This past weekend, I began a two-part vision series for what God could do in us this year. Our theme for the year is to be a church that is Side By Side. This means that we want to be the church in such a way that no one walks alone. It’ll be a challenge for a church our size, but isn’t that what a vision is supposed to be?
Before we talk about what it means to be side by side as a church, I felt it was important to describe WHY we need to be side by side. With Psalm 25 as a guide, I spoke about the first part of the why – we are needy. David expresses three areas of need through the Psalm: a Guidance Need (“Direct me.”), a Guilt Need (“Pardon me.”), and a Storm Need (“Help me.”) I think we can all relate to those needs.
All of us are needy. It’s one of the most basic truths of what it means to be human, yet we spend so much energy trying NOT to be. Sadly, this is very true in the church. I find it tragically ironic that of all the communities in the world that should acknowledge, embrace, and even sometimes celebrate neediness, the church is often the last place for needy people.
Yet the Gospel of Grace confronts us with our neediness at every turn. We were created to need God – his care, his guidance, and his presence in our lives. Because of our rebellion against God, we need saving. We need our sins forgiven and new hope to reimagine the possibilities of who we can become. We need power. Left to ourselves, we’ll choose ourselves! We need God’s Spirit to work in us to produce the fruit of godliness. And on and on…the Gospel accounts for our neediness and God meets us in our need.
So the church should be the place where we expect neediness to abound. So why is it so difficult to confess our neediness in the church?
I know the prospect of confessing neediness is scary to many of you. You’ve been hurt in the past by owning up to your neediness. People responded with judgment and disgust. Instead of a ME TOO, you got a HOW COULD YOU? You’ve experienced all too well the maxim that Christians shoot their wounded.
In response (or defense), you’ve built walls around yourself. Perhaps you’ve even passed on the strict judgment to someone else. And for the most part, it may be working. If you never acknowledge your neediness, no one can hurt you, but no one will help you either. You’ll be isolated, and even self-deceived. (It’s funny how our hearts can often rationalize away our neediness.) Wall up your neediness, and you’ll find yourself deprived of not just hurt, but love as well. C.S. Lewis drew out the consequences well.
“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.”
There’s a risk in owning up to what everyone knows, but is afraid to say. To confess your neediness is to risk rejection. Unless you truly believe that God receives you through what Jesus has done for you, and that He intends to continue to help you through the people he’s put around you, you’ll lock up your needy heart. I think the alternative to confessing your need is far more painful and tragic in the long run because you’ll find yourself alone and even worse, hardened to your sense of need.
Will you join the ranks of this needy community called Grace Community Church? I hope you’ll trust God and take the step to share your neediness with us SIDE BY SIDE.