Making my usual pastoral rounds at the local hospital some time ago, I witnessed the most unusual thing. A dilapidated Buick had jumped the parking lot curb and crash-landed in the flower garden just outside the main doors. The driver’s door was wide open, and a group of hurried and harried medical staff was doing something to someone in the driver’s seat.
I slipped out of the lobby to get a closer look. To my astonishment, a baby was being delivered right there in the car’s floorboard. Thank God I didn’t stumble upon this situation alone, for in the magnificent words of Butterfly McQueen, “I don’t know nothin’ ‘bout birthin’ no babies!”
Within minutes a baby boy was born, and within days mom and son left the hospital in excellent health (in that same old Buick).
Granted, this birth was not typical. Some mothers labor for hours. Some children enter the world only by surgical intervention. Some babies are born in a maternity ward, at home, with a cadre of attending physicians, and indeed, some are born in the most bizarre of environments. What they all have in common is this: When it comes to birth, every newborn needs all the help he or she can get, to be healthy.
This, as I see it, should be the calling of the church. Congregations should provide safe, welcoming environments for faith to be born within people. Churches should strive to be delivery rooms where the new in faith can grow, be nurtured and become the people God wants them to be. Let us not forget our role as incubators of developing faith, skilled midwives who assist with spiritual birth.
In my own journey of faith, many people have helped me, people with a soft touch but strong, steady hands. Few of these helpers ever lectured me, formally “discipled” me, twisted my arm, force-fed me Bible verses or beat me over the head with the latest and greatest new book guaranteed to revolutionize my life.
No, recognizing that something new was struggling to be born, they were there to gently guide, encourage, support and coach me. They dove right in — right where they found me — skilled midwives, who let me know that life and faith are worth their struggles. And when the pain of labor has passed, the anguish gives way to joy — for faith has been born in the world.
Ronnie McBrayer is a syndicated columnist, pastor and author. You can receive regular e-columns in your inbox www.ronniemcbrayer.me/.