Being a "First-Responder" Church
Eds. note: yesterday, Sheree covered what it means to be a "first-responder" Christian. Today, she follows up with how to be a "first-responder" church.
Yesterday, I gave five things to for Christians to think about as they "sit with the sufferer" and learn how to become "first-responders." It is my contention that we should seek to cultivate a culture of "first-response" not only in our own personal lives, but also as a church.
I’m grateful to be in a first-responders church. Just in the past few months I’ve watched people rally around a dear woman dying of cancer and her grieving husband. A mom with small children recovering from knee surgery. A couple encountering weighty struggles in their marriage. Parents wondering how to manage the disclosure of their child’s homosexual relationship. Some of the care has been organized through small groups providing meals or childcare. But much of it happened because Dave and Donella just wanted to drive an hour to have dinner with Dale to care for him after Debbie died. Or Kathy wanted to clean (again) for Janelle as she hobbles around on her walker. Or a weeknight Community Group went till 11 PM because a couple is working through hardships in their marriage. Or texts went out to a weary pastor’s wife whose daughter was hospitalized after a car accident just to say, “I’m praying.”
The best way to be a part of a church of first-responders is to become one. Recently I reached out to two people in my life to thank them for being among the first to respond to a text asking for prayer or a need for help with post-hurricane clean up for someone or a request for help thinking through some confusing things in my life. I want to be like them. Not because I think good Christians jump at every single opportunity to help others no matter what the personal cost; that’s just not always wise and even Jesus didn’t heal or help every person. But because I know how much it means just to get a text response, an unsolicited meal, or an email that says, “I know you have community group snacks this week but I’d like to bring them for you.”
Will you stop and consider someone in your life that is hurting? Maybe it’s been ongoing and you feel ashamed that you haven’t yet responded. Or maybe you just heard what’s happening and you, like me, just don’t know what to do. Let’s do something. Send the text. Make the call. Maybe even start with, “I’m sorry I’m just reaching out but I want you to know I love you and am praying for you.” Make some extra food and take it over in disposable containers used for freezing in case it will better serve them next week.
And why? Why become a first responder? Because we’re all in the process of becoming like Jesus Christ, the ultimate First Responder who rushes to the aid of the hurting and suffering. His aid isn’t cookie cutter. Sometimes He pulls us out of the flames and other times He meets us there with enduring, sustaining faith and strength. The gospel that saved us from the deepest, darkest, hopeless place where sin had engulfed us and eternal fires awaited us compels us to do our small part to rescue those who are hurting. And maybe we will sometimes be first to respond with hope, comfort, food, encouragement or prayer. Jesus is calling us to follow Him into sometimes scary flames that are trapping others. Let’s not be stuck in anxious thoughts of, “I don’t know what to do.” Sometimes it’s best to just do what we’ve been trained for: love.