Tag Archives: Friends

God Is Good! All The Time!

Have you heard that as a cheer? We hear it when something “good” happens. We hear it less often when nothing good happens, and even less often when BAD things happen.

But he is still good.

I heard good news last week. In fact, the news was “good” to a whole region of people. Western New York oft repeated the phrase, “God is good!” on Twitter, Facebook and out loud upon hearing the news that former Buffalo Bills quarterback, Jim Kelly—a member of the NFL Hall of Fame, and beloved by so many here, and around the world—was cancer-free, again! (The second time he’s had to fight cancer, and won.)

Jim has an incredible story, really. He was not such a nice guy in his playing days. But God has used one crazy, tragic event after another to transform him into a man who is so generous, so thoughtful toward others, some might hardly recognize him. He does much good for many people, and is loved (as I said) by so many.

lightning_strikes_storm_cloud

God is good! All the time!

But when I read and heard all those things, there was a twinge of “yucky” feelings in me. (And I now admit, that really should not be there. I am to rejoice with those who rejoice. The Kelly news should be celebrated! It’s great! God is good!)

I could only think, “Would those people have said the same thing, ‘God is good, all the time!’, had God not written a full recovery into Jim’s story? They might… but probably fewer people would remember to say it.

Job did. He had absolutely everything taken from him other than his wife, and his life. All his children, his wealth, his possessions, even his health. And still he said:

He said,

“I came naked from my mother’s womb,
and I will be naked when I leave.
The Lord gave me what I had,
and the Lord has taken it away.
Praise the name of the Lord!”

We’ve heard the story. But have you lived it? Are you now? We know many people dealing with many hard things, and despite the wearisome, never-ending, painful, life-draining circumstances they are enduring, they too will staunchly declare: God is good! All the time!

They know He is. They’ve felt him, even in the darkest moments, reminding them of his deep love for them, and his true goodness, and his constant care and affection for them. Not just a Bible memory verse, but an every day—every moment—reality.

Do you know that? I ask myself, do I? Am I not prone to the same “God is Good” when things go the way I hope they would go, and less often when they do not?

Yes. I am weak. I can not always (without hesitation) say “Praise the name of the Lord!” as Job, or my friends.

But their example reminds me that even in the most unimaginable, unwanted, nearly-hopeless situations… yet we have hope. We know that he is with us. Really with us. When you see these friends, you can’t help but smile in response to their smiles! What a great example of the hope we have in Jesus, and the true joy we can know in him (not to mention a great example of the love of a husband and wife for each other, enduring together all things, no matter how difficult).

What is life throwing at you? What is too hard to handle, to bear, to stand up under.

Stop trying to stand. Rest. Trust. Hope.

Have you not known? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable. He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength. Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted; but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.

Those are words on a poster—until you need them. And we all do, or someday will.

Count it pure joy when you face trials of many kinds. They are reminders that we need him, yes, and it is usually in those times that we are reminded that (even better) He is with us.

So it is true: God is good, all the time. All the time, God is good.

The trick is learning to say that when the times are less than “good”. Still he is and always will be… good.

The Shimps

The Shimp Family

Our friends could use your help.

All of a sudden, this January, their life was flipped upside down.

On January 16th, of 2014, Scott was diagnosed with stage 4 Esophogeal cancer. Treatment began almost immediately and treatment is now under way. On January 23rd, Scott completed his first round of Chemo treatment.

Scott is younger than me. They have a son who is not even two years old. (And three more beautiful children.)

You never know what’s coming…

Of course, lots of people deal with cancer.1 But twice?

We met the Shimp family probably somewhere around the year 2007. In 2006 they learned that their 17-month-old daughter had leukemia. For two years they fought the disease with their tough little Autumn, and two years later, she was cancer free. (And still is today!)

But here they are again.

We know the Shimps through our good friends from college, the Velasquezes. We like to call them, “The Vs”. The Vs are really good at meeting and loving people, and I think that God, knowing that, arranged for them to meet the Shimps—quite randomly, by overheard conversation at a library, only to realize that they shared a back yard!—and subsequently walk through those years with Autumn’s cancer together. And through that “chance” connection, we’ve been able to enjoy their friendship through the years since then, too.

