Community is God’s Answer to Discouragement and Defeat
“If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up” Ecclesiastes 4:10 (NIV). You can try, but you can’t live life well on your own. We all need other people to walk with us, work with us, and watch out for us. Community is God’s answer to discouragement and defeat. The following is my testimony how community helped me in a time of economic recession and unemployment.
Thursday morning, October, 2010, was first time I attended the Men’s Ministry at Saddleback Church and I was in for a treat. I was told that Pastor Rick Warren would announce the new church campaign called “Decade of Destiny” to the men and then to the rest of the church later that weekend.
The worship center was electric with 1800 men in attendance. Rick sat on the stage with his feet dangling over the edge and we were given a heart to heart talk about the needs of the community. We were told that, when facing troubled times, the best way to help yourself is to help others with their problems and in the process your problems wouldn’t seem so great.
Sounds simple enough so I returned the following week to see what a regular Men’s Ministry was like. The same 1800 men showed up and we sat at tables instead of rows which is a great way to make new friends in a crowd of new faces. Kenny Luck, the Men’s Ministry leader, gave a riveting talk on the destructive nature of isolation in times of emotional or spiritual hurt and pain.
A few weeks later everything was going great until I met a guy that I’ll call Bob who was recently laid off. Everyone knew Bob and he would tell anyone who would listen about all the problems he was having and several men would peel off a $50 or a $100 bill to help him and his family get through another week. Their overwhelming generosity confused me. I mean, didn’t Bob have any pride? Didn’t the men see that they were being played? Was the church aware of what was going on?
I was appalled enough to start standing on the sidelines or sometimes higher up on the bleachers when the meeting was over just to watch what was going on. I discovered many guys were offering hugs, prayer, encouragement, and assistance to other men who had lost everything, including their wife and kids. Years later I discovered that up to half of the men attending were unemployed. Men’s Ministry was a community of men helping other men and I was hooked.
It wasn’t until I heard the phrase “no longer with us” for the first time that I realized we were in a life and death struggle over the economy. I asked my friends if it meant what I thought it meant. It took a couple of minutes but the guy next to me in a hushed voice explained that for the last two years Men’s Ministry was losing people to suicide. That got my attention! Here’s a problem bigger than my situation and the first thing I thought was what can I do to help?
Two weeks later Kenny announced that two men were “no longer with us” and one of them was his personal friend. There was a collective moan in the crowd, the moment was heavy and many men left the building unable to process what was going on. It took a while but Kenny composed himself and carried on with his message. I admired his courage.
I thought how bad is bad? I decided to take a deeper look into other ministries like Celebrate Recovery and the Career Center. I met a lot of people and was on the front line many times doing my part to help people move all their possessions to a storage unit or to be a friend and really listen to what they were
going through. I was still busy looking for a job but no longer discouraged. I had hope in the face of adversity. I had friends I could relate to. I wasn’t alone.
Rick Warren wrote: Each one of us needs other people to watch out for us — to defend us, protect us, and help us stay on track. In the book of Philippians, the apostle Paul tells us that we should look out for each other’s interests, not just our own. What a countercultural verse! In America today, it’s all about me — my needs, my interests, my wants, and my ambitions. But Paul teaches us to look out for others, too.
“In humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.” (Philippians 2:3-4 NIV)
During the worst recession/depression in our generation I found peace in helping others. Years later, I am now able to celebrate knowing that God was with me every step of the way. I experienced the value of community during a time of discouragement and I hope this helps explain why I am so optimistic about the community in and around Christ Community Church.
The only thing that stays the same in life is change, so how about you?
How are you dealing with your season of change?
Are you willing to take a small step out of what you are going through?
How about getting started with the “Love Buena Park” event, Saturday, May 4?
Remember: The best way to help ourselves is to help others.
John has been serving Christ Community Church in volunteer leadership positions since 1999 and his primary focus was in Men’s Ministry, One Hope Toy Drive, and Campus Care. His newest passion is to raise the evangelistic temperature of our church by helping others shape a relational and natural approach to sharing the good news of Jesus Christ through Organic Outreach. John is married to Cindy Offringa, our Family Pastor. Together they raised five children and have been blessed with fourteen grandkids and one great grandchild.