Church members, even pastors, may ask this question: “What can I do to help restore others?”
Floyd Welch was a 20-year-old electrician’s mate aboard the USS Maryland on Sunday, December 7, 1941. When the first wave of attack planes came into view, Mr. Welch was getting the public address system ready for church services that morning. As a result of the bomb damage she absorbed, the USS Oklahoma, moored alongside Mr. Welch’s ship, rolled over in the harbor, bottom up. Hundreds of men were trapped below decks.
When the bombing began, Floyd Welch switched to his combat duty, which was damage control and repair. “By using blueprints of the Oklahoma, so as not to burn into a fuel void, we began the long and extremely difficult process of cutting holes through the bottom steel plates of the Oklahoma,” he wrote in a remembrance of the battle. “When we could see the planes coming, we would try to find cover. We would cut near where we heard the trapped crewmen tapping. In all, I believe 33 men from the Oklahoma were rescued through these holes.”
When I read this story after this honored veteran passed away at age 99, I wondered how he felt on that day. Many men were killed. Other men died while trapped in the USS Oklahoma after she rolled over in the harbor. Did Mr. Welch feel helpless? He never fired a weapon at the enemy. He never struck a blow in the ship’s defense. He bravely dodged bullets and patiently cut holes in the ship’s bottom to enable men to escape. His selfless actions saved 33 lives.
The Burden of Restoration
Many within the church today may feel the burden of restoration. Perhaps they have watched helplessly as a beloved pastor or staff member fell. Maybe they watched silently, but hurtfully, as a minister was forced out over some trivial matter. In their hearts, they grieved and wanted to do something to help. Maybe at some time, you have watched similar events unfold and asked, “What can I do to help restore others?”
Galatians chapter six in the New Testament provides the Scriptural foundation for restoration ministry:
“Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself. But let each one test his own work, and then his reason to boast will be in himself alone and not in his neighbor. For each will have to bear his own load.” Galatians 6:1-5 (ESV)
Of particular interest in answering the question, “What can I do to help restore others?” is the different way this passage handles the words “burdens” (vs. 2) and “load” (vs. 5). These words, while similar, have vastly different meanings.
- The word used in verse two (burden) means an incredibly heavy burden or load; something virtually impossible for a person to carry alone. Think of all the equipment an artillery unit would require to do battle. The weapons themselves, ammunition, repair equipment, and more. No single person could possibly carry that entire load – armies generally use trucks to tow artillery pieces and haul the necessary items.
- The word used in verse five (load) was the word typically used for a soldier’s personal pack of gear. This is what each soldier had to carry in order to survive. It would likely include his personal weapon, ammunition, water, food, first-aid equipment, and the like. Every soldier was required to carry this equipment. His own basic survival depended on it; moreover, he could also render a measure of aid to another soldier, if needed, until more complete aid could arrive.
Do you see the application here for us? The work of restoration is an incredibly huge burden. When ministers leave active service each year across our country, many never return to the church – indeed, most are left alone and never pursued with an intent to heal and restore them to spiritual health. No one person can carry this burden. No one person is meant to carry this load.
This is the meaning of verse two: help others carry the burden. It gains its context from verse one – the spiritually mature should seek to bear the burden of restoring the fallen and broken. Are you walking faithfully with our Lord? Are you seeking to live in daily fellowship and obedience to Him? Then verses one and two are speaking directly to you.
The Work of Restoration (Me? What Can I Do to Help Restore Others?)
The “spiritual” or mature believers of Galatians 6:1 are the ones carrying their “own load” in Galatians 6:5. They are marching forward, following Jesus, and fighting the good fight. Their soldier’s pack contains things like obedience, faithfulness, compassion, faith, Bible study, prayer, and sharing Christ with others. But it also contains items they can use in the work of restoration. As they trudge across the battlefield, they can occasionally pause, stoop down, and render aid to a fallen soldier. In fact, who wouldn’t help a fallen comrade on the battlefield?
“What can I do?” you may ask. Twenty-year-old sailor Floyd Welch may have asked himself that question when the bombs began falling. And he did what you can do – he did what was necessary to survive himself, and used the tools and skills he had to save lives.
Use what you have to reach out and offer aid to the fallen and the broken. What can I do to help restore others? When my family and I were ousted from a church, we lived in the church’s house. We had nowhere to live. In desperation, we moved across the state and into my parents’ home. Eight of us lived in a three bedroom, one-and-a-half-bathroom home.
Pastor Pete and Antioch Church provided assistance that allowed us to eventually pay the necessary deposits and get an apartment of our own. Our car was repossessed while I was searching for a job that would replace my ministry income. Pastor Pete sent us to an Antioch church member who owned a mechanic shop. This believer was willing to do what he could to help with restoration. He sold us a car with unbelievably generous terms. We drove away in it without paying a single dollar at that time.
We eventually began attending a local church (to which Pastor Pete referred us) that welcomed us, loved us, and provided a safe place to sit, worship, hurt, and heal. Many members of that church befriended us, helped us move into our apartment, and met a hundred different needs. We were surprised with groceries and Christmas gifts for our children.
Another local believer provided generous terms for a storage building where we could keep our belongings until we were able to move into an apartment. In fact, they forgave our remaining fees when we were ready to move our belongings out of storage.
Restoration Needs Your Help
“What can I do to help restore others?” Maybe you can’t participate in the difficult work of a fallen minister’s restoration team, but you can do something. Use what you have! What do you have to offer?
- Medical/dental services
- Mechanical services
- Home repair services – electrical/plumbing/HVAC
- Storage services
- Vehicle sales
- Yard work
- Time for coffee/encouragement
- Quiet place to study/rest/get away
- Copy of the Reclaiming Book for your pastor/church leaders
The enormous burden of restoration needs willing soldiers to help carry the load. Floyd Welch did what he could on December 7, 1941, and 33 men lived to fight another day, raise families, and live their lives. I’m positive those 33 men were grateful for the second chance they received because of Mr. Welch and his fellow sailors.
“What can I do to help restore others?” How will you answer that question?
This topic is further developed and discussed in chapter four of re.CLAIM.ing – A Handbook for Developing a Restorative Culture in Your Church. Click the link to get your copy today!