The Commoditisation of Relationships

A few years ago I went to visit a young church leader whose church and ministry was expanding really rapidly. I was excited about our conversation and thrilled to hear of another church in the UK doing great things and reaching hundreds of people.

However, as we began to talk about relationships my alarm bells began to ring. I wasn’t the only person in the car that day, I had another young leader with me and the first alarm bell that began to ring was the tendency for someone’s meteoric rise or success to make them an authority on every subject they speak about. This, of course, is nothing new and not confined to the Church world. That day the subject was relationships, a leaders key relationships in particular and the second young leader was buying everything that was being sold although, in my opinion, the goods were defective.

The second alarm bell and the one that I am addressing here is what I have called the commoditisation of relationships.

Treat a human being as an end and not a means, a subject and not an object, nor a commodity of trade  – Pope John Paul II

Using relationships as commodities, a means to get what we want.  Just what we want will not lead to the good life, the abundant life that has been promised

I think that relationships are more than commodities, they form our safe zone, our accountability zone, our place of counsel, our place of support, they help us to shape who we are and help us discover the place that we will occupy in this world.

Our throwaway culture isn’t just making us callous about tossing away that old iPhone the second a new one comes out, even though the old iPhone was working just fine. It’s also making us indifferent to friendships.

“It might be fine to have disposable nappies but it isn’t fine to have disposable friendships.”

During the conversation that day, I asked who this leader related to. I was interested who he saw as mentors, who he viewed as leading him, who could speak into his life and who could speak into his operations. The answer was, “No one, I don’t need anyone. That relational thinking is outdated, outmoded.” That response really challenged me. firstly because it’s not how I think and I certainly didn’t want my own thinking to be outdated or outmoded. Secondly, because it felt dangerous, extremely dangerous and without going into detail, so it proved.

In Church thinking, independence and non-accountability is a killer, it always has been and it always will be. Actually, recent studies from the University of Kansas show that this commoditisation approach to relationships is a killer too.

A recent article about these studies said,

This trivial destruction of relationships is more worrying when you consider other research that shows our real-life social networks are as important to our health as diet and exercise.

This need for relationships is as relevant today as ever. It is relevant for leaders and it is necessary for their churches. Treating relationships as commodities that we can accept and discard at will is certain to prove detrimental in our future. Here’s a few thoughts on the back end of this that I hope will be instructive and helpful.


As human beings we live life alone too much, we travel through life alone. It’s not what we were made for. We were made to travel together in tribe it is the way that God has wired you, to travel together in tribe, to be a part of a people.

1 Peter 2:10

Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.

So here’s what God wants for us, he wants us to move from person to people. In short he wants us to find our tribe. He wants this for individuals but also for Churches.

What would it mean for me to open my life to God, to be a person of faith, to move from person to people, from individual to tribe. It means no matter what corner of the world you find yourself in, you are a part of  God’s holy people, Gods Tribe… This is who you are!


Notice I didn’t say that your tribe carries your DNA. It doesn’t work that way, you come from somewhere. Somewhere has shaped you, somewhere has influenced you. At a basic cellular level you have been designed by and for your tribe.

Why is this interesting? Well, because as individual as you feel, as powerful as you feel, as libertarian as you feel at a cellular level you are part of a tribe. You are connected, you have  descendants, you have people who came before you.

On a psychological level you have a need, it’s the need to belong and it’s huge. Ignore this need and it will hurt you because, as I said earlier you are not meant to travel alone…

Our need to belong is more than a need for companionship. It is in our belonging that we truly discover  Purpose: Destiny: Identity:

We make a grave mistake when, either as an individual or as a group we elevate ideas of independence.


When we are alone it’s hard to make sense of life, how will we answer the question why am I here? Have you heard people say, “Family is everything?” They are right, that’s why we like to say Church is family, it’s in being a people, a tribe that we discover meaning.


From Adam in the garden of Eden to free radical cells in our bodies disconnection isn’t good. Free radical sounds so cool doesn’t it? But when it’s a cell in your body or a disconnected spirit it is the most harmful thing known to man.


imageA lone wolf, like free radical sounds so cool. So cool I fact that Chuck Norris named a Cigar brand lone wolf. Wolves, however, are only powerful in a pack. Remove a wolf from it’s tribe, it’s pack and it becomes a scavenger, it feeds off others rather than contributing.

The scriptures teach us that we were made for community, we were made for a tribe and within our tribe we discover identity, purpose, destiny.

Relationships are more than commodities: FIND YOUR TRIBE