When I was a teenager, I wanted to learn karate but didn’t have a teacher at first, so I tried to learn from a book. The results were pitiful and tragically comedic. Later, when I found a teacher and began to learn kung fu from him, I realized why I couldn’t train myself. First, I lacked the requisite correct knowledge. Second, I could not see myself well enough to correct my errors. And third, I didn’t even really know, when using a book, when I’d done something the right way. Lacking the teacher, I was actually training myself in wrong ways and bad habits that, had I ever needed self-defense skills would have not worked out in my favor. The truth is we all need other people to help us become our best.

I’ve been privileged to know several people over the span of my years who were mighty in faith and prayer. These are the people others immediately think to call when they need special prayer. When I was a teenager, my “in case of emergency prayer person” was a very special woman named Aurie. Aurie was wise in the ways of the Lord and would pray for others with passion, sometimes she would even groan when her heart sought the Lord, but she did not have words. Hearing Aurie pray was an apprenticeship in the school of prayer but being prayed for by her was to be carried aloft on the passion of those prayers into God’s throne room. Aurie, herself a pastor’s daughter, took me, a pastor’s kid under her wing and mentored and guided me through the many tumultuous trials of growing up.

If you know anything about Star Wars, you have probably heard about Luke Skywalker being sent to the planet Dagobah to study the ways of a Jedi Knight under the tutelage of Grandmaster Yoda. Yoda was powerful and wise, but small and hunched and walked with a stick. Aurie was my Yoda. Many were the times she’d discuss the Christian faith with me. And probably the number of times I was in her prayers was more than I could likely count. Like Yoda, Aurie was small and hunched, and because of many joint surgeries needed a cane to walk around, and like the Jedi Grandmaster, Aurie instilled in me a profound sense of the majesty and power of God. The thing is, we all need people further along on their spiritual journey with the Lord to come alongside us and that is one of the many reasons that I believe it is imperative for people to physically attend and participate in a local church.

Some in the church are ready to mentor others, others need to grow a bit, while many others need someone to help them on the way, to encourage them, and help them avoid problems and pitfalls. God has made local churches for the primary purpose of developing mature faith and practice in each person’s life through Christian relationships. More than any other external means, quality relationships impact who we are and who we become. Relationships work best in person. It is good, wise, and prudent to place yourself where other people are equipped and committed to truly building each other up to become better people who love God more and who love others appropriately.

You may think that watching church services on television or your computer is just as good as being in person, but that approach avoids relationships. In the short term, or if you are sick and unable to attend, that is a fine second choice option. But if people think that the purpose of the church is watching and listening only, then they are making the “I can learn karate from a book” mistake that I made years ago. We all need face-to-face mentors and encouragement. If you are looking for wise spiritual guidance to help you master life, swing over to the Dagobah of a Bible teaching and believing local church so that you can know and be known by a people specially called together by God for just such a purpose among many other great things. May God bless you!

Contact Pastor Lamb at imlayumc@yahoo.com.