Monday, May 05, 2008

What the Church Really Needs

What if the church needs your weaknesses more than your strengths?

A friend mentioned yesterday that Joni Eareckson Tada says the weak (or needy, I can't remember) are a gift to the church.

A gift. Not a drain. Not a burden.

How hard this is to understand. When I was very depressed, my family and I needed a lot of help from our church. They gave us prayer, meals, help taking care of John, love, encouragement. They took time from their busy lives to spend with us.

It was very difficult for me to receive all of this love and attention. I want love and attention, but I would prefer it to be for my strengths, for how wonderful I am, how much I can give. In fact, though, I was at that time quite unlovable, angry, bitter, and overwhelmed.

God used that experience to humble me, to show me, through others, his love for me as I really am (as opposed to as I want to be). But God also used that experience to bless the people who blessed me.

They were reminded of God's faithfulness to them in hard times, as they encouraged me to hang in there and trust him. They probably appreciated their own situations more. Helping others puts your own problems in perspective. Then, when God suddenly freed me from the bondage of depression, they rejoiced with me. It was their victory, too. They would have been deprived of seeing God's power at work in my life if I had not gone to them for help in my weakness. (Not that I was brave in being vulnerable; just desperate.)

Needs don't have to be overwhelming to bless the giver. While I was depressed, a friend's sister and her family came to the Dallas area to live here for about six months. They needed some household items for that time. I gathered up some towels, sheets, blankets and other things to lend them. Focusing on the needs of someone other than myself gave me relief from my own pain. I know I received more than I gave.

So why aren't we more open about areas of our lives in which we need help? Pride makes it difficult for us to show how weak and needy we are. It is frightening to risk judgment and rejection. But if we act like we have it all together when we don't, we are denying the church the opportunity to grow and to bear witness to God's unconditional love by loving for us in our needs. "We love because he first loved us."

Lots of churches give parishioners opportunities to take spiritual gifts assessments to help them contribute more to the body of Christ. Why not also a spiritual weaknesses assessment? Like spiritual gifts, everyone has weaknesses.

If we see the good only in the strengths of our members, and not our weaknesses, then can we as a church embody the truth of Jesus' words to Paul: "My strength is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness"?


Susan said...

Thanks for readjusting the focus for me. I can imagine how reluctant I would be to let people see the results of my spiritual weakness assessment, thereby proving your point about my pride. I cannot say with Paul that I will boast all the more gladly of my weakness.

MI said...

God's ways are so different from our ways, as you point out, and it is always good to be reminded of that.