By Joe McKeever
“I planted, Apollos watered, God gave the increase” (I Corinthians 3:6).
“Even in Thessalonica you sent aid once and again for my necessities” (Philippians 4:16).
I have no patience with signs in front of church buildings that read “Independent (whatever) Church.” There is no such thing as an independent church. We are all brothers and sisters in Christ and we need each other.
Some more than others.
The believer or the church that believes he/she/it is independent and has no need of all those others is going against everything Scripture teaches and contradicting what they see happening all around them every day.
Every church depends on the power company for the lights and a/c, on the water works for water in the building, on the sewerage department, on the streets department and on the guy who cuts the grass and the lady who cleans the toilets. They depend on the Bible, on the Holy Spirit, on those who brought the Gospel to them, and they depend on each other to be faithful. The pastor depends on the congregation to attend and serve and give and pray. Everyone depends on the preacher to lead well.
An independent Christian is a contradiction in terms. An oxymoron.
There is no such animal.
Over and over our Lord taught our need for and our dependence on one another. Love one another. Forgive one another. Bear with one another. Encourage one another. On and on and on.
Dan Crawford and Al Meredith wrote a book with a chapter on of the 31 “one anothers” they discovered in the New Testament. They titled it, appropriately enough, “One Anothering.” This wonderful little volume has been out a few years and can be purchased used on amazon.com or alibris.com.
Charles Plumb was a fighter pilot in Vietnam. After 75 combat missions, his plane was shot down by a surface-to-air missile. Plumb ejected and parachuted into enemy hands. He spent six years in a Communist prison, survived it, and loves to share the things God taught him there.
One of the lessons Charles Plumb relates concerns the day he and his wife were dining in a restaurant and met a man at a nearby table. “You’re Plumb!” the man said. “You flew jet fighters in ‘Nam. From the carrier Kitty Hawk. You were shot down!”
“How in the world did you know all that?” asked Plumb.
“Oh, I’m the one who packed your parachute,” the fellow said.
Plumb was stunned speechless.
The man smiled and said, “I guess it worked.”
Charles Plumb said, “It sure did work. If your chute hadn’t worked, I wouldn’t be here today.”
That night Plumb lay awake thinking about the man who had packed his parachute. He tried to imagine how the man may have looked in a Navy uniform. He says, “I wondered how many times I might have passed him on the Kitty Hawk. I wondered how many times I might have seen him and not ever said ‘Good morning,’ ‘How are you?’ or anything else. Because you see, I was a fighter pilot and he was just a sailor.”
Plumb thought of the hours that sailor had spent on a long wooden table in the bowels of the ship carefully weaving the shrouds and folding the silks of each chute, holding in his hands the fate of someone he didn’t know.
These days, when Plumb tells this story, he looks out at his audience and asks, “Who packs your chute?”
Who is that person who helps you accomplish your goals?
We all need one another.
Next time you attend a concert at an arena, notice the people wearing t-shirts that read “Event Staff.” These are the worker bees who handle the thousand details to pull off a big event. They handle parking, sanitation, seating, audio, lights, security, food service, and everything else. They’re not the highest paid and they get no recognition for their work, but the people on stage would be helpless (and silent) without them. It’s a wise performer who knows how dependent he/she is on the staff and shows them proper appreciation.
Lou Holtz, veteran coach and motivational speaker, used to tell of flying into Chicago in the middle of the night and taking a taxi to the hotel where he would be speaking the next day. At 2 am, he walked into the hotel lobby and hit the bell for a desk clerk. After ringing it repeatedly, he finally saw a big fellow stumble out of the back rubbing the sleep out of his eyes. “We’re full,” the guy said. “No rooms.”
Holtz said, “Sir, I have a reservation in this hotel.”
The clerk said, “You might not have heard me. I said we have no rooms. The hotel is full.”
Holtz said, “Mister, I have a confirmation that guarantees me a room in this hotel tonight!”
The clerk said, “I don’t care what you have, mister! I have the keys and I’m telling you there is no place for you in this hotel tonight!”
As Holtz picked up his bags and walked outside into the cold, dark Chicago night, he says, “I had two things on my mind. One, how to find a bed in the middle of the night. And two, for the rest of my life, never to miss an opportunity to slam the Chicago-O’Hare Hilton Hotel!”
Audiences laugh when Lou Holtz tells that, but not everyone thinks it’s funny. The manager and the owner of the hotel, I guarantee you, hate the story. That desk clerk is not the highest paid person on the staff–far from it–but he can make or break the company. It’s a wise manager who trains his lobby staff well and then pays attention to make sure they’re doing their job well, then amply rewards them. It’s a wise owner who makes sure this is done.
The pastor who thinks his office staff and the custodians of the church are just so much baggage is headed for trouble. A wise minister will know the names of everyone working in his church and will pray for them and go out of his way to encourage them. Everything he does will be enhanced by their doing their jobs well. And nothing he does will be effective if they don’t.
“Wherefore, acknowledge such people!” (I Corinthians 16:18).
Joe McKeever is a cartoonist and former director of missions for New Orleans Baptist Association. This editorial first appeared on his blog.