By Bart Poole, Trinity Baptist Church, Aurora, CO
We all stand on someone else’s shoulders. I remember the first time I heard that statement and I honestly didn’t understand it. I remember a familiar story of a man who runs into a rather strange sight and the circumstances creates some angst as he tries to figure out the cause and effect of his discovery. Out in the middle of nowhere, he finds a turtle sitting on the top of a fence. Ok we all know turtles can’t climb fences or walls so how did that turtle get up there? After thinking through, imagining different scenarios—he finally comes to a profound conclusion. Turtles can’t get to the top of a fence on their own. Someone helped him get there. And that turtle reminds us, we all stand on someone else’s shoulders.
Someone invested. Someone taught. Someone inspired you and you are where you are at in life because of the influence, the training, the coaching of others – in your life. There are many who believe they are self-made and that any ounce of success or achievement has come through personal brilliance and hard work. Those attributes are a nice addition in anyone’s life, but turtles don’t find themselves sitting on top of a fence on their own. Someone helped them to get there. The trick or maybe better said, real wisdom comes when said ‘turtle’ realizes where he’d be without a helping hand in his life and reciprocates the aid in his life with gratitude and action.
When I was pastoring in Colorado Springs. We had a guy in our church that trained soldiers in Fort Carson. Periodically, he’d ask me if there were some projects ‘his’ soldiers could do around the church. I’d find projects and on a Saturday afternoon, soldiers from Carson would be working around our church. One Saturday I came by to check on the ‘team’ and asked my friend why he required soldiers he was training to do service projects for others. He smiled and without hesitation told me, “All of us have had someone take time, sacrifice some part of their lives, helped us grow so that we are able to live our lives, complete our jobs and have the option for success in our lives. It’s time for us to give back and not hoard the opportunities we have been given, but give back so someone else can flourish through our experiences. I’m teaching these young soldiers to give back!”
No matter where you are in life, his counsel is great! Everyone should not only learn how but practice a lifetime of ‘giving back’ to others. Shovel your neighbors walk, pick up some trash, feed those less fortunate, get on your knees and look a child in the eye as they tell you a story. Give back!
Over the last few years, I’ve been a part of a ‘giving back’ venture with Fellowship of the Rockies and Open Bible Church in Colorado Springs. The project was part of a 10-12-year dream of Steward McWilliams in the Dominican Republic. Fellowship of the Rockies has invested time, people, finances and dreams in a border city, Dajabon, for years. They’ve helped build and remodel churches; train pastors, encourage leaders and establish lifetime relationships as they endeavor to ‘give back’ honoring the multitude of ways God has blessed their church. I’ve been on a number of those trips with Fellowship and helped them build, teach and encourage the people from Dajabon.
The last two years, some new and excited ‘branching out’ has taken place. In the United States, we are quick to run to conventions where Levi Lusko, Craig Groeshel, Andy Stanley, Steve Furtick and other ‘big names’ divulge their ministry experience to leaders hoping to one day mirror their ministries. It’s funny. When you’ve been around ministry for long enough you realize, we all need help. We are all looking for solutions that haunt us in our daily ministry. We all need a ‘shot in the arm’ from time to time to get us over the hump. That’s what has taken place in the Dominican Republic. Four pastors last year, three pastors this year went to specifically train and encourage pastors. The team asked leaders from two cities what pastors needed help with and pastor conferences were set up so that regular guys in ministry could speak to leaders about practical ways to help their ministries be stronger. The needs have varied over the last few years but the team has taught finances, sermon prep, leadership training, organizational tools, personal development, meeting community needs, and harmony among local congregations. Every time an event has been scheduled, more leaders show up to the conferences than were expected. There is an amazing hunger to learn especially since many of the leaders in the Dominican Republic don’t have the luxury of theological training. They have been called by God. They are passionate for their people. They just need someone to set them up on a fence and let them thrive.
This year the team was also asked to do a marriage conference for the leaders in the DR. A night was set aside, decorations went up, good food was cooked and the team taught from Gary Smalley’s 5 Love Languages. Each pastor and the youth pastor’s wife from Fellowship of the Rockies taught a session to pastors/leaders and their spouses who enthusiastically participated in the training. The divorce rate with pastors in the Dominican Republic is equal to the divorce rate of everyday families. The pressure of ministry; the financial strains on families; the constant pull of poverty and its effect on the local church has created a culture of ‘checking out’ for leaders in their country. Four sessions took place and at the end of the night you could see hope in the eyes of men and women because someone was honest enough with them to say—we know how hard marriage can be but we also know how rewarding it can be. Let’s point you in the right direction so that you won’t simply be another troubling statistic but will establish marriages that are honoring to God. When the conference was over, pastors from all over the Dominican Republic were asking the team if we’d do a marriage conference in their city and my city and this city and that city. The need is great! The hunger is real. The workers are few.
Giving back may not be the bumper sticker you have displayed on the back of your car. It might not be part of your everyday vernacular but it could be. I think it should be, especially if you are wise and will take some time to retrace your own steps. Someone took the time to encourage you. Someone paid for a meal, gave your babies some Huggies, wrote a letter of encouragement, or spoke words that brought hope. It’s time to give back. In big ways and small ways, you can take what God has used in your life and ‘give back’ to others who need someone, anyone to help them. Remember, we ALL stand on someone else’s shoulders. Give back and watch what God will do!