Often times when you read the New Testament, you are drawn into many things, one of which is the miraculous work done by Jesus, and through the Holy Spirit, the Apostles in turn. When you read the accounts of the early church beyond the Bible, what stands out most is the love and care they had for each other, and the outsider, sick, rejected, broken, etc. Jesus’ command to “love one-another as I have loved you” was taken to heart. He predicted that “they will know you are my disciples by the love you have for one-another”. Care is at the center of what the church is meant to be, through the Body of Christ and others who want to care.
What is not as well-known is the rapid expansion of Christianity in the first 3 centuries did not have single super stars, for the most part. That is because these small churches expanded their reach through care and proclamation of the love and forgiveness of Jesus. They taught us that loving care can turn over an empire, and they also taught us that caring is not a single hero process, but the Body of Christ together caring for people.
Kaleidoscope forward to the interconnected age that we live in. We, as well as people outside the church, are learning just how powerful care can be, if it is not done alone, but with the inclusion of others. One of the first, and most popular websites, CaringBridge, was created in the Twin Cities area by a website design and technology consultant who was trying to help her friend in the hospital pray for her (JoAnn) and her soon-to-be-born daughter, Brighid. This website was so helpful on both sides of the map, those caring and those being cared for, that Sona Mehring used this idea to create a website called CaringBridge which is short for Caring for Brighid. As you read inspirational story after inspirational story, the why behind caring together vs. alone becomes obvious.
First, it is a way to get the word out without a great number of texts, emails, or phone calls. Both sides stay up to date, and can give their thoughts, prayers, and words of encouragement to each other. Furthermore, people who are receiving the care have control over how often and in what way they can receive the care, rather than being exhausted, embarrassed, or ashamed by everyone bombarding them.
In my own neighborhood, we together helped a family, where the father of the family was dying. He wanted very demonstrative and pubic love and care from those around him. Many of us took turns visiting, praying, etc. in the hospital. We also very publicly raised money for his mortgage for a year. After the father died, almost simultaneously a woman in our neighborhood contracted cancer that was already metastasized. She was the exact opposite personality, and we quickly turned to CaringBridge to communicate, and let the few in the family do all of the face to face care. That is care that the one being cared for can control the amount and the timing of the care.
Caring together also allows for people to use their very different talents and gifts to do various tasks around the person, which becomes so much easier to carry, and the tasks are carried out with excellence because of the talent behind them. Jane Kise and I experienced this many times when we were putting on LifeKeys workshops. We would start the Spiritual Gifts part of the training by having the whole group interact with a story that needed multiple types of care, and have each participant share what they would do. It became quickly obvious that people used their talents to care, which was unique to each person surrounding the event. This is exactly what Paul meant when he said we are the Body of Christ, and we have different tasks, but the same service, different gifts but the same Spirit behind all of them.
The CaringBridge website also allows people to schedule each day, so there is very little overlap or duplication of care. This is also how a tribe is able to care deeply, without over taxing one or two people more than they have time for.
This experience of the whole network caring is enabled by the interconnectivity of the Internet, and shows us very concretely how we are better together. Updates are much more often, and immediately distributed to everyone who wants to know the latest. Another very effective caring together tool, is part of the Table Project, which is a church platform for many things, including a Prayer App. People can post prayer requests to everyone on the network, and usually within a few minutes multiple people have prayed, sent encouraging words of comforting Scriptures. It was working on the Board of Directors of the Table Project that I realized how much “one to many” communication is much more powerful than “one to one”. Even greater is the “many to many” communication, and begins to show us the power of caring together. We are to care as a Body, and not go it alone.
Want to hear more about this topic? Check out our podcast on Caring Together.