by Larry Crabb
The scars on our hearts will not heal without help. We know Jesus, yes, but sometimes we need someone to tell us truths, or to listen to us, or to simply weep with us. In Connecting, Larry Crabb proposes that the best way to help heal diseases of the soul is to simply connect with one another – not attempting to give advice or pass the other person on to experts, but simply to connect. Crabb talks about what connecting is and what it isn’t, common impediments to connecting and how God deals with them, and what professionals can do to help. In the end, he advises that we belong to a community centered around Christ that is not afraid to be known.
I’ve been working on this book for a while, but it has already caused me to reconsider how I’ve connected with members of my own congregation. Was I working through to-do lists or actually caring about the people I shepherd? So, if for no other reason than that, this book has been good for my ministry.
Crabb’s list of impediments to connecting hit me hard. I saw myself in his three big impediments: my attitudes, my habits. And this has nothing to do with me being an introvert; a lot of what he said about connecting on a deep level made me ache to achieve that with some of the members I serve.
At one point he says,
When people make their struggles known, those who listen usually feel uncomfortable and uncertain of what to do. Most of us end up giving advice or reassurance that draws a courteous yawn. We rarely see such moments as opportunity for powerful connection, or, if we do, we’re not sure how to seize it. … The usual pattern for us dealing with a hurting friend is to retreat, reprove, or refer. (25, emphasis in original)
I see myself there. Tough cases I’m quick to recommend going to a professional counselor. Or I try to nail the sin that’s being demonstrated. Instead, I can listen, connect, and share Jesus with someone that I am connected to, not running from.
Another time he nailed me is when he wrote, “There is an enormous difference between the joy of discovery and the passion to explain” (112). That’s me all over. I love explaining things. I love explaining people, instead of discovering what they want to show me.
Unlike a lot of other books that focus on practical aspects of ministry and Christian life, this book has a lot of Gospel in it. And not just lip service, either. I greatly appreciated it. So don’t think that me talking about how it called me out means it was all law. It wasn’t! Crabb delights in sharing forgiveness, and for that I am very thankful.
That doesn’t mean that connecting is easy. He reminds us, “To care about someone’s spiritual maturity will always involve suffering” (166). That’s a powerful reminder, and helps me keep in mind that oftentimes the reason I don’t want to connect is that it takes work. It means I will suffer with that person. But suffering with that person is worthwhile; they are a blood-bought soul.
Another way this book has impacted my ministry is by reminding me that the Christians I serve are saints – their true identity is not their sin, but whom Christ has made them to be. It’s something I live with for myself, reminding myself that I am not my sin. But to start addressing other Christians that way? It’s hardly a world-breaking revelation. I know it’s been around for a long time. But for me, it was a needed reminder, and I appreciate it. I’ve started working these thoughts into my sermons already!
However, not everything is great in this book. Crabb keeps pointing to the Bible for the source of what we believe, but he sometimes treats deep connecting with other Christians as a form of sacrament. Instead of treating connecting as something good and even necessary, he treats it as a means of grace, a way to receive forgiveness. That may be me reading too much into it, though – he didn’t say as much in as many words.
Overall, this book was way better than I thought it was going to be. If you’re already connecting well and deeply in a community, it might still be worth your time to grow in your ability to connect. Check this one out.