My husband, Scott, and I are new church planters; and our sending church sent us, along with one of our core families, to the Exponential Church Planting Conference last April. We went to a lot of different sessions and workshops; and in each and every one of the workshops that I attended, there was a question and answer time at the end. Someone would raise their hand and they’d share their particular context and ask the question.
Every time the speaker or presenter would begin by asking them this question: “Are you affiliated with anyone? Do you have any partnering churches or organizations? Is there anyone walking alongside you in this endeavor?”
And time after time after time the answer was, “No. We are on our own.”
At that same conference, we were invited by Nathan Bryant to a gathering, a collection of church planters, in the Fellowship of Grace Brethren Churches. We gathered in a home and we had a meal together. We shared with one another and we prayed over each other, and we were not on our own.
At a conference of thousands of people, many there were looking, yearning for that connection, that relationship, that access.
What we have is to be esteemed and held in high regard.
And the most important relationships, the ones that we value the most, aren’t those the relationships that we put the most time and energy and care into?
We’ve been challenged this week to lean into greater levels of intentionality and to check and maintain a posture of humility. And to lay as a foundation, honesty, and candor.
And it doesn’t really matter the relational container. It could be relationships here within the Fellowship. It could be in a local church community. Wherever you lead or serve, your small group or your family. Honesty and candor are pillars to health and growth and vitality.
I want to make a distinction between honesty and truth-telling. If we were to describe an honest person, we might say that they are someone who tells the truth; someone who can be trusted to relay information accurately or fairly; someone who has integrity in their dealings.
We might say of someone who speaks with great candor that they tell it like it is, they call things straight.
But I propose to you that the kind of honesty and candor that can bind us together in relationships takes it beyond mere truth-telling and calling it like it is. It’s an honesty that offers something of ourselves, something of our own story, our own journey, our own experience, and offers it sincerely and authentically to something and someone else.
That an honest conversation, an honest engagement, is at its core a vulnerable one.
In those relationships where we have the most intentionality, aren’t those the very relationships where we have the most obstacles, the most challenges, disagreements, and opportunities for hard conversations?
And yet a foundation of honesty that offers something of ourselves can bind together relationships during times when they would otherwise be torn apart.
At our church plant in Brunswick, Md., we are attempting to cultivate a relational community where people can be known and know others, where there can be safety and authenticity.
One night at our gathering, I shared with a group of ladies. “I have to be very careful and vigilant not to allow depression to gain a foothold in my heart and mind,” I said.
To be honest, there was an awkward silence. But afterward one of the women came up to me. She shared something she said she had never been able to tell anyone else, and I was able to share with her the hope and victory that I have in the Person of Jesus Christ.
As we continued to engage, it became evident I needed to speak some truth in love. You see, depression has a way of creating blind spots, areas where lies and falsehoods can run wild; and I wanted to bring some of these things to her attention.
And I believe that because our relationship started and was founded on honesty and transparency, during that time we grew closer together.
She was even encouraged and empowered to reach out to someone else and share honestly, and now there’s a community of women encouraging each other and lifting each other up in Christ.
Now, sharing vulnerably, sharing something of ourselves, incurs great risk. Right? There’s the risk of rejection, misunderstanding, misrepresentation, betrayal, wounding.
And those relationships that we care the most about, that we value the most, those are the ones that hurt the most. And nothing seems to cut as deep as a wound inflicted at the hands of a fellow brother and sister in Christ, a fellow co-laborer.
We love and serve a Lord and Savior who experienced betrayal. He experienced the ultimate rejection, the ultimate misunderstanding on our behalf so that we could be His witnesses, witnesses in relationships that have eternal impact.
So, as we walk alongside other brothers and sisters in Christ, even as we gather around our tables with friends and family, let us lean in to greater levels of honesty and candor, truly offering something of ourselves to those relationships that deeply matter.
Jennifer Avey is a church planter from Middletown, Md., and serves as the director of leadership development for the board of Women of Grace, USA. She is hopelessly in love with her husband, Scott Avey, and three children-Canon, Cadence, and Coda. is is an edited version of her talk at Access2017, the national conference of the Fellowship of Grace Brethren Churches, which was held in Fremont, Ohio, July 25-27, 2017. To receive your personal copy of the magazine mailed directly to your home, click here.