In a culture of experts and specialists, it is easy to get the idea that only specially-trained people can do the hard stuff. But that's not how the church works. We're the body of Christ, and there are no unnecessary or unimportant parts. We are all called to bring the love of Christ to bear in one another’s lives—pastors, parents, spouses, friends, neighbors, one and all. For some very good reasons, the Lord delights in using the most unlikely members to advance the boundaries of his reign.

This is the essence of the Side by Side conference.

Throughout the Old Testament, God chooses the runt of the litter to save the world from famine or secure the safety of Israel. His judges can be found hiding rather than rallying men into battle—they were, by no means, born leaders. When we come to the New Testament, we find disciples who were unlikely agents of change, women who were known by their sins, and tax collectors who were seen as corrupt. So if you feel like an unworthy misfit, you are the perfect candidate for God to use.

As one who certainly can feel inadequate, I find this very encouraging. I will be fruitful as I abide in Jesus (John 15:5). Repentance, humility, forgetting about myself, considering the interests of others, praying for others—those are more important than innate gifts.

For all of us, this means that we are more motivated to grow in love and ministry skill. Instead of resting in our lack of credentials, we are energized. It is like a great coach saying to a young, unaccomplished athlete, “You have what it takes to win Olympic gold.” That youngster will suddenly be the first one at practice, the last to leave and will work harder than anyone. Similarly, when we are told that we will be fruitful because of Christ and not because of ourselves, we become more determined to find wisdom and be skillful in how we help others.

While pastors lead us in these efforts, they aren't called to do it all, or even most of it. Rather they are specially tasked to call the rest of us to important action: training and doing some heavy lifting (Eph. 4:11-12).

Both the book Side by Side and the CCEF conference are designed to help pastors mobilize the church and help all of us continue to amass skills that can bless others. Since God promises to use us ordinary people, if you come to the conference bring a voracious appetite for new skills and expect to be using them by Sunday afternoon.

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