There is a website—supportingtheshimps.com—that explains much more about what is going on, and how you can help. If you are able to help, these are good people to help.

And, if you can believe it, they also just started a new business in 2014. I spoke with Scott this past weekend about that, and he said that is still a go. They produce screen printed t-shirts, and embroidered products in any quantity, with really fast turnaround time (according to Scott… he seemed impressed!) and it is a great way to support their family, as well as accomplish something for your organization, business, etc.

If you need “screen printed or embroidered apparel”, please consider using CrossRoads Apparel!

The Shimps are a family whom God has certainly allowed ample opportunity to trust him, in the roughest of times. And they do. Actively, and inspiringly so. (I know this not just from my own thoughts, but from the comments I read on their website, and Facebook pages, etc.)

We don’t know what will come of this, but that’s one of the neat things about them. They are optimistic, trusting, and taking life moment by moment, walking forward with Jesus.

I’m not sure what I’d do in Scott’s position. I think I would face this giant obstacle with similar determination and trust in God’s goodness. But I’ve not had to face anything quite like this. And I’m not sure what I’d do in Susanna’s place, either, if Jen were the one diagnosed with this powerful, terrible, menacing illness. Susanna is incredibly strong in her faith in Father through this, also.

I’m certain you know people who could use help, too. (And if so, please tell me/us about them in the comments here.) If, after reading this, you are able to and prompted to pray, or to give…

May I request that help be directed toward our friends, the Shimps?

Thanks.

  1. According to cancer.org, about one in two men in the United States will develop cancer at some point in their lives, and one in three women. One in two! And, according to their predictions, 1,600 people per day will perish from the disease in the year 2014. Wow.

[ThisDay] Chapters

Life is change. Everything around us—and even we ourselves—are constantly growing, changing, gaining, losing. This post from January 29th, 2008 was my reflection on how life often changes, even when you don’t want it to. (Sometimes it feels like especially when you don’t want it to!) I hope you’ll enjoy this post as you consider the chapters of your own life.

Chapters

January 29th, 2008

book-chaptersOur closest friends are moving away.

There. I said it. Sometimes I try not to. Other times I say it more than I probably need to. Both are ways to deal with an unexpected (and truthfully, unwanted) change in my life. Our family’s life.

We have known for a while, but I think it’s safe to publicly say now as the decision has been public for a couple weeks. But for quite a bit longer than that we have been thinking and talking together with our friends through the various elements of their big decision. They are quite excited. It’s a great new opportunity for them, and seems to them to be exactly what God has prepared them for. They were expecting a new chapter in their life and it looks like this is it!

For us there are much more mixed emotions.

On the one hand, we are of course excited for our friends. We love them and you can’t help but be excited along with people you love. You are excited when they are excited. You hurt when they hurt. And so on. But on the other hand, it will be very different with them gone.

Of course I know that life is change. “The only thing certain in life is that life is not certain,” or something like that. Life is all about changes. Chapters, if you will. And we have actually had a good two or three chapters with these friends. Going way back to college days (chapter one) and then moving together to work at the same church in upstate NY (chapter two). Then bring Jen back into the equation after her one-year internship in Indiana (chapter three) and then we both started having children (chapter four) and maybe even add one more chapter for when we both had finished our time at the church that brought us to this town in the first place (chapter five).

That’s a lot of chapters.

And there will be more. Perhaps only one more. (The “rest of life” chapter.) But how can you ever know? If change is the only certain thing in life, who knows if we might meet up again somewhere down the road?

But for now… I’ve mostly just been sad.

When someone dies, people are affected in different ways. The people who spend the most time with the lost loved one are of course affected the most. We saw this when Jen’s brother died. Her parents were devastated for a long time. They had poured their lives into him. He lived with them again, and so they were spending every day with him. We were all hurt by the loss, but I believe they were affected the most.

In a way, it’s similar with our friends. No… they aren’t dying. 🙂 I’m grateful for Skype and e-mail and phone calls (and the occasional visit!). The similarity for me is just in the closeness both emotionally and in time spent together. These friends are the ones we share the most life with. Often at least a couple visits in a week, and of course every birthday and other special day. (We have lots of those….) 🙂 Our kids call them “aunt” and “uncle” as well, which is intended to reveal a closer relationship. We have a few other friends whom our kids call “aunt” and “uncle” but none fit quite as appropriately. We have joked since our first children were born (we had a boy and they had a girl) that our kids might one day be married. And I guess we just assumed they would at least grow up together.

