I have been really struck by the number of “missing person” posts on social media recently – including, of course, some very high profile local stories. As you will know, these have ended with a variety of positive, and in some cases, tragic conclusions. I don’t know the details of the situations behind the stories. I have, however, come away with one overarching reflection; people around us, our friends, our neighbours, our colleagues are under pressure, they are hurting and the chances are we don’t know anything about it – or at least the extent of what is going on.
There are certain things that are hard wired into us as human beings. For example, God has placed a deep spirituality and longing in our hearts (Ecclesiastes 3:11) – even if we don’t recognise it. And in one of the earliest passages in the bible, we hear God saying some of the first words recorded; “it is not good for man to be alone” (Genesis 2:18). This is a really profound truth. God is looking at Adam, the pinnacle of his creativity and concludes that he will be even better in community. The same is true of us today. We are designed to be interdependent. We are designed to walk together through life – through the good times and the challenging times and the very ordinary times in between.
Spur one another on
As believers, this is one of our most counter-cultural facets. If we are honest, we are a bit of a random collection of people – from all walks of life, with different professions and family circumstances; different nationalities and backgrounds – and yet we are part of the same family, enjoying the same inheritance from the same incredible heavenly Father. As members of the same family, we have a responsibility towards one another. To care. To encourage. To challenge. Hebrews 10:24 tells us to “spur one another on to love and good deeds”. “Spur” is an interesting word. We are to encourage, inspire one another to go deeper into what God has for us and to “run hard the race set before us” (Hebrews 12:1-2). But of course a spur isn’t always comfortable. In fact when you think about it in the context of horse riding, it is anything but comfortable for the poor animal being kicked.
We recently had an elders retreat (which was a really brilliant time by the way!) One of the biggest take-aways from that is that we want to be more comfortable being uncomfortable. There are lots of potential implications of that, but let me put one before you. Our world is increasingly superficial. We are more connected than ever before, but we are often more interested in portraying Instagram perfection than we are in forming meaningful relationships with real people. That wasn’t the pattern that Jesus followed. He, of course, reached literally thousands of people with His message, but He chose to intentionally invest in twelve and to go even deeper with three.
That is surely the model we need to follow in the church. That is why we believe in membership. That is why we believe in small groups. That is why we do events like Belong and men’s breakfasts and…
So how do we do go beyond the superficial? That is where we need to be comfortable being uncomfortable. Ask your brothers and sisters how they’re really doing (and listen!). Be interested and intentional. Be willing to be vulnerable in return and actually tell them when you are struggling. Ask for prayer. Offer prayer. And for those you have built trust with (maybe like Jesus you need to find your three?), ask the tough questions: How is your walk with God? How are you honouring God with your finances? How is your marriage? What are you looking at on the internet?
Uncomfortable? Maybe. A vital part of being brothers and sisters? Absolutely.
This should characterise our Sunday gatherings, our small groups and the 1-to-1s that happen all throughout the week. We should all be looking to find someone we can have the trusted and deliberate conversations with. We are not meant to do this journey alone – so go on…take a step, pick up the phone or send a message. You never know how much the person on the other end needed to talk. Oh… and if you don’t have anyone you feel you can talk to, drop me a note.
Colin Ross, May 2019