How Are You Doing
I’m really happy that last weekend’s congregational meeting went so well, particularly our announcement that we will be kicking off a shepherding initiative this fall. We elders have been mulling over this concept all year and were excited but a little apprehensive about sharing it with the rest of the family. Where we were coming from was that we wanted our church to be a place where people can expect to be regularly checked in on by the leaders of the church, to ask a simple question, “How are you doing?”
I can speak for myself that while I try to be as social as possible at church functions, and feel I have a good vibe with everyone else that circulates there, sometimes I don’t know what all is going on for people, and sometimes all it takes is five seconds to ask, “How are you doing?” Sadly, the whole world is full of people who are hurting inside and no one has taken the time to ask them this simple question; and even more sadly, sometimes there are people who I see every Sunday morning like this, and I fail them by not giving them an opening to tell me what’s going on.
As with any new change, there is a worry that it won’t take. Would people be weirded out, based on their own or others’ experience of similar initiatives gone very bad? Would people be unwilling to accept that such a program carries with it an implicit expectation on their part, which is that we expect them to be engaged in community and to desire to grow spiritually? Would people simply be skeptical, that this was some flavor of the moment that was destined to peter out and not have a lasting difference?
I did not detect any of this at the meeting. In contrast, I detected a lot of enthusiasm, a lot of gratitude, and a lot of anticipation. People in our congregation do earnestly desire to be connected, to be cared for, and to grow; and they saw what we were trying to convey, which was that this is a way for all of that to happen. The months ahead will tell us whether this is working or not, but at the very least it is off to a good start.
Perhaps I should not have been so worried. After all, this is not some impulsive idea on our part but something we have been steeping on for almost a year now. And, if you knew the people in our congregation, you would know this is the very thing they would grab on to as positive and beneficial. Why, just that very day, I had two “how are you doing” moments myself:
1) The first was with a dear friend who has a family member who was recently diagnosed with cancer, and we shared a moment of looking into each other’s eyes, him communicating his worry and his hope for healing, and me communicating that I was listening to him and was with him in this time of uncertainty.
2) The second was with another dear friend who asked me about my wife, and when I expressed my pride and anxiety about her starting her new job in the Philadelphia prison system, he immediately grabbed me by the shoulder, took me aside to pray vigorously for me, and then gave me a great big bear hug while whispering words of assurance to me.
That, my friends, is church. It is what the world is starving for. As we go about our day-to-day – some of us richer and some poorer, some of us fit and some of us ailing, some of us happy and some of us down – we all need someone to come alongside us and ask us, “How are you doing,” and really mean it, and really want to know the true answer and have all of the time and heart in the world to accept the true answer. I am looking forward to providing that to our members, and to seeing how we all be that resource to others around us.