PBC Culture: Family
Empathy has not been a strength for me in my life. The church small groups that I have been a part of in the past were too superficial to talk about real struggles. Everything seemed to be masked by an unhealthy focus on the sovereignty of God at the expense of the person. “Everything works for the good of those who love Him” would be quoted flippantly as if that meant you shouldn’t feel sad when bad things happen. This environment had the perverse effect of both deadening joy and stifling sorrow. As a result, people were hesitant to share real struggles or victories. The conversations became merely theological and not relational.
At Phoenix Bible Church (PBC) I have been blessed to be a part of a community group (CG) in which people have shared their real struggles and triumphs with each other. Life is messy, sin has horrible effects, and we live in a fallen world. But, as a part of the Body of Christ, no one ever has to face the sorrows of life alone. The church family should come alongside those who are in sorrow to encourage and help them. In Romans 12:15, Paul instructs the members of the church in Rome that they should “rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.” Being at PBC was the first time that I began to understand what this means for the church family.
A couple in my wife and I’s CG were trying to get pregnant. One week they happily informed us that they were pregnant. We could not have been more excited for them. A couple months later at church they informed us that tragically, the baby had been lost. My heart sank inside my chest. We laid hands on the husband and wife and prayed for them. As we prayed for them, I wept bitterly for their lost. The Holy Spirt welled up inside of me. I felt compassion for the couple and anger that we live in a fallen world in which death is all too prevalent. The lost was not mine, but God, thru the Holy Spirit, had given me the ability to feel some of what my brother and sister in Christ were feeling. This was the first time that I saw the outworking of God’s command to “weep with those who weep” in the church body context.
Being a part of a church family is costly. It takes time, effort, energy, and emotional capital. In order for us to function as a family, we must make the effort to get to know others and to let ourselves be truly known. We must be honest with one another and not hide behind pithy Christian sayings. Our conversations must be relational and not just theological. As we live in these kind of relationships, when celebrations, as well as sorrows come along, the Holy Spirit reveals to us what it means to “rejoice with those who rejoice” and to “weep with those who weep.”