In the middle of our “Word from Our Sponsor” which I give every day at lunch time, one fellow inquired, “Is this going to be a long story?” I answered that it wouldn’t be long and invited him to hang in with me and I thought nothing of it. Afterwards I discovered that a number of my friends were very offended that someone should interrupt me like that. I assured folks that I wasn’t offended in the least and advised them to forgive and forget.
The reason I share this is that I was really touched by these folks care for me. This scene would not have played out this same way six months ago. It is wonderful to know that I am a part of a bigger family at Community Chaplaincy. In this family we feel each other’s hurts and share each other’s burdens. I had the same feeling several weeks ago when I had to admonish someone about his behaviour in the chapel. One of the biggest guys there quietly sidled up to me and whispered that if I needed any help with this guy that he had my back. Again I assured him that that was not necessary but I also was grateful for a brother’s concern.
The same sort of thing has happened at Up Town. I remember a visitor asking if he could share something and getting a bit carried away when one of my friends said “Hey! We already have a preacher! Reed preaches here.” Once more I didn’t feel the need for a protector but I certainly had at least one if I needed it. My Up Town friends have my back just as I have theirs.
So I have had similar experiences at both Chaplaincy and Up Town, both of which are unconventional and very real expressions of ‘the Body of Christ’, but I cannot recall similar experiences in the more conventional church settings I have found myself in. There has not seemed to be the same urge to vigorously defend brothers and sisters in this same setting. This may be the reason that people can be so honest and vulnerable at Up Town and Chaplaincy. They have a sense that others will protect them as they are at their most fragile. In the traditional or more conventional church we tend to keep our defenses up and eschew vulnerability because we are less safe to bare our hearts and souls.
I have determined that I am going to shrink my defenses. I am going to risk vulnerability more in both conventional and unconventional settings and I will not shrink from protecting brothers and sisters who dare to do the same. This may be the best means of making the traditional church more unconventional.
And if no one steps up to defend me, I have an Advocate, Jesus Christ the Righteous. If I can shrink in this way He has the opportunity for increased influence in, through, and around me.