The Power of “Together”
Our family had a mission statement. My parents wouldn’t use those words, of course, but to this day, we know it by heart. They reared us to be “lovers and givers.” That was their deepest hope, why we existed.
The challenge was that we were all so peculiar. One child wanted to be an artist, another a football player, and another a thespian. That caused home life to be a constant whirlwind of children coming and going, schedules being posted and changed, and needs being assessed in light of the needs of others. It must have taken superior management skills merely to put food on the table, much less get us to school on time.
But for the most part, it worked out well. They did a great job of balancing our various passions, encouraging each of us to pursue our own paths while keeping the family strong as a whole. Paradoxically and beautifully, our diverse callings have become one of the greatest strengths of our family’s journey, mainly because from the start we shared whatever we had with each other. “What-is-mine-is-yours” sort of mentality.
That meant my oldest brother who is a transactional attorney specializing in tax law and real estate transactions is actually not the most boring person on earth. He is actually a wizard with a starched shirt and wingtip shoes. I know this because whenever I am handed a contract that I don’t understand or someone wants to sell me an investment that is “too good to pass up,” he saves me from financial ruin every time.
Or, whenever I am too ill to stand or when I have faced a major surgery, my brother and sister, both surgeons, have stood by my side and nursed me with unspeakable compassion and medical expertise.
Or when I need coaching on how to keep entrepreneurs fired up, or how to grow a successful organization, I lean on my brother who is the founder and president of a successful microbrewery and restaurant chain. (I much prefer moments, however, when I am in his kitchen with him drinking his award-winning beer and tasting one of his “this-is-going-to-change-your-life” recipes.)
And I’m not even going to talk about my sister who was the CEO of MOPS and is now the director of World Vision’s National Leadership Council, and how we have spent many hours thinking through the type of “help” from Christian organizations that truly can help families in economic and emotional distress.
I don’t mention these talents to brag, but merely to say that being member of a large family can be life giving when everybody loves and cares for each other.
Given my experience, it is easy for me to think of a presbytery, and even a denomination, as a great big helpful family. At any given moment, some of our congregations are thriving brilliantly, feeling God’s blessing on everything they do and touch, while at the same moment, others may be struggling and looking for guidance.
We saw this at our last Presbytery Gathering when Mary Deming shared her church’s story. Morningside of Fullerton’s membership was on a trajectory of declining energy and satisfaction, the two most important drivers for a congregation’s capacity to connect with new people and sustain meaningful relationships with them. So what did they do? They turned to their presbytery “siblings” for advice and encouragement. Now they are starting a brave new journey of redevelopment as they pursue a parallel start in their part of Fullerton.
The point is that we are much better together. Like a big family, our “sibling congregations” have tremendous gifts and resources to share with us, and we with them. Some congregations are great at forming deep relationships with public schools and civic agencies, others are great at website design and social media, and others are experts at navigating personnel issues. The best thing is that these siblings are just a phone call away and are usually happy to share their wisdom and expertise with you.
As I head off to the General Assembly meeting this week, I think about the tremendous resources we have as a wider family of faith, the thousands of brilliant, faith-filled people who want to serve God and God’s Church. Most of them could be doing a myriad of other things this week but they will offer their time and gifts to the wider body . They do it because they believe that’s what you do when you are family. It’s who you are, and it makes the world a little more – and sometimes a lot more – like what God wants it become.
“Lovers and givers” indeed.