When I was younger and would hear things talked about that I didn’t understand I had a tendency to try to look interested, nod at the appropriate times, and pretend that I wasn’t totally clueless. The older I get, with plenty of things I still don’t understand, I’m much quicker to speak up and confess my ignorance. In my growing maturity I’m less concerned about what someone may think about what I don’t know and more concerned about what I don’t know.
The problem is that it’s often just so hard to figure out what you don’t know until you come face to face with it. Even harder is the task of trying to get a real accurate picture of your own character. We believe things to be true of ourselves that others see quite differently. I see it all the time. Husbands and wives who think they are good communicators, yet really aren’t. Men who think they are humble, but filled with blinding pride. Women who believe themselves to be encouragers, but are more often than not those who tear down. A clear picture of your own character is desperately hard to come by … without the help of others.
Robert Thune in his little book on Gospel Eldership so accurately points out that “Character is discerned in community. It’s the people around you – the people in community with you – who are the best judges of your character. For this reason, you must invite others into the process of character discernment. And you should expect that a healthy church will not move you toward leadership until you have been in gospel-saturated community for a long time, really allowing others into the nitty-gritty details of your life and soul.” What Thune points out for leaders is true for everyone. You will not see yourself accurately without the help of others. That means that you don’t know all the areas of character deficiency by your own self-assessment. Therefore, if you really care and aren’t going to just nod and look interested, two things are required of you.
- You Need to Invite It – That means you have to be more involved with people than you probably currently are. You can’t get to asking someone to really share honest observations about your character in five minutes after the worship service. You have to position yourself with people so they can know you and see you succeed and fail through the highs and lows of real life. Then as they have watched, you must ask – “What did you see in me as I went through that situation? How did I impact you? What input do you have for me?”
- You Need to Give It – That means that you have to be alert and engaged in the lives of others around you. It’s not your role to be the character police or self-proclaimed judge of maturity. But it is your role to be a good friend, so that when those previous questions come, you actually have some meaningful content to share. When those rare moments arrive where you have the privilege to speak into the soul of an inquiring brother or sister you want to be prepared to be a real help to them. Responses like “I don’t know, I think you’re fine, don’t sweat it” are not expressions of true friendship and life in community.
Let’s all remember the Vision of LCC in Community is to “embrace with humility our constant need”, and then love one another enough to help each grow in Godly character!
- Mark Spansel