Down in the panhandle of Texas there is a Christian that is an old fashioned cowboy.  By cowboy, I mean just that.  He is the John Wayne of the 21st century.  He smells of the land, is often unkempt, and spends countless hours managing the herd.  He is not particularly talkative and seems rather stern.  But, he is a devout Christian, a man of God.  One day many years ago he was installing new water lines for the herd.  As he was installing the larger lines he needed to move the water across the vast countryside his pinky finger got caught as two larger pipes came together.  Naturally, he went to the emergency room.  As the doctor came in he said that he had good and bad news.  The bad news is that the finger is nearly severed.  Only a ligament was holding it on at this point.  The good news is that the cut was so clean they were certain that they could save the finger.  The old cowboy asked how long would he be out of work?  The doctor told him that he would be out of work 8-10 months as he would need time to heal and therapy.  The old cowboy looked up at the doctor and asked how long would he be out of work if he just cut it off?  The doctor was stunned.  He asked for clarification because he couldnít believe what he was just asked to do.  The old cowboy explained that he didnít have 8-10 months to wait to get back to work.  Besides, it was the pinky finger, and we donít use it for anything.  So, the doctor cut it off, sewed him up and told him he would be out 4-6 weeks.  One day, many years later, a new member of the church heard about this story and had to ask, ďDo you regret your decision?Ē  The old cowboy looked at him and said yes.  ďThe 1st time I grabbed a bunch of washers out of a box and every one of them fell out of the bottom of my hand.Ē  He then said, ďIf God gave you a part of your body, there was a reason for it.  Keep as much of it as you can.Ē 
Every member of the church is important.  This is the lesson that that Paul taught both the Romans and the Corinthians that the whole body is needed, important, and useful for the Lordís work.  In fact, Paul warned that no member is less important than the next (I Cor. 12:22).  Knowing this, and knowing that several of our own body have/will be departing from us this month, what are we who are left behind supposed to do while they are away?  While we have already been doing this for several years, it does not necessarily mean that we have been doing it the right way.  For instance, certain quarterbacks make it to the NFL with bad throwing mechanics.  These mechanics must be fixed at the professional level if they hope to find success.  Those that refuse to change (or are incapable of changing) end up finding themselves out of the NFL within a couple of years.  With this in mind, what do we need to be doing to insure their absence does not hinder the work and growth of the church AND what can we do to ensure that upon their return they can seamlessly reenter their role in this body?
Someone will have to take up the slack.  Whenever a person has an injury to the body, another part of the body tends to compensate for that injury.  For instance, when I was in the 3rd grade I broke my right arm (I am right-handed).  As it was healing I learned to rely upon my left hand for a lot of tasks.  For a great while I was actually better at certain things with my left than I was with my right.  It bothered my parents that my handwriting actually improved.  And even to this day, I actually feel more comfortable boxing southpaw (or as a left handed person boxes).  In a similar fashion we need to use this time while they are away to grow stronger.  Some of us need to step out of our comfort boxes and begin filling their shoes while they are away.  We are losing song leaders, some of us not leading need to step it up.  We are losing prayer leaders.  Some of use not leading in prayers need to step up.  We are losing those that clean the building.  Some of us need to step up.  We are losing those that prepare the Lordís Supper.  Some of us not doing it, need to step up.  Fill the void.  Permit yourself to grow stronger.
Donít overcompensate.  When a person blows out their knee it is not uncommon to see them blowing out the other knee at some other time.  Why?  They relied so much on the good leg, in fear of reinsuring the bad knee they actually put to much pressure on the good knee and it breaks down as well.  Likewise, we need to be careful to allow those that are leaving to be able to return as if they were never gone.  There are two big reasons why this needs to be done.  First of all, no one should be made to feel like they have to do all the work.  A couple of years ago I was reading a book written by a baptist pastor that spoke of how often he saw pastors break down and quit.  One of the things that I noticed about this is that the pastoral system tends to throw all the responsibilities upon the pastor.  While we do not believe the pastoral system is scriptural here, it does not mean that we cannot make similar mistakes.  Donít rely to heavily upon one member to do all the work.  We donít want that person to feel overwhelmed and break down.  Second of all, when overcompensating, we all the injured body part to not be strengthened.  If we fail to allow those away to return to the service which they performed for the church and the Lordís work, we permit them to be weakened.
I guess what I am trying to say is that next 5 months we are going to have to pick up the slack for those that will be away and then be ready to welcome them home and encourage them to start producing fruits just as soon as they get back.   -WTK
Grinnell church of Christ
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While Others are Away

The Light
Volume 4 Issue 48