Healthy Helpers - thrive UMC Official Blog

Healthy Helpers

1 Corinthians 3:1-9

Brothers and sisters, I couldn’t talk to you like spiritual people but like unspiritual people, like babies in Christ. I gave you milk to drink instead of solid food, because you weren’t up to it yet. Now you are still not up to it because you are still unspiritual. When jealousy and fighting exist between you, aren’t you unspiritual and living by human standards? When someone says, “I belong to Paul,” and someone else says, “I belong to Apollos,” aren’t you acting like people without the Spirit? After all, what is Apollos? What is Paul? They are servants who helped you to believe. Each one had a role given to them by the Lord: I planted, Apollos watered, but God made it grow. Because of this, neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but the only one who is anything is God who makes it grow. The one who plants and the one who waters work together, but each one will receive their own reward for their own labor. We are God’s coworkers, and you are God’s field, God’s building.

            After only two weeks of our new series, I’m already hearing murmurs of skepticism circulate our ranks about the path ahead.  A few of you have done the math –and if we continue with the pattern and pacing with which we’ve began, then that will mean we’re going to spend eight more weeks talking about the Enneagram!  And for some of you, that just seems like… way too long!  I mean, we can’t stand to talk about Christmas for eight weeks, and that’s one of our favorite things ever!  Christmas has cute baby Jesus, magic reindeer and presents –so how is some kind of glorified personality profile supposed to hold our wandering attention for that long?

            And then for others, there are concerns that this is venturing out beyond the bounds of what we understand to be religion, and out into the unwelcome territory of what we might call ‘pop-psychology.’  And most of us have been down that road before, haven’t we?  Where there’s a new trend about every six months, but they all play out as different flavors of the same thing.  ‘Get in touch with your feelings.’  ‘Here are the 5-12 steps to fix your own life, and find your bliss now.’  And they all tell you to do things like meditate daily, and eat better, get exercise, and practice a positive self-image by doing things like wearing yoga pants –all the while explaining your adult problems as the obvious result of secret childhood trauma. We’ve all already heard about all that from the person in our life who religiously watched Oprah.

            Then, finally, some of you are like: ‘Hey Jeremy, yeah yeah yeah, the Enneagram is great, I’m sure; BUT WHAT ABOUT THE FUTURE OF THE CHURCH?!?!  Here we are having a crisis –less and less people are going to worship, and there have been people who have left, and we don’t think enough new people are coming in. And so we need to be doing something!  We don’t have time to sit here, for 9 weeks idly talking about our spiritual gifts –we need to get out of our pews and get to work!  We need more volunteers for our programs, and more servers for meals, and more visits to the elderly, more wise leaders, more social media presence, more public events, more advertising, more communication, more Sunday School teachers, more kids, more justice, more missions, more dollars, more Bible studies, more prayer, time, energy, and …ah, we’re all gonna die!’

            And first of all, allow me to say –I hear you. Your concerns are absolutely valid, and I am with you.  I might add, however, that your concerns point to a series patterns, don’t they?  As Americans, this sense of a fleeting attention span is not new to us, is it?  And the cycles of short-lived, pop-psychology and self-help trends are not new.  Neither is the fear for our future that leads us down the path of frenzied activity, again and again, eternally chasing the phantom prize of ‘more.’ Burning people out, left and right, the more we go. These are the things we do, over and over again. 

Our eyes constantly jump, from one thing to the next trying to heal the unquenchable boredom of our minds. 

Our spirits constantly jump, from one thing to the next, trying every superficial, fashionable remedy of the minute to patch up what’s broken inside.

Our hands constantly jump, from one task to the next, trying to patch over the insecurity we feel in our minds and souls.

This is us.  Do you see the pattern here? Do you see the patterns in your own life –the problems that keep popping up, over and over again?  Do we see the patterns in our church life together?  Do you see them in our shared American life?  Do you see the patterns? Can we take just a moment from our full and frenetic lives to slow down and look at the habits we’ve unconsciously adopted for ourselves?  Do we have the courage –the fortitude, the faith- to stop and gaze at the scariness that lives within?

This is the gift that both the Apostle Paul and the Enneagram have to offer: they help us witness ourselves and the ritual movements of our spirits, and they show us a better way. 

So first I want to talk a little bit about the Enneagram. We’re going to talk about type 2 today, which is called the ‘Helper.’  And in this case, the name almost says it all.  Type 2’s are people who just want to be helpful.  And everyone appreciates a good, helpful person in their lives, right?    

After all, that pretty much sums up a big part of the mission of the church, doesn’t it?  Be helpful! Help is love in action, which satisfies the two big commands of Jesus.  It almost makes you wonder why God made human beings to be any other kind than type 2.

So let’s all learn a little more about how to be healthy helpers.

The basic desires of Helpers is to be loved.

  • Twos are empathetic, sincere, and warm-hearted. They are friendly, generous, and self-sacrificing, but can also be sentimental, flattering, and people-pleasing. They are well-meaning and driven to be close to others, but can slip into doing things for others in order to be needed. They typically have problems with possessiveness and with acknowledging their own needs. 
  • At their Best: unselfish and altruistic, they have unconditional love for others.

If you want to know if you might be a 2, here are some sentiments that tend to resonate powerfully with this type:

  • “It feels natural to be friendly: I strike up conversations easily and am on a first-name basis with everyone.”
  • “It’s hard for me to take credit for the many things I’ve done for people, but it bothers me a lot when they don’t seem to notice or care.”
  • “I see myself as something of a ‘healer of broken hearts.’”
  • “I love to knock myself out to make people feel welcomed and appreciated.”

