One of my favorite quotes from C.S. Lewis (and there are so many) comes from his collection of essays, The Weight of Glory:
“There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations – these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub and exploit – immortal horrors or everlasting splendors. This does not mean that we are to be perpetually solemn. We must play. But our merriment must be of that kind (and it is, in fact, the merriest kind) which exists between people who have, from the outset, taken each other seriously – no flippancy, no superiority, no presumption.”
During a recent discussion, I was reminded how important this mindset is in the life of the church. Every person that walks in the door (the most veteran member or the first-time guest) has a story. Experiences that have formed who they are, how they think, how they will respond to us, and how they will hear what we have to say.
What difference would it make if we could take the time to get past the mostly superficial “how are you doing?” and ask the “what’s your story?” kind of questions. When we take the time to listen it may amaze us what we learn. Remember these are not mere mortals we worship with. It is very likely they have carried in with them baggage full of hurts, regrets, disappointments, and issues which we surprisingly will be able to relate to.
As we learn the stories of those around us, move past the assumptions, there will be opportunities to exercise a listening ear, a caring heart, and the chance to “rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep.” A phrase that is being oft-repeated in the Christian & Missionary Alliance these days is the descriptor “a Christ-centered, Acts 1:8 family.” As a sacred community, a family if you will, taking one another seriously is imperative. It is only then we can minister from a relationship base—ministry that matters.