The mission we are called into is not one we can undertake alone. As we dig in to the The Right Tools and the Right Access series, we need to carefully consider that ours is not a solo assignment. We are in this together. We need access to each other.
In addition to our access to the Holy Spirit, we also need to pay attention to our access to each other. The journey of discipleship is not one that we are meant to walk alone. In fact, we can’t make it alone. Thankfully, we don’t have to. God has given us each other. In each other, we will find friends and fellow travelers, supporters and comforters; we’ll find those who challenge us beyond what we thought was capable and those who guide us to realize tomorrows we never would have even imagined on our own. One of His greatest gifts to us is each other.
He is the one who gave these gifts to the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers. Their responsibility is to equip God’s people to do His work and build up the church, the body of Christ… Under His direction, the whole body is fitted together perfectly. As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love.
-Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus
It’s not popular to admit we need each other, but we can’t escape the fact that we are made for each other. Each one has a special work that facilitates the health and growth of the whole body. One of the most unhealthy behaviors in the church today is the way we can compartmentalize certain subgroups. On an individual level, we keep others at a distance and never really give them access to what God has to offer through us. We withdraw when things get a little messy or our toes get stepped on one too many times. But if one of God’s greatest gifts to His Body is each other, that means you are part of that gift, too, for the benefit of others. Here are a few ways to give others access to your life:
- Make the most of your circumstances and skills. Your abilities, your work place, your circle of peers and friends – these are not accidental. Be diligent in letting God work through these and make sure you’re keeping sharp enough to take advantage of opportunities to show His grace and love when they come along. Don’t just do your job, do a great job at it.
- Open your doors. Just because your workplace has an open door policy doesn’t mean the people around you feel open to approach. If your door is constantly closed, that sends a very different message and the policy is irrelevant. This works at home, too. Hang out in the yard or the front porch when your neighbors may be around to strike up a conversation. Yes, you may miss some half naked people that no one but dancers ever heard of dancing with other half naked people that used to be famous on tv, but who cares? Really…
- Don’t shrink back from necessary conflict. I have seen very few things cripple the church more than avoiding conflict. Rather than following Jesus’ instructions about reconciling with our brother, we’ll too often just avoid that brother altogether. Sit on the other side of the building, go to a different service or venue, or join a new church… But when we go to these lengths to avoid hurt feelings, we often fail to bring about the reconciliation that Jesus wants to put on display. Is there someone you need to stop avoiding and carefully restore relationship with?
- Have meals together. When we eat together, we open time for conversation to go beyond the first couple minutes of pleasantries and actually get to know each other a little bit. Do this regularly and you are giving people access to your life and building bridges that God will work through to strengthen His Body. Take someone out to eat for lunch after services this Sunday. (And leave a tip that reflects your Father’s generosity to surprise your server.)
- Travel together. As a youth minister, I take this for granted. I get to travel often with a van load of students from our youth ministry to camps or conferences. We enjoy access to each others’ lives because of these trips. But one of my favorite trips was a cross country drive for a conference with our small group of adults. We crowded into a vacation house for a few days, got on each others’ nerves a little bit, and were drawn together in exciting new ways. What if you took your small group or a couple close families to a conference or vacationed together?
- Work together. Find a Habitat for Humanity project nearby or just find someone in need of some maintenance work, grab a few people to conspire with, and do some some good, helpful work side by side.
God has given us each other in the church to strengthen each other for the journey ahead, but also to strengthen our combined efforts to move forward with a gospel of reconciliation in a world that is desperately in need of it. We are joined with a family that stretches across the globe and a couple thousand years that gives evidence of far greater things to come…
Since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily hinders our progress. And let us run with endurance the race that God has set before us. (Hebrews 12:1)
But let’s not run alone. We should go together.