Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you:—1 Peter 4:12
It is vital to be aggressive and proactive in reaching people. And it is just as vital to minister to their needs after we reach them. Too often, churches who are good at reaching the lost flounder when it comes to caring for the needs of young Christians.
Life is not always fair. Young Christians (and long-time members, for that matter) face difficulties and hardships. If a church’s leadership is oblivious to their difficulties and fails to extend God’s love and comfort during those times, current members will have a temptation to resent the church’s aggressive outreach. Their reasoning is simple “They do not really care for unreached people, because they do not care for those of us already here. They only care about numbers.”
As trials will come into the church family, we need both discernment and balance to know how to serve the people God has entrusted to us. We need to reach out aggressively while at the same time reaching in compassionately.
There are two primary kinds of trials our church members go through—spiritual trials and physical trials.
Dealing with Spiritual Trials
Sometimes your church members will go through spiritual trials. When that happens, you salvage lives by noticing and intervening.
As a leader, when you sense a sin problem or a spirit of discouragement in someone’s life, you must lovingly and prayerfully confront it. You must determine to proactively help those you lead through these vulnerable times. (Incidentally, when a person’s faithfulness to church significantly changes, you can know there are needs in his life. Don’t allow untold weeks of missing church to pass before you attempt to make contact, perhaps first with a note or a phone call.)
Go to them personally with a spirit of love and concern. If you already have a relationship with them, it is much easier for them to open up. You have already earned entrance into their lives, and they know that you are coming to them with a desire to help them.
Ask if there is anything you can pray with them about. Be aware that this person might open up, sin might be revealed, and you will have to deal with it spiritually and biblically.
Depending on the situation, you may have to go to that person with another leader. Recognize before you do so that you are taking it to a new level when you bring someone else. Make sure that you are praying for them.
As you deal with spiritual trials in people’s lives, don’t broadcast it—or even allude to it while you are teaching or preaching. When you keep the trust of confidentiality, people will be less hesitant to open up to you as they know they will not be your next sermon illustration.
Remember to guard your spirit along the way. Rely on the grace of God to forgive people, and don’t allow the negative things you deal with to affect your spirit.
Of course, the goal in helping those going through spiritual trials is to seek to restore people. No matter how deep the hurt, don’t retaliate. Remember that hurting people will hurt people. Your job is to love them unconditionally with Christ’s love.
Helping People through Physical Trials
Even as a spiritual trial requires intervening, a physical trial requires your presence. During these times, people often just need you to be there.
Reassure them of the pastor’s and church’s love for them. Convey that being with them is the most important thing going on at that time. Read Scriptures to them and pray with them. Serve the family by meeting any needs (organize a system for providing meals, taking care of the pets, etc.).
Embrace trials on the basis of God’s sovereignty. Remind yourself and those experiencing trials that God is in control and that He is constantly aware of sorrows and heartache. Determine to be a good steward of the trial (because you do not want to repeat it and you do want to learn what He is trying to teach you from it). We gain more “mileage” from our trials when we rejoice and give thanks for what the Lord is going to do because of them.
Educate God’s people during trials. Let them know that we all have trials—they are part of life! Help them to understand that grief is real, and we all need time to go through the grieving process. Teach them that God wants to comfort us during times of grief. Remind them that God can comfort us by His sovereignty, love, grace, tenderness, goodness, and strength.
Encouragement is needed for those going through a trial. Go with them through the trial. Go sit with them through chemo treatments. Grieve and weep with them. Pray with them and share Scripture promises with them; offer hope to them. Encourage them by listening to them and laughing with them. Often when someone else is in a tough situation, we do not know what to say, but just being present helps them. Encourage them to protect their time alone as a family. Counsel them to get away from the hospital for a little while, to go home and get some rest, to stay hydrated and to eat a good meal.
If we do not help the people God has already given to us, why would He give us more people? Make it obvious to your church family that you are there to serve them and help them; reassure them that you are not too busy for them. When trials comes into their lives, go the extra mile to show God’s love to them.