So a couple of weeks ago I had a second lumbar disectomy surgery after I had re-injured the same disk that I injured two years ago. The doctor’s orders: walk around from time to time, but mainly rest for a week or so. Leading up to the surgery, I must say the pain was excruciating. I couldn’t sleep well; couldn’t sit for more than 2-3 minutes at a time. It hurt to drive and pretty much do anything.
At the time I didn’t know that I had actually re-injured the same disk. I thought perhaps I had a scar tissue issue going on. So the week before the surgery our elders at the church were praying for me at our monthly elder meeting, and something really came over me.
My church body really has no clue what is going on with me. Yes, they knew I had been dealing with some pain, but I hid just how extreme things were pretty well. The motivation of teaching about Jesus got me through many a Sunday morning teaching, only to see myself in extreme pain the remaining part of Sunday and throughout the week.
So it was while in preparing for our fall series on the book of James that I was reading James, chapter 5, and in verse 16 it says: “Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed.”
What came over me about this scripture was not only the great idea (which scripture always gives!) that I need to have my church body praying for me, but that by holding back what I was experiencing, in a way I was sinning against my own church body! Now you may think I am taking that too far, but I would disagree. I was purposely not telling people how sick I was…OUT OF PRIDE!
See, the pastor is the one who should be praying over others, right. The pastor is the one who always needs to show the strength card for the rest of the church. But there is one thing I needed reminding of…the pastor is simply another individual within the church. If I expect my own church to let me in on their issues, their ailments, their troubles, then I must let them in with my own.
So I started by simply writing a church-wide email to the body, apologizing for not doing this sooner, and telling them I am in real need of their prayers and why. And as I was sitting in my surgeon’s office, waiting the news, to sound all spiritual and all, I felt my church praying for me in that moment.
Now my healing has come through a successful surgery. But another thing I learned is that “letting them in” doesn’t just stop with prayer. Immediately after the surgery, one of the ladies of the church from our community group called and didn’t ask for our permission to get people to bring us meals, she demanded it!!! A gentleman from our body offered to mow our lawn for as long as necessary. Others took care of my daughter when needed. And every time something was offered our way, God kept saying to my wife and I the same thing, “LET THEM IN!”
I pastor a small church in Alcoa, Tennessee. We started small with 3 families just under 3 years ago. If all of our adults were to show on a Sunday morning, we would have 50-55 adults sitting in the seats. (Can’t wait for that day to happen!) But over this last month, I have received and felt so much love and care, you would think I pastored a church of thousands! And I know it’s not just because I’m the “pastor”. They would do this for anyone in need. That’s the heart of Christ at work.
So what’s the point of this blog entry? Simple…LET PEOPLE IN! I’ve talked to people that visited our church but decided not to return. I’ve hunted them down because I’ve wanted to know why, just out of curiosity. More times than not, they told me it’s because they knew they would be known at our church. And they didn’t want to be known.
Now, obviously, there is a trust that needs to be built when it comes to sharing certain details of our lives with people. Our expectation is not that people are going to walk in the doors of the church on day one, grab a microphone, and relinquish every detail of their life with others. But when needs are there, and every ounce of our sinful pride says to us, “You can handle this on your own. Don’t let anyone else know.” then I want us all to think about the second half of that James 5:16 verse:
“…The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.” The most powerful thing I’ve seen in the church in my life are the great things God can do when the church prays. The church wants to know how to be praying for you.
Let them in!
– Chris Carpenter