It will definitely be hard when they leave. It’s nice that the end of this chapter – this section – is not abrupt. They will have a few more months of tying up things here. For now, we’re enjoying the last part of this chapter.

And I know there will be more. And I’m grateful for the five (or more) that we have had. And life will be full of many more chapters.

It’s still not always fun to move on.

OTHER POSTS from JANUARY 29th

[ThisDay] Life Suddenly Changed

You never know what a day is going to bring. We don’t even know if we’ll see the next day! Life unfolds before us—good and bad, joy and sorrow—without our permission, and usually without much influence from us at all. January twenty-eight of two thousand eleven was one of those days for us. Some new, good friends—our kids had almost instantly taken to them as adopted grandparents—had their world dramatically altered in a moment by a sudden, unexpected death. The ripples from this sudden absence of one changed our life that day, too. Remember to cherish those you love today, and hopefully also know and enjoy that you are cherished by someone(s), too. We never know what the next moment will bring.

Life Suddenly Changed

January 28th, 2011

pacific-sunsetA friend of ours passed away this morning. It was very unexpected, apparently very sudden (though I do not fully know the details) and… it just feels very final.

I have not known this friend very long. We met his daughter and her family a little more than a year ago when they moved to our town. They home school their children and had met some mutual home schooling friends who introduced us and we pretty quickly became good friends. Her parents moved to town shortly after her dad had a massive heart attack (about one year ago) to live in the apartment attached to their house. It was all very God-arranged.

We met Wayne & his wife shortly after they moved to town and, likely due to our good friendship with their daughter and family, they quickly became our good friends too. They were equally quickly “adopted” by our kids as their third set of grandparents. (Really! There was even a signed certificate created by our kids!) 🙂 They graciously offered an open invitation to us to watch our kids any time Jen and I needed to get out for some no-kids time. (And we have taken them up on that invite several times!)

The first time I met Wayne, I realized we had a shared love of words. Both reading and writing. Wayne has been far more prolific than I in both departments, to be sure. I am currently reading a book he recommended, and I had been talking with him about helping him publish some of his books. I hope to still do that for him.

It’s been a strange day. Death has not touched me much in life. Presently, I can only think of two people who were really close to me who have died. My Mom’s dad died when I was 12 or 13. I remember that, and remember thinking, “Wow… that’s weird.” But I didn’t realize till later that reaction was due (at least in part) to my Mom’s relationship with him—I had only been with him a handful of times. The other person is my wife’s brother, Jeff. My brother-in-law for only about a year. He died just before our first son Ian was born. (I remember it was really hard. Really shocking. Very sad.) That’s the reason that Ian bears his name. (Ian Jeffrey Campbell).

Otherwise, death has always seemed to be a couple relationships away from me.

But I know Wayne. He is my friend. I already miss him.

I was processing all of this with another friend in an online conversation when I said, “Life just changed suddenly.” I didn’t mean it to be profound, but the more I thought of it, the more I realized it was true. Life—my life—is now different, and quite suddenly so.

Now, I’m sure I don’t hurt nearly as much as our friends who lost a dad, a husband, a grandpa … and we will be asking God to fill the large void they now (suddenly) have in their lives. He can and I know he will…

But there is a hole. There is an absence. Life… is different.

Each of us is so much more impactful than we admit. (Or perhaps we really don’t realize, or understand it.) Every person we know, every place we go, everything we do … is part of the “fabric” of the lives of all those around us. So, the closer we are, the more time we spend with people, the more the void is felt. But all of us feel the absence. All of us.

So I will (and already do) miss him.

Although I am not as naive as to think that death would never touch me, it still nearly always comes as a shock. We are such hardy, fragile creatures. One moment it’s incredible what we can come through, and the next moment we can be gone within that moment. We just never know.

