Church is a Collaborative Project

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By Joe LaGuardia

Christianity is a collaborative faith.

In a letter to churches in Corinth, the apostle Paul confronted several congregations that were arguing with each other.  No two churches were alike and each one served a purpose in the Body of Christ.

In 1 Corinthians 12:27, he wrote, “All of you together are Christ’s body, and each of you is a part of it.”

Fortunately for us — 2000 years removed from Paul’s situation — collaboration is still highly valued in our society.  Businesses, organizations, and individuals that value collaboration succeed.  We have sent men to the moon and rovers to Mars all because of the cooperation of thousands of individuals.

Non-profit and governmental agencies that promote teamwork are able to combat social ills that have long plagued society.  Churches that cooperate in the public sector not only fulfill part of Jesus’ Great Commission, but thrive in a marketplace in which the lines between secular and sacred often blur.

Rockdale County enjoys a great deal of collaboration on multiple levels.  The Rockdale Coalition for Children and Families, for instance, hosts a free networking lunch monthly for non-profits in the area.

I’ve attended several of these lunches, and I’ve met so many different leaders, laborers, and clergy who also cherish the value of partnering together to resolve some local issues that need tackling.

Without this network, we would have to go it alone; and, for a church as small as Trinity Baptist, going it alone means not being able to reach out as effectively as we hope.

For far too many Christians and churches, however, collaboration still brings with it a sense of fear and anxiety.  Some churches believe that they cannot collaborate with organizations that do not share their exact political or theological beliefs.  They would rather “reinvent the wheel” than partner with another organization that is already making a difference in the local community.

Such churches feel that in order to collaborate they must compromise their convictions.

This approach brings with it more issues than one might initially guess. For one, a church that refuses to collaborate assumes that it has all of the answers and knows exactly what a community needs.  This is not always the case.

Sometimes, Christians can be so brazen about their theology that it actually works against the impact their church can make in the community.  It may also exacerbate needs rather than resolve them.

In other situations, a church that assumes it has “all the answers” can sometimes fail to ask the right questions.  Where social economic justice is concerned, this can mean the difference between a church enabling dysfunction instead of empowering a community to become economically sustainable.

Failing to assess needs can lead to dependence rather than interdependence or, better, synergy that utilizes all of the creative gifts that can benefit an entire spiritual ecosystem.

Such differences of opinion within Christ’s Church is not new.  Paul’s admonishment to churches in his own era prove that divisions and squabbles will always pervade church and society.

Yet, we must be passionate about reaching out, communicating what we have to offer, and seeing ourselves not as lone rangers in a threatening prairie of dry spiritual barrenness, but part of a much larger Body of Christ working within a vibrant oasis of plenty in which God’s Spirit is already present.

May we be ever mindful of our neighbors and the partnerships we share, for we have more in common than we know.

Next week, we will continue this conversation about collaboration as it relates to racial reconciliation in our community.

Seven Spiritual Disciplines for Good Friday

good-friday-bible-2By Joe LaGuardia

For many, Good Friday is as much a part of Holy Week as Easter or Palm Sunday.  For others, Good Friday has never been a part of the worship routine.

There is some truth to the notion that Holy Week is not complete without some acknowledgement of Good Friday, for it is the day that Jesus died on the cross for the sins of the world.

An Easter without a crucifix is like having communion without bread, and resurrection becomes all the more amazing when cast in the shadow of Jesus’ broken body.

For Christians yearning to make Good Friday meaningful, here are seven spiritual disciplines you can try on your own or in a small group:

1.  Get together with an old friend.  Holy Week is a nostalgic time for people of faith.  We remember Easter at our home churches, egg decorating with grandparents, and the child-like joy of receiving chocolate bunnies on Easter morning.

Feed your nostalgia by calling a friend from the distant past.  Enjoy coffee, reminisce of old times, heal any open wounds, and laugh together.

2.  Spend time in silence.  The first discipline promotes connecting with a friend; this discipline promotes a deeper connection with God.

When we pray, we talk or intervene or give thanks.  Spending time in silence is a simple act of spending time with God.  No words or long speeches are necessary.  God wants time with you, and Good Friday is the perfect day to fulfill this long-neglected meeting.

3.  Go for a hike.  Now that the weather is getting nice, its time to get out and meet God in the midst of nature.

There are so many places within driving distance, you can practically hike during your lunch hour.  Give the Monastery of the Holy Spirit, Arabia Mountain, or Black Shoals Park a try, and let nature’s voice become God’s voice to you.

4.  Visit a local church you never attended.  Call around to a few  churches close to your home or place of work and see if they are hosting a Good Friday service (if there is no service at your church, of course).

This is a good time to meet neighbors, shake the hand of a pastor reaching out to your community, and get exposed to different styles of worship or preaching.

5.  Exercise longer.  No pain, no gain, the old adage states.  Exercising longer and harder can help us relate to the suffering of Christ.

Although bench pressing can never compare with the torture and execution of Christ, challenging our bodies can help us center our mind towards the cross of Christ.

When we feel our bodies stretch to their limits, then we can appreciate Jesus’ own sacrifice all the more.

6.  Make a spiritual wish list.  So many of us have spiritual aspirations to get closer to God or connect with Jesus in a variety of ways.

Sometimes we need the discipline to sit down, take a few minutes, and write out those spiritual goals we hope to fulfill.

Corporations, executives and managers, sports coaches, and even parents assess where they are and where they want to go in their particular field of interest.  Why not do that in our faith as well?

7.  Volunteer at a non-profit agency.  Take Maundy Thursday (the day before Good Friday, when Jesus ate his Last Supper with his disciples) to call around to local non-profits and see  how you can volunteer on Friday.

We have plenty of opportunities in Rockdale County.  Family Promise of Newrock, for instance, has a day center that requires volunteers to keep the place clean and tidy.

Rockdale Emergency Relief or the St. Vincent de Paul Society at St. Pius X might also appreciate a helping hand in stocking shelves or greeting people who benefit from these wonderful service organizations.

Whether you seek intentional community or intentional time with God, I want to encourage you to make your Good Friday one to remember.

If you’re still not sure what to do, you are invited to join us at Trinity Baptist Church at 7 PM for our Good Friday service.  As always, all are welcome.