Relationships are hard work. Relationships need attention. In order to maintain any relationship, it must be cultivated and nurtured. Are you good in sustaining your relationships? Dunbar tells us that the maximum number of relationships that any one person can sustain is 150. Now for men, that is not a problem. Men have less close relationships than women, by a lot. Men have, on average 1 or 2 close friends while women report having 10-12. Still, if we add in acquaintances, nuclear and extended family members, even men can have up to 50 relationships outside of their work. Women could have 75-100 if we count all the times they meet someone for coffee and a chat. This is all outside of work. If, as a Christian disciple, our work is to be a pastor, or leader in the local church, then we have room for only 50-100 additional persons. This is a major reason why our local churches do not grow. This is our incentive for decline in our local churches. When the local church grows in worship it makes many of us uncomfortable. Someone new may be sitting in our seat. Strangers are all around us, behaving strangely, doing things that are new and take us out of our comfort zone. We do not know these people. They are new to us and we can handle only so many relationships. If we have a chance to give the new, young family, a disapproving stare when their baby acts up, then we will do so. We are unable to get around to all our current friends at worship therefore we are unable (or is it unwilling?) to talk with the visitors in worship.
Maybe it is time to start new groups. Maybe we need to tell our longtime friends at church "Let's make some time on Wednesday to talk about that. I want to go over that with you but I need to show some radical hospitality to these new folks this morning." Maybe we need to quit spending time with the long time friends at church that drain the life out of us and make new friends who are seeking a new connection with God. Remember, 150 relationships is the max.