Do you ever feel discouraged about your relationship with God? Like maybe a distance has grown between you—but you’re not sure why? The key may lie in your environment.
There’s a familiar saying that goes “You are the average of the 5 people you spend the most time around.” The same is true when it comes to our faith. The people you’re currently walking through life with have a much greater influence on your faith than you think.
Pause for a moment and reflect on these two questions:
- Today, who are the 5 people I spend the most time around?
- How have they impacted my relationship with God?
If your answers feel discouraging, you’re not alone. We all have deep wiring in our DNA that longs to be surrounded by authentic community. Problem is, in the church lately, we’ve been trained to make “relationship with God” all about ourselves.
Around 50 years ago a new phrase popped up in church culture:
“Would you like to have a personal relationship with God?”
At first glance, it seems harmless and accurate. But here’s the thing: Following Jesus is way more than a personal relationship- yes- it’s individual, but it’s also VERY communal.
The writer of Hebrews encourages the church in this way in Hebrews 12:1:
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.”
Hang on…did you catch that subtle-yet-crucial lesson?
- In order to throw off the sin that so easily entangles us…
- In order to run the race with perseverance…
- In order to fix our eyes on Jesus…
We first have to be SURROUNDED by a great cloud of witnesses.
Are the 5 people you’re spending the most time around leading you to throw off sin, run with perseverance, and fix your eyes on Jesus?
God designed your community to be that cloud of witnesses, to be a place of belonging, and to be the family of God.
3 Ways to Surround Yourself With A Great Cloud Of Witnesses
1.Take Off Your Mask
The Apostle Paul gives us practically helpful insight in just five words.
They’re recorded in his letter to the church in Rome.
“Love must be without hypocrisy.” -Romans 12:9
The Greek word used here for hypocrisy was a common theatrical term that referred to “wearing a mask,” as in a play. We so crave to be loved by others, and in turn, we’re often tempted to “put on a mask” in order to win that approval.
This is one of my biggest battles. I say “I want community,” but I’m embarrassed to really open up about things that might make people think less of me.
If we want to experience authentic, Christ-centered relationships, it’s going to require us to take off our masks and show people our mess.
But there’s absolutely no way we can have the confidence to do that unless we are convinced that we’re fully known and fully loved by God. A God who sees our mess and redeems it through Christ’s death and resurrection. Only then will we get to a place where we don’t need the approval of others.
And who doesn’t want to be around a person like that?
Experiencing true community starts with understanding our true identity (which I wrote more about here).
2. Draw Others In
When we’re fully convinced of God’s love and mercy for us, despite our flaws and failures, it makes us springloaded to show that same love and mercy to others. We can finally take our mask off, and it draws others to do the same.
Chances are, there are people already in your orbit who are longing for depth and strengthening community too. After all, you attract what you are. So you’re likely to already be around at least some people with similar desires.
By taking off your mask, you can pull that out of them. But it takes you being honest with yourself first… and then allowing them to be honest with you.
How do you respond when others fail? Would people describe you as judgmental or merciful? When we’re aware of our own need for mercy, we don’t have to fake it when dishing the mercy out. We draw others in through vulnerability and grace.
3. Shadow Your Hero
If we want to grow in our faith, the best way to do that is to surround ourselves with people who have the kind of relationship with God that we want to have. The more time I’ve spent with people I spiritually admire, the more consistently I spend time with God.
Who do you admire spiritually? What would it look like to put yourself in a place where you get to spend more time with them?
In college, there was a pastor I longed to know better and learn from. He had a full life and I was uncertain how I could possibly get time with him. One day I had the idea to ask him if there was anything I could do to help him.
Before long I was helping with errands, hanging with his kids, and eating dinner in his home. Watching him and his wife raise their family was some of the best spiritual training I’ve ever received. It made me want to be a dad like that someday.
Who are your local spiritual heroes? Consider finding ways to spend more time in their shadows.
We become like the people we surround ourselves with.
This guest post is written by Tim Branch. He is a blogger, Chick-fil-A aficionado, and the author of How to Hear God’s Voice, which you can get for free here. He writes at timbranch.com about how to understand your purpose and grow into God’s original design for you.