What that means—since we know that—is that each moment we have is precious. We can very easily get to thinking otherwise. Life’s daily details overtake (perhaps overwhelm) our conscious thoughts. But we just never know when we won’t have the people we love with us anymore. All we know is that we have them—we are with them—now.

Please take a moment today, after you read this, and remind the people around you how much they mean to you. Take a second to encourage some of the greatness you see in them. Maybe take more than a second. We can’t live everyday worried that we are going to lose those we love, but, we can certainly remember to let them know what they mean to us as often as possible.

I’m glad to have known Wayne Leavitt. I hope to see him again one day.

Until then, while I am still here, I am now reminded to enjoy the moments I have with the people whose lives God has intertwined with mine, and to let them know how glad I am that he has.

I hope you will do the same.

OTHER POSTS from JANUARY 28th

[ThisDay] First And Second Birthdays

Today’s post was a poignant piece, originally published one year after the death of a family friend. We all celebrate birthdays, but it’s harder to celebrate our second birthdays; at least it’s hard for those left behind here in this mortal existence. I wrote this about one year after our friend died, and one day after my mom’s “first” birthday (Jan 26th). If you’d like to read something lighter, January 27th is an active day for publishing in GregsHead.net history. See the list at the end of the post for the lighter fare. But today’s primary selection is just below. Enjoy.

First And Second Birthdays

January 27th, 2012

Yesterday was my Mom’s birthday. January 26th is a circled day on the calendar, celebrated by our family. Has been for as long as I have memories. All day long, we think of my Mom. We call, we video chat, we send cards… we celebrate the life she began on January 26th, 19xx. 🙂

(I don’t know that my Mom has any real problem with me sharing her age, but… just in case… since she reads this blog … Suffice it to say that this year her two-digit age ends with a zero! So in some ways it was an even more memorable/special year.)

I love my Mom and love celebrating her birthday! (Even if we’re not in the same location on the birthday day.)

At some point during that day I was reminded that the 26th of January is also the birth day of our good friend’s Mom. She, too was born on the twenty-sixth day of the first month of the year. If I recollect correctly, she was even born in the same state, not far from where my Mom was born. She too has children who love her, and many grandkids.

But she has another birthday.

A little over a decade ago, she was born into her eternal life. She is now with Jesus. So her birthday is celebrated at least a little differently than the way we celebrate January 26th here, where we can still show our love and see it received, and given back.

It’s better to be with the Lord. The Bible tells us so. But I’d imagine first birthdays are at least a little harder when the one birthed has had their second birthday already, and you’re left celebrating without them.

This week I’ve also been thinking of our friends who are coming up on the one-year anniversary of a second birthday. Tomorrow will be one year since our friends lost a Dad and a Husband and a Grandpa; and since we lost someone who was becoming a good friend.

Death leaves such an absence. It’s hard to celebrate the second birthdays. Again, it’s better to be with the Lord, but that truth seems distant when the life so suddenly changes, and the void is so clearly known and seen and felt.

I know it’s been rough again lately for our friend who lost her Dad. (And I know for many years our friend who lost her Mom has missed her so dearly on many occasions, more than just first and second birthdays.)

It definitely makes me value the days that I have now with my Mom, who’s still only had her first birthday.

The hope that we have runs deep. I know and trust that once we have both passed the threshold into our eternal life, I won’t have to live or think about living life without my Mom in my life. That is a great hope.

But I’ll say it again: for now, on at least some levels, I’m very glad my Mom is still only one.

I rejoice for the lives of the two parents I know, mentioned above, who are missed yesterday and tomorrow. They loved well and are still well loved. I am praying peace now for the kids who miss their beloved parents on their first and second birthdays respectively. But I already know they have hope. And in that I also rejoice.

This talk of “second birthdays” has a bit of a morbid undertone, but if you know our Jesus, it’s a wonderful thing when you turn two.

It’s just harder for all the one-year-olds who are still waiting for their own second birthday.

It will come. And then others will both mourn and rejoice on our two birthdays. And we will celebrate with all of the ones we loved who went before us.

What a birthday party that will be.


