Discipleship = Relationship

Encounter - Part 1 of 5

When we meet a person and establish a relationship with them it’s quite common to get a touch of excitement, although I’m not so sure if that happens as much when we’re simply interacting online through social media. As you may be aware, developing all relationships takes time, effort and ‘know-how’.

Bradberry & Greaves in their book Emotional Intelligence 2 suggest that ‘know-how’ is emotional intelligence. Michael Schluter has written extensively about ‘relationship’ and in his book The Relational Manager (co-written with David Lee) he identifies the conditions that allow relationships to build rather than deteriorate. He asserts these conditions must be present for relationships to thrive: encounter, storyline, knowledge, fairness, and alignment. The authors sum these conditions as being about ‘relational proximity’.

I’ve observed these conditions being exercised in a series of twenty-six care and nursing homes, where the measure of the staff’s effectiveness wasn’t the amount of time they were ‘on the floor’ but on the strength of the relationships which developed between carers and residents. Strong relationships deliver a wide range of benefits to all parties.

In this series of blogs I’m looking at Schluter and Lee’s (S&L) explanation of each condition and then putting it a discipleship context.

S&L say ‘encounter’ is about the directness of contact. It stimulates openness and disclosure and gives people time to raise all kinds of questions and problems reducing misunderstandings. The sense of connecting, of experiencing the unmediated presence of another person, is both a deep human need and a vital support for effective communication.

DDIT – Let’s consider the relationship between Jesus and his first disciples and their level of ‘encounter’. Someone has calculated that the three years they spent together was equivalent to someone attending a weekly meeting for twenty years. These disciples had an exceptional amount of face to face, direct contact with Jesus. They journeyed together, ate together, sailed together, attended synagogue together among many other things.

The record shows how open they were together, with the disciples often asking many questions, sometimes missing the point, other times being quite embarrassing. Jesus had great expectations of what would happen in their lives after he was gone. One thing he did clearly say to encourage them was that he after he was gone the disciples would not be alone. In John’s Gospel, we read He was sending them the Counsellor, who is described as the Spirit of Truth. It would be the role of the Spirit to guide the disciples into all truth.
Doctor Luke records (in Acts) that after his crucifixion and resurrection, Jesus met with his disciples, telling them to wait in Jerusalem until they receive what Father is sending them. And there they would be baptised with the Holy Spirit. Sure enough, the Holy Spirit came upon the disciples, they received power and were enabled to tell people everywhere about Jesus.

For these disciples, the divine encounter continued and now had an amazing impact on their lives. They were emboldened in a way they had not demonstrated while living alongside Jesus. I find this rather encouraging. There’s no way I can have that same physical intimacy that the first disciples shared with Jesus for three years. But, I along with every other disciple in the 21st century can know the power of the Holy Spirit in my life, transforming me day by day and empowering me to love and live for Jesus.

What is the level of ‘encounter’ in your life? Is it less than it used to be, much the same or getting deeper? How much time do you set aside to enjoy ‘encounter’ in your life? What are the things which are inhibiting ‘encounter’ in your life? Which of the spiritual disciplines do you need to exercise to deepen ‘encounter’ in your life? The Holy Spirit is alongside you right now. Enjoy this moment. Listen. Be thankful as you are. If you need to, resolve to act now to enjoy more ‘encounter’ in your life.

In the next blog article, I’ll explore ‘storyline’.

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