I often find it’s easier to help people get connected to a relationship with God when they’re already focused on and connected with people than it is to get people who are focused on correct doctrine to develop a relationship with God that is lived out through reaching out to others.

I’ve found that people who already have a connection to others and a service orientation absolutely light up when they are introduced to an authentic, living, interactive relationship to God. They come alive as they recognize the piece of the puzzle that was missing for them; introducing the spiritual dynamics of discipleship leads to an experience of personal transformation. When I work with people who discover the basics of discipleship as a personal interaction and relationship with God, I can see how excited they are. I get emails saying how amazing and revolutionary this is for their faith. They are so hungry for the roots of the tree to be in place that when those roots finally dig down into the earth they quickly soak up all of the water.

Conversely, I’ve found that among people who are intensely focused on correct doctrine, often the issue is the heart. They do not have the personal, authentic relationship with God and they don’t have the desire to serve or get involved outside of themselves in compassion ministry or caring for others. The assumption is that if you just think right, everything else works out. In fact, it doesn’t.

If we are only in our heads (focused on doctrine) without a right heart, that has little to do with faith (think Pharisees). Faith is heart-based, backed up by knowledge and understanding (head). Faith naturally wants to lead us to good works, but without good works, faith is useless (James 2).  Knowledge supports faith, but is not where faith originates. Ultimately, we are connected to God via faith/heart. Knowledge alone cannot connect us to God, nor can good works alone.

Obviously we need to think correctly, but our doctrine also needs to transform us. If our doctrine isn’t transformative in terms of how we live, of what value is it?  Genuine faith results in genuine deeds. (James 2)

My conclusion? It’s easier to help service-oriented people get connected to God than it is to get doctrinally-focused people connected to God relationally in a way that leads to outreach. I’m not happy about that conclusion, but so far it’s what my experience has borne out.