I can do it myself. Our society values do-it-yourselfers. And yet is independence or dependence more of a kingdom value?
“The truth is, I can’t do it on my own,” said Jeremy Risner, C2 Lead Pastor. “I need the right people in my life and they need me.”
This dependence goes counter to our culture that screams independence. Independence in and of itself can be a good thing. Think of babies learning to hold their own bottle, eat with a fork, go to the bathroom on their own. Parents long for the times when children become independent in certain milestone tasks.
Then comes the day when they go off to kindergarten and mom is a mess. The independent five-year-old says, like Devin’s Addie did, “I mean, Mom, it’s not like you’ll never see me again. I’ll be home for dinner and on the weekends.”
Yeah, Addie, that doesn’t help much.
The job of parents is to teach kids how to be independent, or at least that’s always been what I’ve thought. A better way to look at it might be the job of a parent is to mentor children so they grow up and mentor others and so on.
Mentors show us the way. They launch us so that we can then help others launch. This interdependent cycle is always perpetuating or should be if we intend to make it through this life as a conqueror.
The writer of Eccelsiastes says it best. “A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken.”1
Mentors are different than friends. We need both. A mentor is someone who teaches or helps you learn a specific skill you don’t have.
When my father died, I felt a great loss. He was my mentor. I wanted someone older I could look up to and learn from. I began to realize a couple of truths. Mentors don’t have to be older than me, they just have to be a little further down the road practicing or perfecting the particular thing I need help with. Second, I had hit what many people refer to the halftime of life. At age 50, I have learned enough to be of help to others.
Now when I need to develop an area of my life, I search out a mentor relationship to buoy me. And when someone needs my help, I try to do the same for them.
Really good friends are also necessary for an effective life. We depend on friends to speak the truth in love and say things like, “Put down the brownie and walk away quietly.”
They are the ones who love you enough to sit beside you during life’s crises and then encourage you to get up and start over again.
A friend will hold you accountable, especially when you ask them to. “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.” 2 A great friend doesn’t let you slide. A great friend helps you up and stays by your side.
Small Bible study or interest groups are places you depend on each other in a comfortable, welcoming setting. These are groups where you share challenges and struggles, as well as victories. As churches get bigger, the only way to really connect with others is to have meaningful connections in a small group setting.
The tendency for some is to hide and not risk being involved. A small group, though, is where friendships and mentorships evolve naturally. They are integral to growth spiritually and relationally.
I’m a part of several small groups. Each helps me in different areas of my life. One is a group of those of us who are over 50. Another I’m starting to attend in October is an exercise and healthy living group.
My LOL group is a bunch of crazy woman who have been meeting together in some fashion for at least three years. We share a meal, talk, pray, laugh, cry and study the Bible. These ladies keep me sane in an insane world.
“You make a decision to follow Christ on your own, but you cannot be a Christian on your own,” Risner said. This is where being connected to a local church is so important.
It’s difficult to grow and serve Christ outside of a being in relationship with a body of believers. We depend on our churches to help keep us accountable, connected, challenged and inspired.
The writer of Hebrews talks about how important it is to meet together as the body of Christ. “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”3
Risner continued, “Being a part of a local church gives a deep sense of belonging, purpose and relationship. In Biblical community, we fellowship and share our lives and all we have. We share what goes on inside the church walls by taking it out into the community.”
Our American culture encourages independence. Our parents taught us to be independent. We might be able to live independently from others for the rest of our lives, but there is strength in admitting we can’t do everything on our own. There is strength in growing relationally stronger.
This foundational truth, Risner teaches to his leaders is key in learning what it means to live interdependently. “If you’re doing it by yourself, you’re doing it wrong.”
The problem with doing it alone means even if you know what you are doing, you are not teaching anyone else what you know.
Be a person who admits you can’t do it by yourself. Live in relationship with others and discover the richness of the Christian life.
1 Eccelsiastes 4:9-12, NLT
2 Proverbs 27:17, NIV
3 Hebrews 10:25