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Ministry Is a Team Sport

Though my instinct is to isolate, I’m learning to let others carry me.

Perhaps you have a friend like this—someone whose default response to an obstacle is “We can work with this.” If my friend Anna is in town and I have to work late, we’ll have this text exchange:

Anna: Okay if I make dinner?

Courtney: Sure!

Anna: Mind if I look in your cabinets?

Courtney: Sure!

This, my friends, is trust. It takes some pride-swallowing as I let her in—not just to my life but to my cabinets. Because we are not so good with housekeeping, she is just as likely to find Play-doh in our cabinets as she is to find food.

We’ll come home to the most amazing smell, and she’ll explain how she made sweet potato curry out of past-their-prime yams, and almond scones, too, because she found almond paste. Resourceful friends who don’t get turned off by a messy cabinet or a grumpy mood, a long journey or an unmoving crowd, who find a way to care no matter the uphill battle, they are gold.

Fortunately, the paralytic had resourceful friends. If the crowd won’t part for the paralyzed man, his friends will part the crowd. They head to the roof and begin to dig. Below them, the house falls silent. Jesus looks up to find the source of the noise, only to be hit on the forehead with a shower of splintered tile. The roof begins to lift away. Then slowly, carefully, down comes the mat. The paralyzed man’s friends lower it until it comes to rest right in front of the rabbi they seek.

This man couldn’t have gotten to Jesus on his own. There are times we can’t either. Designed by God to depend upon others, there are seasons when we don’t have the legpower or the willpower of the faithpower to get to Jesus alone. Yet when we seek out Christian community, we begin to belong to people who will carry us when we cannot make it on our own.

Choosing Community Over Isolation

“Two words of advice,” my mentor said as I headed off to my first pastorate. “Don’t isolate.” His words rang in my head as I fought the temptation to go it alone, not just as a Christian but as a pastor. Isolation in ministry can be the death knell of health and vitality. I needed advice, counsel, and new friends, but it was a fight to form those new relationships when, at the end of a long day, what I really wanted was a Survivor marathon and a vat of popcorn all to myself.

When our family moved to a second pastorate years later, I had to resist the urge to isolate once again. Just as I began contemplating the hermit crab shell, one woman invited us to join her couples’ small group. “We know your schedule is busy,” she said, “but if you join us to study the Bible and share life when you can, we’d love to love on you.” She and her husband and two other couples loaded my husband and me onto the mat and carried us straight to Jesus’ feet.

April18, 2016 at 8:00 AM

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