Life is hard ... that's the title of the first chapter in a book our church staff is reading together - Side By Side by Edward T. Welch. It's an easy read and great for prompting discussion. The basic idea of the book is simple; "... those who help best are the ones who both need help and give help. A healthy community is dependent on all of us being both." (p.11) Welch goes on to say, "We were meant to walk side by side, an interdependent body of weak people. God is pleased to grow and change us through the help of people who have been re-created in Christ and empowered by the Spirit. That is how life in the church works." (p.12)
Everybody has some idea of how the church is supposed to work. Most of us, at least in the back of our minds, believe that people in the church should have their act together. We don't go around saying that but our attitudes, actions, and sometimes other words betray our hearts. When we go through periods of "weakness" we tend to withdraw from church because of shame and because we think we're no longer acceptable. We despair and sometimes give up because the church is full of hypocrites. We're slow to forgive others who fail us because they weren't very "Christian" in the way they treated us. While we expect others to accept and understand our weaknesses, fears, limitation, struggles, anxieties, and problems we're often not willing to give others room for the same or similar issues. We essentially consider ourselves to be consumers, expecting the church to cater to our felt needs rather than embracing the idea that church life is about weak people living life side by side. We refuse to be open and transparent about our sins because it would expose how weak and dependent we are.
This past Sunday the Morgans gave a helpful and informative update on their ongoing ministry. Laura shared that she feels called to come alongside and walk with other missionaries who are hurting. Bill Nikides, a fellow missionary who was our guest speaker for the day, mentioned how necessary and beneficial that is to missionaries on the field. Most likely all who heard Laura here at CPC this past Sunday said something like this to themselves: "I'm not a missionary but I wish someone would come alongside and walk with me through the hardness of life." Well, here's the reality ... God has given you such a person! No, Laura can't do it for all of us. You probably already know I'm not very good at doing that with many people. So who is this person? The one for you is simply another church member. That sounds simple but at the same time it's incredibly profound. As Welch says, "we are meant to walk side by side, an interdependent body of weak people ... That is how the church works."
And as you're comforted in the knowledge that God has someone to walk by your side through the difficulty and pain of life, you must also realize that you are that person for someone else! There is, right now, today, at Community Presbyterian Church someone who needs you to come to their side and walk with them. "That is how the church works." Please don't leave another brother or sister stranded and alone.
Pray for me as I ask the Lord to grow me in this area ... again, it's a known and visible deficiency in my ministry. Pray for our staff as we all desire to better care for one another. Pray for CPC, that we would be known as a "weak" church family who finds amazing grace and strength in our Lord Jesus.