Networking (by Mark Grizzard)

I am sure I am not alone when I say that one of my favorite places is Green Lake, Wisconsin.  A week-long trip to the Green Lake Conference Center for the Fellowship of American Baptist Musicians conference has been an annual tradition in my family for as long as I can  remember.  Events here, including mission conferences, Quest, etc., continually provide  soul-replenishing opportunities to relax, to grow in faith and ministry skills, and to have joyous  fellowship with some terrific people.

Over the years at these conferences, I have certainly found the axiom to be true that “your friends become your colleagues.”  The kids with whom I sang cheesy youth musicals decades ago are now established leaders in music ministry and education, and our conversations now involve jokes, stories, updates, and increasing amounts of “shop talk.”  This phenomenon is true in many circles for me, and, I’m guessing, it is not unique to musicians.  Hanging out with friends has become mingling with colleagues and, dare I even say it…networking.

The fundamental idea of networking is that building personal relationships is good for your career.  That’s not so bad, right?   It could be heartwarming to think that even the coldest, shrewdest business executive has a pragmatic reason to be nice to people.  However, networking can feel transactional, as if the only reason you might befriend someone is that you believe you will get a benefit in return.  While this attitude can be quite valid at some business luncheons, it can dangerously seep out of the professional world and into all relationships: “If I go to my nephew’s hockey game, he’ll feel obligated to help me move.  I’m there!”

Christ taught us to love each other in the opposite way. He said, “Love each other as I have loved You,” and He showed His love to us by dying on a cross. Nothing we do can match that; there’s no quid pro quo. All we can do is share His love with others by engaging in deep relationships that cost us something. By sacrificing for each other, we show Christ’s love to those around us and make His love more plentiful in the world. John 15:13 says, “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” May we love our friends and colleagues, ready to get nothing in return!