Monthly theme: Joy and Unity
Reading time: two minutes.
I quoted Frederick Buechner earlier this month: “There is no joy for any of us until, at the last, there is joy for all of us.”
Let’s put it to the test. Will you help me on this? I think it’s true at home, at church, and in our relationships as peers in ministry. Tell me if any of these scenarios from my own story resonate with you.
First, there’s a close connection between unity at home and joy in the family.
Here’s my story. When the church was my “mistress,” (happened at all three churches; knew better, did it anyway) the joy of our life together at home suffered.
However, when I kept things in the right order, when I was married to my wife and children, and served the church as a vocational calling, joy prevailed at home. When there was crystal clarity that what God had joined together, no one could separate, home life was pure joy.
Sound familiar to you?
Okay, let’s look at congregational life. Are unity and joy linked?
In my experience, when part of the congregation was treated like second class citizens, not really and fully part of “us,” there was an awkward tension. The joy we should have celebrated was diminished.
I’m talking about those “new members.” I distinctly remember times of significant growth when we “welcomed” (sort of) many whom God had brought to our family.
There were times when they were treated as expensive, (true) and disruptive (also true: “You’re in my seat)”. There’s no joy in that.
However, when we were at our best, the most recent members of our family were truly welcomed. “God sent you here. That’s good enough for us! Let’s learn to worship, grow, and serve together. What do you know that we can learn from?”
Only Jesus can do that. Joy follows.
One more field test. How about pastors and their relationship with other pastors?
Sometimes God’s hand of blessing is plainly evident in the life of a congregation. Peace and harmony prevail. Community outreach is dynamic and significant. Growth in maturity permeates church life. Sometimes God blesses with numerical growth.
How do you respond? When at my worst, I was suspicious, critical, judgmental, even slanderous toward my peers in ministry. “Must be doing something shady.”
That will suck the joy out of life together in ministry!
When the Spirit’s gift of unity in the greater body of Christ prevailed, I was quick to rejoice with those who rejoiced, and celebrated the fruitful harvest of the kingdom, even if the church I served was in a time of struggle.
I can see where my critical spirit crippled the joy of friends in ministry. “There is no joy for any of us, until there is joy for all of us.”
This apparent connection between unity and joy is something I’d like to explore further, and I’d appreciate your feedback. Is there an organic connection between the two?
God bless you with both: circles of unity and the Spirit’s gift of joy!
Thanks for reading.