On one side of the room sat Casey Perry, Jim Richards and Ronnie Yarber – three men who, when history tells its tale many years from now, will be remembered for how God used each of them to lead a group of churches to stand for biblical inerrancy and missional cooperation in what we know today as the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention.
On the other side of the room sat 11 young SBTC pastors who gathered on this particularly crisp-but-sunny East Texas morning to hear about the importance of offering an invitation after preaching the Word of God in their churches each week.
This informal gathering over breakfast, where men with well over 100 combined years of ministry experience were making deposits and investing into the lives of younger brothers, was a reminder to me of something I think we all need to be reminded of from time to time: there’s no greater investment we can make than giving our time to others.
We as a body of believers sometimes struggle with investing our time in others. We struggle to connect. With the best intentions we mean to have dinner with the young family that just joined the church but blink and it’s six months later and we still haven’t extended an invite. Sometimes we pull back because the lives of others are messy and we fear we won’t know how to fix their problem. But I think the most common reason we don’t invest in others is that the circumstances of our own lives can often feel like a tidal wave that sweeps up all our time in its wake.
Other times we’re held back by our own faulty assumptions. For example, on several occasions in the pastorate I’ve had senior adults say to me that they don’t feel like they have anything to offer the younger generation. “They don’t want to hear from an old person like me!” they’ll say. And yet, one of the great joys of my ministry was hearing this very statement from a senior adult in her 70s who ultimately took a leap of faith, reached out to others, and has for the past several years invested countless hours discipling women who, in some cases, are 50 years her junior.
I think our older generation would be surprised at how many middle-aged brothers and sisters in Christ are spiritually lonely and hungry for someone older and more experienced in the faith to pour into their lives.
We’re wired for these kinds of connections. From the moment Adam opened his eyes, he was hard-wired for being relationally connected to God but also relationally connected to others. I heard a pastor say recently that the only thing God saw about his creation that wasn’t good was that man was alone (a problem he fixed with the creation of Eve). And yet, in our churches today, it seems we’re unintentionally trying to live a life that looks like Christ’s without being intimately and relationally connected to one another in the church. Those things – isolation and Christ-centered connectedness – do not compute.
There are little things we can do to encourage others each week. You can write a note to someone or even do something like give them a gift card or pay their car note that month. Those would surely be a great blessing to someone, but I see the greater – and costlier – blessing happening when you give the gift of your time and attention to others, inside the church and out. If Christ is in you, you absolutely have something to give to the other person.
Yes, it’ll be expensive in terms of your time and the emotional energy you may have to put forth. But it will be well worth the investment – for the other person, for you, and for the Kingdom.