Why We Gather
Sep 20, 2015 10:02AM
By Bonnie Lyn Smith
I was in the middle of preparing for a new focus group at church, one that would offer support to parents of children with special education needs, physical disabilities, and mental health struggles. This plan had been on my heart for a year. I had prayed about it, researched it, pitched it to church leadership, and then let it fall into place bit by bit. With each step, I could see God’s hand in the go-ahead: the flyer, verbal announcement, sign-ups, parent survey, and soon, the first gathering.
As I watched this dream of mine take shape, I asked God which Scripture He wanted us to operate from as our starting place.
This is what He led me to:
Hebrews 10:23-25, ESV, anonymously written
Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near (emphasis mine).
In the middle of my planning, I realized that this is what should motivate us in any endeavor—Christian-faith-based or not.
Isn’t it a beautiful mission statement for all groups, gatherings, meetings?
To stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another?
How many times do you think about this when you go into…
- That conference call?
- That planning committee?
- That staff meeting?
- That school advisory council?
- That leadership session?
- That sports assembly?
Why do we gather?
Obviously we convene around common purposes and interests, and hopefully most of these moments together are productive, constructive, beneficial, and worthy of our time.
But do we go in…
- To lift others up?
- To say they are doing a good job?
- To look for the good—and bless it?
- To encourage where a weakness could be strengthened?
- To mentor, come alongside?
- To speak wisely and constructively to make a gentle but firm point?
I don’t know about you, but so many meetings in one week leave me feeling empty, frazzled, frayed, and frantic even though I genuinely look forward to most of them.
Think about your “gatherings” in any given week: your social, political, professional, spiritual, and personal communities and how often you meet. Maybe even list them.
Here is a sample from any given week in my own life—not including the one-on-one meet-ups or my online forums for writers/authors. I’m sure others may have a longer list.
- Individualized Education Program (IEP) team meeting
- Focus group for parents of children with special needs
- Mental health parent support group in my town
- Church, Bible study group
- Moms’ prayer group
- Youth group parent information night
- Ministry team to reach out to needs in the congregation and community
- Back-to-school/curriculum nights
- Book club
- PTO meeting
- School committee meeting
1 Thessalonians 5:11, ESV, Apostle Paul writing
Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.
How are we doing? Do we change the atmosphere in the room by being positive and edifying those around us? Do we build each other up?
When we join each other mission-minded, it’s not enough. We need to remember the individuals around the table or in the rows of seats. Grace goes a long way to motivating people to do more than just complacently warming a seat. A kind comment, a supportive nod, or a well-timed compliment not only brings those gathered into greater unity of purpose, but it also reminds them we are different pieces of the puzzle. We each have something to add.
We have value.
I realize the Hebrews passage was directed at the Christian believers during the early church so that they would continue to strengthen their faith through mutual accountability to God and consistent gathering. It absolutely should be the theme song of every Christian mission.
But how can we bring it into where we function outside the church in our non-faith-based spheres of influence?
To be honest: Start by smiling.
Earlier this week, I went into a new school setting with a new IEP support team built around my third grade son. In the room were the district student support leader, vice principal, classroom teacher, special education liaison, occupational therapist, school adjustment counselor, my husband, and me.
My biggest goal? To convey to the team: “We’re on your side—the one where the child is the one who benefits from the collaborative process.”
I watch my church community fervently attend to prayer needs. They gather online in a prayer chain and in person. They dispense help when needed, which can sometimes be varied folks pulling up to someone’s house to help, offering a ride, a grocery run, a house cleaning. Prayers and assistance are often for those outside our church community. It doesn’t matter. When there is a distress call, the flock rallies.
Their mission? “Let’s get you back on your feet again. Let’s bring relief. Let’s build up what—for whatever reason—fell down a little.”
I consider also our town mental health support group for parents. It isn’t run through a particular ministry or church affiliation, but it absolutely lives out Hebrews 10:23-25 and 1 Thessalonians 5:11. No question about it.
Its driving force? “How can we come alongside you and offer you resources and support as you parent children with agonizing struggles? How can we strengthen you?"
This past Spring, one of the schools in my town went through dramatic change after a build-up of conflict, disappointment, and frustration levels. At times, it was very disheartening to witness how some people conducted themselves in what were intended to be public meetings for positive change. Even so, there were a few who stuck out to me, the ones who wore grace when they spoke. I was very much on their side of the room both physically and with my heart.
Their intentions? To speak what was done well. To carefully discuss any area of lack. To support those being attacked unfairly. “How can we, as parents, help you make this a better place, fill the gaps, support what is going right?”
We assemble with others frequently. We’re often a part of several organizations.
Instead of checking off one more box on our “to do” list, how can we gather with more intention: toward love and good works?
It’s a heavenly mandate to be together for good purposes.
Author Bonnie Lyn Smith writes about parenting, marriage, mental health advocacy, special education, faith in the valleys of life, the healing cloak of Jesus, drawing healthy boundaries, relational healing, renewing our minds, walking with a Holy God, and much ado about grace. Join the conversation at Espressos of Faith.
Her book, Not Just on Sundays: Seeking God’s Purpose in Each New Day, offers anecdotes on all of these subjects and Scripture for each situation as well as Book Discussion Questions for deeper exploration.