Hi, and thank you for for joining us today.
One of our foundational practices, or core values, in our conference is “Relationships & Team." This means that we value relationships and are unapologetic in our love.
Relationships are important, but not just for social benefits. Taken a step further, we recognize that relationships are indispensable to fulfilling our mission to “Exalt Christ” in our communities.
Well-known sociologist Rodney Stark has studied the mechanisms of conversion extensively for many years. After surveying multiple case studies on conversion, he notes, “By now, dozens of close-up studies of conversion have been conducted. All of them confirm that social networks are the basic mechanism through which conversion takes place. To convert someone, you must first become that person’s friend.” 
A popular saying goes like this: “We don’t change markets, or populations, we change people. One person at a time, at a human level.”
In taking a closer look at the letters of Paul in the New Testament, we see listed dozens of names of the people in his relational network—people he spent time developing relationships with, not just for a short time, but through many months and years.
Rodney Stark reminds us that it takes time to develop relationships, even for professional evangelists like the apostle Paul.
He writes, “In fact, even professional missionaries make converts only when… they have succeeded in building personal bonds of trust and friendships with those they seek to convert… Paul did not rush from place to place leaving a trail of sudden converts. Instead, he spent more than two years building a Christian group in Ephesus, eighteen months in Corinth, and several years in Antioch.” .
In Romans chapter 16 alone, Paul mentions 29 people he developed relationships with. In all of Paul’s letters, we will find dozens of people mentioned by name. This reminds us that developing relationships was foundational to spreading the gospel in the first century.
We need to remember that lifting up Christ in our communities will require an investment into strengthening existing relationships and developing new ones as we engage our communities.
Blessings to you, to your ministry, and to your church as together we seek to lift up Christ, further investing into relationships and teams.
- Rodney Stark, Cities of God (New York, NY: Harper Collins, 2006), 11.
- Rodney Stark, Cities of God (New York, NY: Harper Collins, 2006), 13.