I met my friend Mark in London, and it was so wonderful to see him, travelling can be a lonely place and sometimes a familiar face can warm your heart. Mutual support is a powerful gift we give one another which not only strengthens and encourages but can stops you getting on the wrong bus!
In many forms of modern ministry there appears to be a focused on the pastor/minister/vicar as a solo heroic individual that too often buckles under pressures, expectations and sometimes crushing loneliness; rather the scriptural picture calls people to go in (at least) pairs, Moses and Aaron, David and Jonathan, Jesus sending out the twelve and the seventy two, Barnabas and Saul or Paul and Silas. In Church history we see Moody having Sanky, John Wesley having his brother Charles (and also John Cennick who is rarely mentioned), Billy Graham and Leighton Ford and no doubt we know some Kingdom partnerships where people have come together to advance the Kingdom cause in love and solidarity.
When humanity was first created, God said (this is before the fall and the birth of sin) that “it is not good for people to be alone”, human beings are relational (even the most introverted of us) and we need other people, and they need us.
The book of Ecclesiastes talks of how “two is better than one for they get a good return for their work, if one falls the other can help them up, they can protect one another and a chord of three is not easily broken”. The Christian pattern for life is not individualism or independence which is rife is our culture, but something more beautiful -interdependence- we need one another.
The Africans call this ‘Ubuntu’, which means “I am, because we are” -where we live together in community sharing everything, a living embodiment of the letter from John who asks “if you see a brother or sister in need and have the means to help them but do not, how can the love of God be in them?” In many African regions if you had a tiny bit of bread and you asked “how many people would this feed” the answer would “two” because to not share what you have would be unthinkable in their culture. Ubuntu is the attitude I long to have, but it is a tough and challenging call -especially when selfishness can appear so easy and appealing- but requires us to sacrifice our own wants and wishes for the sake of someone else, another person, another piece of the body and bride of Christ.
Ubuntu reminds me that we need one another, but also that others need us, at the heart of humanity is a need for relational reciprocity. I remember writing (a very poor sermon) on Zerubbabel and Joshua the High Priest, and saying that sometimes we were called to both roles, the pioneer and the supporter; and at times in the journey we will all take different roles, I asked “what are you building?” and “who are you supporting?”.
I have also learned the power of letting people serve us, as too often I have been proud and seen offers of help as a slight on my competence but realised in being vulnerable to being served both myself and the one serving have been blessed. In serving other people -especially when it is not my project or group- I have learned so much about what it means to be the Church -God’s team in a local context- doing what we can, where we can and how we can; to see Christ glorified.
These thoughts buzzed through my head as we rushed around the financial quarter of the city of London trying to find a very illusive 24-7 prayer room that was meant to be happening nearby but we couldn’t find it and in the end, we gave up and leaped on a Tube Train to look at Bromily by Bow.