when the missional honeymoon ends

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I knew this period would arrive. I’ve been here before. Since returning to my church and re-engaging the neighborhood I’ve enjoyed a honeymoon period. It officially concluded tonight. In a good way.

One young man walked out, cussing under his breath, because he didn’t like how the basketball teams were picked. A colleague spent time with him, but the boy’s hot temper earned him a dismissal from the campus for the evening. When any honeymoon period ends, true colors fly.

At the same time, I got to spend about fifteen minutes coaching one of the players regarding his hand placement and footwork for his jump shot. As his accuracy improved, his eyes got wider. It was the first time I’ve been able to spend significant time with him. I’m grateful for the opportunity.

We continued the evening of basketball, mostly on a good note. Yet, one person fell a couple of times during the game and the others laughed at him. In fact, they wouldn’t stop laughing. So, at the end I gathered them all together and said, “I’m not exactly sure what was going on, other than the fact someone fell a couple of times and you laughed. I could be wrong but it appeared to me you were singling one person out. However, when it became clear your laughter upset your teammate, do you think it might have been a good idea to back off and just play the game? No one likes to be the target of the group. I don’t like it; neither do any of you. Let’s keep that in mind for next time.”

The evening was an ebb and flow of relational engagement, both challenging and encouraging. It isn’t always pretty. Sometimes it is downright frustrating and messy. In those difficult spaces we can rest assured that although the honeymoon is over, the real work of relational ministry can begin in earnest.

And they will watch our responses carefully to examine our true colors.

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