange, Indiana took interest in a local high school athlete named Harold, from a family with its share of challenges and invested in him. It was not uncommon for Harold to join the Coil family for dinner, or for Mel to attend Harold’s athletic events. Mel mentored. Mel coached. Mel encouraged. Mel challenged. Mel was present. Mel was available. Mel became a lifelong friend. Harold learned the value of intentional relationships from men like Mel and made this a priority in his own life, passing on its value to his own children, of which I am one.
I have discovered over the last several years just how critical having intentional relationships in my life has been for my own spiritual growth. It has been said that you cannot reproduce what you do not possess. The more I desire to have intentional, “done on purpose, deliberate” relationships that point people to the importance of a healthy, maturing relationship with Jesus Christ, the more I have found my need to make greater investments in my own spiritual life. My spiritual disciplines needed to step up their game. My social media presence and my on-stage, public persona could not contradict what my discipleship was trying to produce. I concluded that my disciples will reproduce what has been invested in them. I am middle aged, forty-nine at the publishing of this article. My children have entered early adulthood. I am beginning to think differently about life. I pray for my children every day but have added another category to my daily prayers. I am now seeking the Lord on behalf of my future grandchildren. (THIS IS NOT AN ANNOUNCEMENT, AT LEAST IT BETTER NOT BE). My children will (Lord willing) reproduce in my grandchildren someday that which was intentionally invested in them. The intentional discipling relationships that I am investing in will have a life beyond me. The men that I am investing in will pass on what has been invested in them to others. The question I must ask is am I satisfied with what they reinvest in others? This requires me to continue to make my spiritual maturity a priority.
I am grateful for the impact Dr. Hossler, Rev. Mel Coil, Rev. Harold Knight and many others have had on my life. I hope at the end of my day’s others will be able to say of me, “Chris was intentional about pointing me to Jesus Christ” because of the investment I made through my intentional discipling interactions with them.
by Chris Knight- Senior Pastor
Wakarusa Missionary Church