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Caring for the Spiritual Life of Others

April 16, 2010

I met a friend for lunch earlier this week. It was a great time of sharing, catching up, and talking about the ministry we are involved with to plant a new church in Portland. I truly enjoyed the time, and I walked away feeling like it was positive and uplifting to both of us.

Later that night I was praying about our time together and the ministry we are a part of when God gave me a check in my spirit. I felt he asked me, “Did he feel you cared about him spiritually?” I had asked how he was doing, inquired about his schedule and his family, showed concern about the stress his family is under, and we had talked about how to build a stronger and healthier community, but spiritually we had not really connected. Honestly, I have no idea how he is doing with God. I don’t know if he is investing in that relationship. I don’t know if he is feeling encouraged and uplifted. Although we talked some about the cost of following Christ faithfully and sharing what we have (time, resources, money, possessions), I would not say anything happened during our time together where my presence in his life truly sharpened him.

This led me to think of others in my life. I have not even had much contact with my closest friends lately due to things going on in life, and I do not know how any of them are doing spiritually. I went to my community group (home group) and we shared over a meal and about a passage of scripture, but truthfully I didn’t share my heart or open the door to listen to theirs about how they are doing with God.

Why do we have relationships?

God calls us to community and relationships with others. I think scripture is pretty clear about how important God feels relationships are, but I have to ask why. At a very foundational level I see two reasons for relationships: 1) To teach us: a) support, encourage, uplift b) train, equip, guide, instruct, lead 2) For us to teach

We all start life with parents or guardians who are teaching and guiding us. They provide for us physically, emotionally, spiritually, and mentally. They support us, equip us, and help us to become mature and healthy people (at least we hope they do). As we start to move beyond our parents/guardians we begin to make friends and each of those relationships either becomes one where we receive, we give, or there is receiving and giving shared back and forth. Sometimes the receiving and giving is unhealthy, but foundationally it is still giving and recieving.

How do we give and receive spiritually in our relationships? 

How do we care for the spiritual life of others?

This is a really important question for me as I am involved in a church plant and several ministries right now. Every day my heart and focus are on impacting the lives of others, and if I am not impacting them in a way that draws them to Christ I am missing something very important. I want to move my relationships past just sharing the circumstances of life and hanging out together, and be involved in peoples lives at a level where we both grow, change, are challenged, and uplifted. I know it will move my relationships to a deeper level, but also a more vulnerable and at times uncomfortable level. That will be hard, but worth the price.

Church in America has become a place where people come to receive passively. The main focus of church is a weekly worship service which in most cases involves sitting and listening to someone speak at them with no direct involvement and interaction on the part of the listener. Beyond that worship service the main focuses are often around being involved in a program and serving. If we step back and look at what is being communicated, we are saying that listening passively is enough to fill, teach, equip, and lead someone and then they are ready for service.

Are we equipping the church? Are we honestly caring about their spiritual life?

I am wrestling with how to care about the spiritual walk of those around me and how to express that to them. I want to support them to dig deep with God, to provide opportunity for open questions and dialogue, and to help instruct and equip them in areas they have not yet had a chance to grow. I am not sure exactly what that looks like yet, but as I reflect back on my lunch conversation and my community group from this week I am certain I am not there yet.

I love my friends and church family, and I know that the most important thing in their life is that relationship with the Lord. If I truly love them, and if I truly love the Lord I need to care for the spiritual connection and relationship they share together. Nothing will impact my relationship with them more than the health of their relationship with God.

How can we care for the spiritual life of others? Evangelism? Discipleship? Community?
Practically, what can we do and how can we live lives invested in the spiritual life of others?

I think this question is going to burn on my heart for a long time to come.

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