As I find myself once again in a position of requiring a lot of help from a lot of different people, I was struck by something the other day. I realized that, when tragedy or hardship strikes, there are those you assume will be the first to be by your side; those who will most quickly offer their help; those who will hurry to be by your side, to pray with you, to care for you, etc. My experience is that yes, indeed many of the people I would most expect to reach out to us do, and sacrifice much along the way. But my experience is also that I am always surprised by those who simply do not respond; those who keep their distance and never come by or who, no matter what the need, never choose to sign up to help.
The flip side of that is that there are always those individuals who completely surprise me by the level of servanthood they extend to us. People who do not know us very well; people whose lives seem already so full and complicated; people with less resources then we have. It is often these folks who show up, sign up, and give so generously as to leave me speechless.
It is a good reminder to me as a church leader that too often the same group of folk get asked to do and lead everything. Meanwhile, that person you least expect sits idly by, waiting for those same invitations to give radically and serve boldly. But because there is that group of people everyone expects to do and lead everything, they never get asked. In my own congregation, I wonder: who are the preachers, worship leaders, administrative leaders, bible teachers who are not exploring their giftedness or calling in these areas simply because someone else is always assumed to be the one to do those things?
In fact, one of the reasons the Evangelical Covenant denomination cites for why churches should plant churches is that by sending a group of leaders out to form a new congregation in a new community, leadership within the existing body is opened up to people who otherwise may never have had the chance to serve. And typically, churches that plant churches by releasing “talented” and “capable” members to leave, grow and thrive while churches that hold tightly to their gifted leaders can very often plateau. My experience has shown this to be true.
As I read emails and take calls from those who are giving themselves to helping us right now, I am reminded that God gifts the ENTIRE body, for the sake of the body, giving what is needed for edification and growth. We need to be careful not to insert too much of our own judgments into that process, as we inevitably will get it wrong sometimes and miss out on the amazing gifts that God has intentionally given to even the most unlikely members.