Church Life, Outreach, Missions
Sharing: A Truly Radical Idea
by Ed Vasicek
When I was very young, about 4 or 5 (about 1960 or 61), I remember picking up
our telephone and hearing a conversation already in place. My mother instructed
me to hang it upit was the other family who shared our party line.
Many of you have probably never heard of a party line. When telephones were considered a luxury, folks would trim costs (and not "max-out" the phone company's resources) by sharing a line. In our case, we shared a line with a neighbor about four doors down. If you wanted to make a phone call and the other person was already on the line, you would have to wait. If you had an emergency (or, if they went on for hours and your patience ran thin), you could break into the conversation and ask the chatters to yield. It could be difficult, but more often than not, people learned to share.
The church is NOT a private line, but a party line. Are you willing to share, or must you have it your way?
When our children were young and they each wanted to play with the same toy, we would set a wind-up timer. Each one would have five minutes. When the bell rung, they would have to share.
The church is a family with many siblings. When the timer rings, are you willing to let someone else have a turn?
When I was a child, my parents taught me to share with my sister and friends. When Marylu's younger sister came along, she had to share her bedroom. And when I was in college studying electronics, we had to share the computer with everyone else. We would punch in our cards (don't laugh) and hand them to the person running the computer. Hours later, our program would be run.
The church involves unexpected changes requiring sacrifice and patience. Am I willing to let someone share my "room" with me? Am I willing to be inconvenienced by others and give up some of my influence and control to incorporate others? Will I share the "computer" patiently, or will I resent it when someone sits in "my pew?"
What's my point? Life involves sharing! This lesson we learn in childhood we often forget in adulthood. Why do we think the concept of sharing should be unnecessary in a church?
In years gone by, new churches formed or old ones divided over differing convictions. Doctrine, ethics, or church government were at the center of such divisions. But as the years have gone by, more and more churches have split or been planted because people refuse to share.
Some of you may not realize how unusual our church is in this regards. We are a church that repels people who refuse to share. Just as part of emotional development involves growing from total self-centeredness to a love for and willingness to consider others, so sharing with other believers is a sign of spiritual maturity. It is part of what it means to love our brethren. Terms like: meekness, patience, forbearing with one another, edification, etc., all imply the concept of sharing.
Music, (called by Wiersbe the War Department of the church) is the ideal illustration of this principle. The vast majority of Christians refuse to share their musical preferences. The result: churches with all contemporary music but sadly coupled with dumbed-down sermons, elderly churches with all traditional music, or Dixie churches with all Southern Gospel music (to name a few). But there are a few churches, like ours, who expect people to share. When you were a child, you were told to share with your brothers and sisters. This is still good advice for the church today. Share with your brothers and sisters!
You do not have to like it allbut if you like some of it and others like
what you dislike (and vice-versa), you have a sharing situation. Be gracious
about what you do not prefer. But you'll get your turn up to bat too. One of our
distinctives as a church is that none of us always get our own way. We don't
have to have our own way. We believe in the out-dated concept of give and take.
That's what makes us different from the "consumer church."
Indeed, the principle of sharing is needed for so much of church life. Take the matter of the pastor's attention. There are certain situations that require an awful lot of attention from a pastor, meaning he cannot give as much attention to other areas. For example, some pastors do little or no hospital visitation, nor do they ever visit with shut-ins. Other pastors are virtually full-time chaplains to the elderly but do no marital counseling nor relational or program development. But a pastor in these hectic times needs to be there when he is truly needed. He is not a social ornament or a good luck charm. But a true shepherd needs to give attention to the hurting sheepnot the bleating ones. And he needs to concentrate on feeding the sheep, thereby preventing problems. How does this translate? Many folks may want more attention, but real needs are rarely neglected. When a real crisis occurs, hopefully he'll be there, whether marital, relational, or physical in nature.
In an age of demanding our own way, Christians need to be different. They must learn how to share. Instead of independent agendas, we need to learn to look out for the needs of the body. The wrong question to ask in making church-related decisions is "What do I want or like?" The right question is, "What is best for the body?"
For further study: Read and think about Romans 14-16. Meditate on Romans 15:2, "Each of us should please his neighbor for his good, to build him up..." When was the last time you thought about meeting the needs of someone outside of your "pack?" Are you part of a "special interest" group, moaning about how you could use more attention, or are you part of "servants' group," concerned about others unlike yourself? Do you even try to understand those who differ from you? Are you willing to take seriously the call to share? It doesn't come naturally to any of us, but it's God's way.
Reprinted from the January 1998 Body Builder, a publication of Highland Park Church.
Highland Park Church
516 West Sycamore Street
Kokomo, Indiana, USA