By Len Keever
Last week on a mission trip to San Elena, Belize, we sat under a lone shade tree in 92 degree heat and even higher humidity. It’s amazing what you can see when you are too tired to talk.
Resting in the heat we saw six ants working together to carry a single grain of rice over high grass and rough ground. The burden was too heavy for a single ant to carry alone. It took six Formicidae working together for the weight to shift, for the newfound treasure to find its way home.
Watching these social insects working together, I couldn’t help but think of the Peer Learning Group that meets at First Baptist Church in Dunn, North Carolina. Although primarily a reading group that explores the works of authors such as Eugene Peterson, Barbara Brown Taylor and N.T. Wright, the real work begins when we work together to assist with each other’s burdens, to help carry something one of us alone cannot shoulder.
Being a pastor can be a daunting vocation!
Mostly there is no one in the local church (or at the competing church across the street, for that matter) with whom we can share much of our struggles. Everything from our own encounters with life changes, the drain of difficult people and wrestling with emerging thoughts on theological and social issues can seem like more than we can handle at times.
Where are the safe places to talk freely? Where are the ones who can help shoulder both our emergent discoveries and our practical fears? Where are the other ants when you need them, the ones who will watch with you when you too are too tired to talk?
The greatest gift of being a part of our Peer Learning Group is the relationships we have formed. We have been with each other in the death of a spouse, in wrongful rumors that damaged the reputation of one of our own, in wrestling to know God’s will as opportunities to move have presented themselves, in dealing with issues that face the Church, and in facing the changes of ministry brought on by retirement.
We have been a safe haven, a respite place, and a clearing committee when honest, open advice has been sought. We have celebrated newfound treasures together and we have found a place where our pain is honored and respected. We have survived many things because we were intimate and caring. In short, we have been able to be better ministers because we had each other.
Ours is not just a Peer Learning Group, it is a Peer Shouldering Group, a Peer Feasting Group and a Peer Laughing Group as well. It is gift and it is challenge. It is one of the best things we all do for ourselves. Together we can move the grain of rice.
Len Keever serves as the Senior Pastor of First Baptist Church in Dunn, N.C.