A bunch of guys are eating supper together. It’s Thursday. The week is almost done.
It’s a pretty normal group of guys, a cross-section of personalities and incomes and professions that you might find in any startup. Which is what this is. A couple are really loud. A couple are sitting quietly, eating. One is picking at his food.
The don’t realize it at this moment, but they are at a corporate strategy meeting. The boss knows. He’s the thoughtful one in the middle of the group. He’s watching the chatter. He seems quieter than usual, more deliberate. At one point he moves away from the table for a bit. He moves from person to person, picking something up from the floor by each one, or something.
Eventually, he sits down. He talks quietly. Everyone leans back, surprised. The guy who was picking at his food looks up. The boss hands him a chip with salsa. He takes a bite, and then excuses himself.
The boss sits up straight. Somehow, it just became clear to everyone that this isn’t a social gathering for dinner and drinks after a tough day. As he starts talking, this sounds like the beginning of a major marketing push, a whole new phase of operation.
“I’m leaving soon.”
“Here are my new directions.
Love each other.
You know the way I’ve treated you, been patient with you, given you encouragement and hope and patience, the way I’ve loved you? That’s what you have to do with each other. The way people will know that you are part of this group, the way that people will know that I was ever here, the way that people will believe that what I have been saying and doing are true is if you love each other the way I’ve loved you.”
And of course, the first guy to speak says, “where are you going?”
And of course, the boss’s response is patient.
I’m heading to SOBcon this afternoon. It’s a conference for bloggers, a small event for people who are wanting to do better, to be more effective. The theme this year is “the ROI of relationships.”
I’m not a business blogger. I almost don’t fit. But I like the people and I like the conversation. And this morning, as I read the story above, I had a new level of understanding of a familiar story.
What Jesus was saying was that the ROI of relationship, the return on the investment in other people is this: people will only believe that you actually follow Jesus if you love other people who follow Jesus.
So if you are a church and you want to have an effective marketing plan, one that tells people that what you are doing is real, pour your money into helping people love each other rather than into advertising. Or pour your time into building relationships rather than just buildings. Or pour your love into people who are different than you are but are following Jesus.
I know. There is supposed to be love outside churches. But we often can’t even love inside churches.
I laughed a little this morning when I thought about the story from that Thursday night dinner. I thought about the guys listening to Jesus, and Jesus saying he was leaving and that they were to love and then Peter saying “where are you going?” I wondered what really came next.
Did Andrew give his brother a dope slap and say “doofus, didn’t he just say we couldn’t go?”
Did Matthew the tax collector and Simon the insurrectionist look at each other and think, “love him?”
Did James and John go back to the conversation from earlier and say, “as long as we get the best seats in the church.”
And as I wondered about those conversations, I realized that if that group had been left to themselves, they would have spilt up. But they weren’t. And they didn’t. And when groups of people who follow Jesus actually care about each other in times of crisis and with differences in personality, people notice.
And when people who follow Jesus don’t care about each other, people notice.