Note: This photo of my Mom is slightly dated, but it’s a good one, with several of our kids loving their Grammy. There are not many photos of my Mom in existence, and I’m nearly certain this is the only one published online! So, I might get in a tiny bit of trouble, but… I know she still loves me. Right, Mom? 🙂

OTHER POSTS from JANUARY 27th

[ThisDay] Relating

Only two posts were written on January 26th in all of the years of published words here at GregsHead.net. Two! That is interesting… but maybe even more interesting is that this day on the calendar is the very day that my Mum was born! Happy birthday, Mum! (We’re not British, so… well… I don’t know why I’m using their spelling? Maybe it’s just my favourite, or something?) 🙂 Today’s post comes from the year twenty-twelve, when I wrote about something that I often write about—the importance of relationship. Enjoy!

Relationship

January 26th, 2012

You might think I write because I have answers. Or maybe that I think I have answers. Sometimes I guess I do have a certain bit of information I learned that I’d like to share, or a thought on something that might be worth your consideration, it’s true. But often I will write more because of questions I have, rather than answers.

Tonight is one such night.

I have been thinking about the way we relate to each other as a culture for quite some time now. (Search for “Relationship” in the search box to the right and you’ll see what I mean.) It has been important to me for a number of reasons. How we Christians relate to each other as the church, and also how our family relates to and with the people around us. Life is relationship, so it makes sense to me that this would be a common thought thread through many of my days.

Lately I’ve just been wishing there was another family or two with whom we could “do life”. People that we’d spend several days a week with, for varying lengths of time, sharing the important and unimportant things of life.

There are some folks we see pretty often, and whom I feel know us well and vice versa. These are all valued friendships. I’ve just been wondering why there isn’t more? (And by “more” I simply mean more time; more shared life; more relating.)

And I completely understand that part of it is the way we have chosen to do life.

We are not actually removed from life with other people (there are people all around, and we are glad to be with other people) but we are “removed” from the standard relational structures of our society. We home school our kids, so we are not part of the public school community. (That of course is a huge chunk of life for many people with families similar to ours.) We are not part of a “church with a name”, so though we have many great relationships with Christians whom we share our life with God with… well, we aren’t “part” of that “community”.

It seems to me that we Americans can only relate when we are plugged into a larger social structure. We don’t know how to stop over for tea anymore. We don’t know how to hang out on someone’s porch. (Not in the winter time, of course…) We rely on our busy schedules to keep us near to and connected with the people we know. (And that is how we know anyone at all: by being part of the same activities.) When you are not involved in the “activities” of the busy American life, it’s easy to feel “forgotten”.

Now, the weirdest part—and where I have the most questions—is that I know some busy people who have definitely not forgotten about us, and yet we rarely see them. For one reason or another, there’s just not enough time in the week (or month!) to find ourselves in the same physical space to enjoy some time together. But again, if we were doing the same things, we’d either (1) feel like we had “seen” them, and so met the invisible relational quota, or, (2) be reminded/encouraged to make sure to plan other visiting times, or even just drop by?

I’m really not complaining. Even just today a friend dropped in for a brief visit that was much appreciated. And as I said, God has placed some great people around us and we love being part of their lives and having them in ours.

I’m just so baffled by the way we do this. Trying to work out these thoughts!

Now, I think there are regions of our country, in our culture, who live this out differently. I think maybe the South is a bit more relational by default. We experienced this a little when we spent a week of vacation down south this past fall. Random strangers will begin conversations with you at any place or time, and not always just small talk. That is seems to me a bit “healthier” relationally, but I admit, it could just be a personal preference/personality thing. (But then, how is it nearly universally true of one of our American cultures?)

The point is, we are definitely made for relationship. God wired us that way. We’re not meant to be alone. But are we only meant to be together in order to put on, partake in, or attend some function? Aren’t we on some level just supposed to enjoy the company of each other?

I really love it when people just drop by!

(Is it just a structured vs. unstructured lifestyle question I’m really asking?? No. I really think it’s deeper.)

We are missing something. With all our busyness, we are missing each other. We see each other. And in that way we feel a part of a community, but too often keeping our schedules overpowers the opportunities to give to and draw from the people God has surrounded us with.

And, I will also admit to perhaps over-thinking this. I am definitely wont to do that. But something in my gut says there’s more here. There’s more for us. We have a form of relating but deny it’s power. (To twist a Scripture verse…) 🙂

I’ll keep on this and see what Jesus shows me over the next few days, weeks. Maybe you have something to add? Please do below.

