Spirit-filled Leadership Series Vol. 1: Relationships or fences?

by Trey Campbell, treycampbell1010@gmail.com

Walls of Jerusalem
Walls of Jerusalem

In Biblical times, walls were made to fortify and protect. They kept outsiders out and insiders in.  Joshua had the walls tumbin’ down at Jericho, while Nehemiah led the charge to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem.  Metaphorically speaking, these days we focus a whole lot on building fences. The decision to build a wall or fence is not as much for safety anymore, but rather for keeping distance.

There comes a point in life when we have decisions to make.  Decisions that affect our future… and in fact, affect the rest of our life.  That is, once we pick a side.

In both our spiritual journey and life, we should strive to be “builders.”  Jesus was a builder.  Before he went public as the Messiah, his trade was that of a carpenter. This makes sense because he went from building things to building people.  In our case, just as with Jesus, if we are building, we are growing. The question is: are we going to be builders of relationships or fences? Jesus taught us to build relationships to share God’s love and know eternal life.  He didn’t build fences to keep people from these things.

For us, we have to pick a side so we’re not “riding” the fence.  Ask yourself this: which one do you invest your time building?  At various times, I’ve asked myself this very question.    While there may be a time where a fence is required, the greater, long-term investment is to build relationships.  Here’s a breakdown:

Relationships are built:                                                  Fences are built:
1) To bring people closer                                                1) To keep people in
2) To develop a support network                               2) To keep people out
3) As an investment                                                            3) As a tool of separation

Let’s take an even closer look:

RELATIONSHIPS                                                                   FENCES
> Open                                                                                         > Closed
> Emotional                                                                              > Static
> Deep, meaningful                                                              > Superficial, topical
> Friendships                                                                           > Isolation, loneliness
> Promote growth                                                                 > Stunt growth

When are fences good?  When you need to keep cattle in one place.  We build fences to shut others out or keep them in place.  Fences are the antithesis of relationships.  The old saying “Good fences make good neighbors” is a lie.  It was a most likely a fence-builder who said this.  Relationships are what make good neighbors.

fence build
Literally building a fence in order to build relationships!

I recently spent time with a LifeGroup from my church literally building a fence (a service project to help someone in need).  It was the hottest day of the summer to that point: 99 degrees.  As we progressed down the yard’s edge, I found myself on the inside, while the other four guys were on the outside.  I began to think of the irony of how, while building relationships with these guys, I was on “the other side of the fence.”  It was worth an internal chuckle.  In reality, our time together was a great opportunity for growth.  Through investing in others and building relationships, there was an opening to share Christ’s love.

Leaders choose the path to build relationships.  If we spend time building fences, we’ll undoubtedly find we’ve fenced ourselves off from others.  Fences are not of the Spirit. They are obstacles that keep us from fully experiencing God’s intended plan for our life.

It’s time to build.  It’s time to lead.  What side of the fence will you fall?  Trick question! Hopefully neither – no fences!  Are you digging through life to set fence posts or are you planting seeds through relationships?

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