By Mike Clemmer, LEADership Minister
I was intrigued by something that was said by one of the National Football League (NFL) analysts, about what it would take for this year’s new draft picks to be successful in the NFL. He said, “these star college players need to do something that they never really have had to do before – that is to be willing to receive coaching and critique, because their talent will only take them so far.” I reflected on this statement and wondered how this might relate to our churches in Franconia Conference. I was taught from as early as I can remember that “it is better to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35). As an adult, this makes sense. We as Christians are called to pursue mutual aid and to use our gifts and talents to help those who are in need. As I look around at our Franconia Conference churches, mutual aid and supporting those in need is clearly in the forefront of our missional focus, and rightfully so. Whenever there are financial needs or physical needs, churches and individuals are quick to deliver – often in the biblical mode of “not letting the right hand know what the left hand is doing.” We definitely have built up a good track record on giving.
But lately, I have been drawn to perhaps an equally important Christian posture – that it is just as important to be able to receive. Our track record on being grateful receivers is not as stellar as our giving record. When people ask me if they can help me, my response is almost always, “No, I (or we) have things under control.” I wonder if we are not, at times, blocking others from receiving the blessing of giving to us. Do we find ourselves “above” the possibility of receiving from others?
I recently watched two of our churches experience times of crisis. When they were asked by Conference Leadership and by other churches what they needed to help them the most, instead of acting like they could handle things on their own, their leadership opened their arms to receive a variety of help and kindness that was offered to them. These churches were truly refreshed and encouraged by their ability to receive, and I was amazed at their openness to these blessings.
Receiving can be a lot more than just financial help. This is where it gets tricky. Though probably the greatest thing that both we and the new NFL players can receive is coaching and critique, neither is generally welcomed with open arms. The churches in the New Testament all were a work in progress. Dialogue, teaching, and coaching were needed as part of the growth process, but not all were open to receiving. Are we open to receiving help or coaching in areas of finances, racism, immigration, helping the poor, and a whole lot of other areas of need? I believe that when churches are open to seeing themselves as a work in progress and intentionally place themselves in a position to receive, blessings are poured out in abundance. I would challenge us to continue to look not only at the ways that we can give, but also to the people and places from which we can receive.