Or, just drop by for tea.

OTHER POSTS from JANUARY 26th

Focus [Church Book Excerpt]

There's The Steeple - Here's The Church | Greg Campbell | The Church BookFridays in August will be featuring a selected chapter from the book I published on the topic of the Church, titled, There’s The Steeple… Here’s The Church—I call it “The Church Book”. If you’d like to read the rest, click the book cover to the left to purchase your copy from Amazon.com! (And, thank you!) Or, see the footer of this post for how to obtain a FREE copy.


Today is the final chapter of this month of “Church Book Excerpts” from the book you see above. If you like what you’ve read, I’d love for you to have a copy of the book. Click through the links above (and also, more information in the article’s footer) to find out how to get your copy.

This chapter is a bit longer, but worth thinking through. Sometimes it’s good to take a look at your focus, and, as necessary, refocus your lens on what you’re truly hoping to capture.

Focus

w
e are off this weekend—not singing anywhere—and even have a break from the kids, while they are with Grandma. So, sometimes when a free weekend presents itself, we will enjoy the quietness and solitude of home when we would otherwise be “working” on a weekend, leading worship in various locations. Today, though we both really wanted to join our friends at Cross Creek Church in Palmyra. When we heard songs that they often do playing on our iPod, we thought of them. We thought of how long it has been since we have seen many of them, since outside of Cross Creek, our lives do not connect. We just had a longing to be there.

So, thanks to a last minute phone call with a friend this morning where we were reminded of the new meeting times, we made it! And it was great to see everyone! It had been a long time, but we got a sentence or two in with most of the folks we know. At least a handshake and a genuine, “Hello.” It was wonderful.

As I was preparing for that this morning, looking forward to seeing everyone, I remembered a brief conversation with a pastor friend of ours. We were talking about how I personally get the most out of any times where I get to connect with friends, other believers who are there for the morning meeting. We catch up on life, what God has been or is doing in their life. How the family is doing, what’s new… all of that sort of stuff. A real connection that seems hard in between the scheduled goings on, and is impossible as I sit quietly on my duff placing my attention on the happenings in the front of the room.

When I mentioned that was what meant the most to me, he quipped with a sarcastic smile, “Why don’t you just go join the moose lodge?!” He was not telling me I should leave, just revealing the focus that he places on our large group gatherings. They are the time we come to learn, to “worship”, and to focus on God—not each other. It’s a vital piece that we do it together, as the family of God, but it’s not the focus.

That is where I beg to differ. I think that “worship” is not a time or a place (as Jesus told the Samaritan woman in John 4) but something we do with every breath. (A popular song uses just those words, “With ev’ry breath I’m praising you…”) So my main reason for going to a large group gathering of believers then is not to worship, since that is something I do every day, all the time, anywhere.

But what about the teaching? Surely that is a reason to attend such a gathering? Absolutely! While I do not deny that so much can be learned from the great teachers who can present clear and understandable truths about the Kingdom from their study and their experience and walk with God, that still is not my main focus for attending such a meeting. Again, I submit that throughout the remainder of each week, my mind and heart are filled with great thinkers’ thoughts on the Kingdom be they in books, web pages, MP3s, radio programs… what have you. There is such a wealth of great teaching available to anyone and everyone today that the Sunday morning gathering is certainly not my primary source of such teaching. And, aside from all of the “expert” teaching we receive from the so-called “professionals”, I enjoy learning from my neighbors, the way they interact with my Father. I enjoy listening to God’s voice through the experiences of friends who may not think themselves teachers, but by sharing their lives with me take on that very role in my life.

So again, at least for me, the reason for attending such a meeting is not to worship—that happens all week long, all the time—nor is it to “be fed” as we like to call it. It is not for the teaching, as again, there is no shortage of that in my life.

Is it perhaps the specialness of the place? No. I mentioned that already, too. Jesus said that worship is not a located thing. There is no place we can go to be closer to him as he now resides in us. In us! We are the temple of the Holy Spirit! That is too deep to go into here. Perhaps another time.

