Side by Side:
Walking with Others in Wisdom and Love
Edward T. Welch
We love to help people but we’re not so keen on being helped. We want to support people in church but we don’t know what to say. We feel like it’s the job for the experts so we leave it to them. What have we to offer anyway?
Side by Side by Ed Welch is a gentle yet persuasive book about walking alongside others in love and wisdom. It prompts us to face our fears and engage in the relational struggle of others, knowing that ours is the struggle too. It’s a vital commentary about creating authentic, active community, the best kind, by walking humbly alongside others.
I first picked up this book because I wanted to learn how to help people more effectively. What I love is that it spends the first half lovingly but firmly reminding me of my need. Just like everyone else, my loving Creator seeks to refine me from the messy person that I am. The biblical reality is that we are needy people who are slow to ask for help but, in every way, the gospel tells us that we need it. And so often He uses my (lack of) dependence on others to remind me of this. Only then am I able to offer humble, patient friendship to and alongside others. After all, God’s church is served by regular, imperfect people, one to another.
From this premise, then, the second half of the book shows us how to do this, by moving towards others, connecting with hearts and not just day-to-day lives, and walking alongside people with thoughtful conversation, active prayer and by learning how to bring Scripture to bear in the joys and difficulties of life and faith.
We are so often fearful about helping people biblically or quick to get frustrated when people continue to struggle. This book affirms God’s longing to see people moving in the direction of spiritual change, however slowly. It is not about destination; it’s always about direction, moving towards Him in faith.
Every believer engaged in church community should read this book. I’d like to think that I will read it once a year, a surprising goal for someone once averse to reading Christian books!
I’m a big fan of Ed Welch: he loves God and is deeply aware and candid about his failings, whilst perceptive about the struggle of others. His style is easy to read, he offers short chapters and practical examples and gives guidance questions for discussion with others. He is often funny and heartfelt, and always honest.
We are the same. We are ordinary, flawed people and God longs to use his people to love others well, with or without a degree in theology or counselling. So this book is for all of us.
Sarah Pomphrey, WA