So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise. John 5:19
And rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, he departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed. Mark 1:35
If your church is anything at all like mine, there is a pretty limitless supply of human needs and desperation within a 5 mile radius of it in any direction. There are single moms struggling to make ends meet, there is poverty and homelessness, there are drug addicts and prostitutes, there are sick people and broken people…lots of reminders all around us that we live in a broken world. I wonder if all that brokenness causes you to lose sleep at night, trying to discern what needs are your church’s to meet and what ones are not?
You cannot meet them all. And even if you could, it is probably not God’s assignment for your church to meet them all. He is funny that way. Like a tornado which touches down on one house and leaves the one next to it standing, God’s assignments for us often have us meeting needs in one person (or one family or one group), without meeting the needs of scores of others all around them.
That was the disciples’ experience with Jesus in John, chapter 5 at the pool at Bethesda. A pool surrounded by a “multitude” of crippled and lame people. The disciples followed Jesus to the pool, watched him heal one man, and then watched him leave all the others behind. I don’t know about you, but that would have troubled me a great deal! …
When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time, he asked him, “Do you want to get well?” John 5:6
Step 6: We are entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.
[I am using these Tuesday Re-mixes for a few weeks to think (again) about addiction to self-reliance and how that addiction is one of the biggest challenges to genuine community which we face in the American church culture.]
So, in our 12-step program to recover from our addiction to self-reliance, step 6 is that we are “entirely ready to have God remove” this character defect. Well, that really is the question, isn’t it? Are we entirely ready to give up our addiction to self-reliance? Are we entirely ready to start opening our lives up to God and to God’s people and to start leaning into community?
When I was in college, I blew my knee out messing around in the gym. It was my first serious injury of my life. I waited a week or so before going to the doctor, because my addiction to self-reliance was already well-developed by then. When I did finally go to the doctor, it was still pretty swollen. He told me that he could not diagnose it with all that fluid on it. He would need to aspirate it in order to check it out. That meant he would need to stick a long needle into my knee joint and draw out the fluid. I grabbed my things and left. Self-reliance was looking like a pretty good option to me at that point.
Several weeks later, the swelling had all but gone and the pain had subsided pretty well too. I decided it was healthy enough …
Tuesday Remix – This is a popular post from last year, updated and resubmitted for your consideration and comments.
Our Bible study in my church this Summer has been on missional living and ministering outside the walls of the church. It looks at the New Testament church as described in the Bible and observes that those Christians (all of them…not just the apostles) were actively involved in responding to the human needs around them. Only some of them were Apostles, only some were pastors, but all of them were ministers…all of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and were being used by God to accomplish significant things in the world around them. You may recall from this post that I believe in a mobilized laity, i.e., laymen who are actively involved in ministry.
And so these observations beg the question: what about my church? How can I use my influence to help my local body of believers become more ministry-minded and people-focused?
Well, I can tell you from personal experience what won’t work.
Do NOT start by identifying all of the human suffering and human needs around your church and then trying to structure to meet those needs. That approach seems logical enough. It is what I would call an “agency” approach: first identify the needs, then structure to meet them, then raise the funds to support the structure, then recruit the human resources to support the vision. It makes sense, doesn’t it? But without a healthy dose of exploring who your people are (i.e., your church, your pool of human resources) and how God is at work in their lives and how they have been gifted, you will end up with a ministry that looks good on paper but which lacks energy, passion, a sense of God’s presence …