Community: Now More Than Ever
I was recently at a dinner celebrating a friend’s birthday. Since most of the people in attendance knew one another, there was laughter, hugging, talking, and reconnecting. The atmosphere was joyful, and it was clear that everyone present was glad to be together.
As the guests made their way to their seats so they could order, a younger, newly married couple caught my eye. They both seemed to be disengaged from the others, engrossed in the texting they were doing on their smartphones. After a while, my curiosity got the best of me. Since I knew them well, I asked them who they were texting. They seemed so caught up in it, surely they were conversations that couldn’t wait.
Imagine my surprise when they sheepishly admitted that they were texting each other! At first, I was taken aback, but soon realized that in this day of media and technology, it was not at all unusual.
Along with the many changes that technology has brought to us, many of which are good, comes the possibility that we can do life today without face-to-face encounters, without human touch, and without a deep connection to others that goes beyond words. While I love technology and take advantage of many of the things it makes possible in my life, it can create the sense that we can do ministry alone, or at least without relationship that includes togetherness, conversation, accountability, and the sharing of life with other.
This is precisely why SHAPE has a vital place in the life of the church. Paul wrote to the Philippians, “In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now” (Phil 1:4-5 NIV). The word Paul uses for partnership is the same one that is often translated “fellowship” and means something far more than having a potluck at church. Here Paul is referring to sharing life together, to pursuing mission together, to doing ministry together. That is where SHAPE brings great value to the church and to those called to ministry.
Paul recognized what we are discovering in the church today. One cannot do ministry in isolation and be effective. To do so can bring loneliness and discouragement, and it can be dangerous to the minister’s spiritual health. One of the things at the heart of SHAPE is the possibility of partnership, the reality that there are those who walk with us in ministry, growing in both ministry skills and relationships that are rich with accountability and the sharing of life.
As one who pastored for years in isolation, and who now is powerfully affected by the values of SHAPE, I can say that I will never do ministry without partnership again. It’s my contention that we need each other for so many reasons. SHAPE can help with that!
Written by Carl Addison who serves as Regional Director for SHAPE in Indiana, Carl and his wife, Valerie, lead Earthen Vessels Ministry, a ministry devoted to pastors and their families.