So that leaves me with… the other believers! The reason that I want to attend such a meeting has nothing to do with anything that is planned. Though that is always nice—and helpful—I could get that anywhere. The reason for me is to connect with other believers—especially ones I would not otherwise connect with. To share some piece of our current journey together. To feel and see the bigness of God’s family. So much larger than me. So much larger than my small group of friends. He is real and central in so many lives other than my own. And I love to know Him through them.

Unfortunately, if this is the main reason for Christians gathering in large groups, you’d never know it. The focus certainly seems to be on the events planned for that day. Even today, I was told when to stand, when to sit, and what would be happening next. Nothing out of the ordinary. That’s what we do. But, if the greatest thing we have as we gather is each other, it does not seem like that element is being emphasized or facilitated in any way, does it? Do we make that a priority in our gatherings?

Some churches do this well. While maintaining a priority on the up-front events, they carve out a decent amount of time for people-connecting. Cross Creek is one such group. There is a time in the middle to get some coffee and just say hello to everyone. Theirs lasts perhaps 5-6 minutes. There has been a church or two along our path who has taken as much as 15 minutes for such an event. That’s great! But again, usually it is much less than 10% of the time we are together. Usually much less. Often there is a bit more time in the parking lot, or the lobby after the scheduled portion of the meeting is over, but too frequently, everyone has other things they need to get on to.

Please do not think I fault only those responsible for planning the church gatherings. I do not presume that they have so much influence over an entire culture. Certainly a good portion of the blame for a misplaced focus rests on those who “attend” these meetings. Arriving late (due to rousing and preparing a family of small children at such a time of the day, no doubt…) and getting everyone to their respective rooms, entering the main room just in time to sing the last song with everyone. Then sitting through the remaining portion of the show, taking notes and attempting to hear God’s truth for their personal life packed into about 45 minutes of one hour. As it’s over, the rush to pick up the kids ensues. After collecting them all, their tiredness, and crankiness overtakes your desire to connect with other believers, and you rush out the door to get home, or to do whatever else might be planned before you can go home.

Life these days is certainly a rush. That’s why we try and pack so much into a “worship service”. We “only have an hour a week to reach them”. That is the mentality in some circles. At least from the leadership position. Perhaps there is an equally sad mentality from the seats. “You only have one hour to reach me, God… so say something meaningful… and quick!

So while we go expecting to give to God, and him to us, we miss the joy of community. We miss perhaps the greatest part of “the church”. Not the building, the time, the meeting, or the organization. The people whom God has called to himself. From out of the world, into His Kingdom. The Believers. The Saints. The Called Out Ones. His Church.

Acts 4:32

All the believers were of one heart and mind, and they felt that what they owned was not their own; they shared everything they had.

Everything was about the oneness. Everything was about the togetherness. They loved being together. They shared everything. All the time. Acts 2 says they even went to the temple everyday to worship (as was their custom). They ate together, prayed together, shared meals together… even shared money. Life was about being together. And why not? The rest of the world hated them. The persecution was on a level that we can not comprehend in 21st century America. We have not, and perhaps will not experience such hardship. So to join together was an oasis in the desert. It was the living water of Jesus—his very body—together as one. How could they come together but once a week and then only to sit and listen to a presentation, with minimal participation, organized and performed by a select few? Where was the sharing of everything there?

No. Their focus was not on the schedule of a planned meeting. It was on each other. On their joys, on their hardships. On their shared journey with an amazing Father. That is where I find joy—even in as little time as is allotted for such—that is where I find joy when gathering with other believers.

Perhaps that is just me being the way God made me? Or, perhaps our focus is slightly shifted. What if we re-focused? What if our gatherings were not as much about the individual and God, but more about his children encouraging and exhorting each other? Wouldn’t that be as much (or more?) worship than listening to a carefully and wonderfully crafted hour of events?

Well, at least that’s how it looks through my lens.

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This post is a chapter in the book There’s The Steeple… Here’s The Church by Greg Campbell, available through Amazon.com. If you’d like to purchase the book, please click the book title in the previous sentence. If you’d like a free PDF version, it is available here. Also have some of the audio version available at church.gregshead.net. Thanks for reading, sharing, and feel free to add to the discussion in the comments below, or wherever else you can reach me.