When you are trying to emerge from a no-relationship atmosphere, it has to start with leadership. It starts with the inner circle. If it was the inner circle of Jesus, it would start with the twelve apostles. If it is a business, it would start with upper management. It starts with leaders.
I remember a television commercial a few years ago that really got my attention. It showed a CEO calling his major leaders into a Board Room for a meeting. He told about how they had forgotten their best customers and had lost some and were on the verge of losing others. He gave each leader an airline ticket and told them to call on them and win them back. Now that is a highlight of the commercial and may not be covering it real well, but it left an indelible mark on me. They were starting all over again by winning back the customers that they could and building relationships from that point on.
In most of our churches, we need to re-build some relationships that got away, or were never developed in the first place. It cannot be done on Sunday. It must take place during the week as life rolls along. Maybe it takes place over a cup of coffee. Maybe relationship building happens when we work on a project with another person. Maybe it takes place when we go somewhere with another person and find out who they really are. However it takes place, it requires a committed effort and must be an authentic reach to another human being. It will take time and cannot be rushed. Real relationships are built over time by real people.
Not until some real relationship building takes place, will people eagerly and genuinely become part of an organized small group. That may be why small groups have failed to succeed in some places. It didn't have a chance of making it as a real small group. In my particular setting, it might take 100-150 "in relationship" to turn from status quo to the entrance of excellence, or where you can move on with continuous relationship building that spawns other types of movement.
If you don't have small groups and you are living in a no-relationship atmosphere, you've got to start somewhere and I think it is starting with one individual building a relationship with another. Before you know it, you will have a foundation on which to build. Until then, nothing will seem to work and you will be one frustrated person.
Steve, thanks for getting me to think about this subject. I think it is one of the most valuable things I've read in a 2008. It put some things in focus for me, when it was a little blurry.