Now, as I said before, the gift of the Helper is that they are helpful. And we absolutely want to celebrate and encourage helpfulness in people wherever we can, because it is our fuel as a church. If our service toward one another and toward God is healthy and powerful, then we will be a healthy and powerful church.  And the more effective we are at equipping and inspiring people to be helpful, the closer we will be to faithfully living out our mission as disciples and apostles of Jesus Christ.  And for 2’s, this spirit of helpfulness comes almost naturally.  Twos are people people.  They feel most comfortable and most alive when they are in living relationship with others, using their typically abundant energy to make the lives of others better.  And they possess an inner wisdom that tells them that if they want to receive love, then they must first give love.  This is their gift: twos are our best models for self-giving service.

In short, these people sound like natural saints, right?

I can still remember, when I was in my mid-twenties, I was walking around Walmart one day, looking at DVDs when a guy about my age strikes up a conversation with me. We talk for maybe 5 minutes and I end up giving the guy my phone number, on the pretext of getting together to play basketball.  Not a week later, he calls me.  But the first question he asks has nothing to do with getting together to shoot hoops.  Instead –can you guess what he asks?  He asks me: “hey Jeremy, I wanna know, could you use a little extra money?”  He then proceeds to invite me to come to a once-in-a-lifetime seminar where I could learn how to make an extra $3,000 a month!

What a helpful gentleman!  Here we were, just strangers in Walmart, and within 5 minutes we’re already friends.  And not a week later –skipping the basketball entirely, he’s ready to help me turn my life around! All I had to do was join his pyramid scheme! 

All of us know ‘helpers’ like that, don’t we?  People who go around acting like the only thing they care about is our own personal interests –when really they’re just looking out for themselves.  Even in the church we can be like that!  Never is evangelism so passionate in our beloved United Methodist churches than when our budget is in the red! And this, brothers and sisters, is a far cry from sainthood!

This is what the Enneagram teaches us: that we human beings are really good at pretending to be helpful in order to get what we want.  And what we all want is love. More specifically, we most urgently want to be loved.  Twos just feel it a little more urgently perhaps than the rest of us.  And to get that love we all have a very human tendency to give gifts with strings attached. 

You can see this at play in our scripture reading for today. Paul had gone out by himself to the city of Corinth to start a Jesus community.  He lived there for 18 months, recruiting people, building a base, and sharing some very basic teachings.  Then he left and another apostle named Apollos went, and he stayed in the city longer –training and building up the community more.  But eventually he also leaves and it comes back that factions have formed in Corinth:  the church is divided between team Paul and team Apollos. Probably they were ready to form their own new denominations. So Paul writes back to let them know that their dividedness and their jealousy are clear signs that they are not yet spiritual people. Even after all this time, they are still way too caught up in the small-mindedness and the self-centeredness of the world.  While the Holy Spirit inspires the faithful to have “the mind of Christ” he lets them know, in no uncertain terms, that they are just like infants in Christ. 

But shortly after he says that, Paul has this beautiful, inspiring line.  Speaking about himself and his ministry-partner Apollos, he says, “neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but the only one who is anything is God who makes it grow.”  This is our good news, even today: that God is in the growing. 

Often, so much of our attention has been caught up in who does what, and who isn’t or can’t do anything that we seem to have forgotten about God’s business.  God’s work is growth.  God grows people in their faith, love, wisdom, and service.  God grows communities and churches to reach more people and to serve and worship more powerfully.  God calls the whole world and our entire species to grow toward justice and grace. 

This morning I want to invite you into a brief time of reflection and prayer.  As you look at your life, and as you consider the varied ministries and services of our church –is that what we’re about?  Are all of our efforts to ‘help’ focused sharply on setting the stage for God’s holy growth? When you try to serve others or extend a helping hand, do you do it with the confidence that God’s going to bring the growth?  Or are we more preoccupied with what we’ll get out of it –attention, respect, affection? 

Close your eyes. 

Examine your heart. 

Notice your thoughts. 

Notice your feelings. 

What does your spirit have to tell you?

As we draw back together, I want to let you know that whatever you noticed and however you felt, it’s okay. You probably caught a few glimpses of selfishness and insecurity.  That’s not bad; that’s just where you are.  And our good news is that God is still with us, and God will keep helping us grow, so long as there’s still breath in our lungs and static lighting our minds. Who and where you are is the stage where God is about to share the next miracle.

Let’s be ready to receive it.

Before we close, I wanted to share some practices that can till and water the soil of our spirits.  It’s aimed at 2s, but I think we’ll find we can all benefit from these practices.

  • Two or three times a day, ask yourself: What am I feeling right now? What do I need?
  • Don’t reflexively say yes to everything. Experiment with the word ‘no.’ It is a complete sentence.
  • Don’t push away feelings of resentment or entitlement. Instead, view them as invitations to look inwardly with kindness and ask, What most needs attention in my life right now?

Let us be the fertile fields where God’s grace grows.

Let’s pray.

Jenn
September 12th, 2019 at 4:43 pm

Thank you for the message Jeremy! Eja and I will not be in church this coming weekend as we wont be coming to Iowa. Look forward to hearing about this weekends service sorry we are going to miss the donuts! And FYI…Im enjoying learning about the enneagram. Have A great day!

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