Reading time: less than three minutes. I’m convinced I’m right. I’ve been testing my theory in congregations over the past couple of years, and I think I can say from my research that I have this figured out. When mutual trust, respect and love prevail, the Church and its workers thrive. And sadly, I find the converse to be true: when relationships are suffering, the Church and its workers are hampered in their work. Do you agree? As I tried to figure out which passage in Scripture best reveals this truth, my mind raced with the literally hundreds of encouragements in God’s Word for us to live in healthy, gracious, patient, Christ-centered, Spirit-led relationships. From Genesis (“Where’s your brother?”) to Revelation, (“a great multitude that no one could count”), the marker of wholeness, peace and joy in the church is its relationships. But I did think of a passage that I like best, one that describes for us, as we journey by faith, God’s intention for His people to love in harmony. It’s found in Romans chapter 1. Your mind might leap immediately to Paul’s “theme verse”: “For I am not ashamed of the gospel…” but that’s not what I was thinking of. You might think I mean the beautiful prologue: “And you also are among those who are called to belong to Jesus Christ.” Nope. That’s not it either. It’s the little paragraph tucked in between. When the apostle expresses his desire to visit the church in Rome, he naturally tells them that he wants to come in order to give them a blessing (verse 11). You’d expect that. He’s a Pastor after all! I love how he goes on in verse 12: “that is, that we may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith, both yours and mine” (ESV). Wow. That’s huge! This desire that the called worker in the kingdom and the body of believers would live in a loving and harmonious relationship of mutual trust and respect, each a blessing to the other, lays the foundation for everything else they would do together as God’s people in mission. Way too many of our church workers find themselves in an adversarial relationship with the members of the church. The root cause is always our sinful selfishness. In some churches it goes back generations. Sometimes people in the church just have it out for pastors. Sometimes pastors damage the relationships in the church by their insensitivity. But the great news of the gospel is the power of Christ’s love to heal all of our relationships by forgiveness and grace. Standing together at the foot of the cross, forgiven, starting over again, we’re able to think more highly of others than we do of ourselves. The love of Jesus is real power for us to learn to live as one body with many members (Romans 12). I think the image of Paul visiting the Roman church in order that they might be a mutual blessing to one another is a model for every one of our congregations. Tell me about how the mutual blessing is happening at your church. It can make all the difference for church health and for worker health, can’t it? Thanks for reading! Do you serve in a multiple staff setting in a church, Lutheran school, university or social service ministry? Discover how a Ministry Team Wellness Workshop can help enhance your team ministry by building the unity, spiritual life and communication essential to partnership in ministry. Contact Program Director Darrell Zimmerman for more information.