In Side by Side, Edward Welch invites readers to both seek help and give help to those around them. The book is split into two parts “We Are Needy” and “We Are Needed.” The first part addresses our need for help from God and the people around us. Sin has fractured all aspects of our lives from our hearts to the ends of creation leading us to being persistently plagued by a sense of unceasing guilt and hopelessness. Welch points out that the solution does not lie within us but outside of us. The basis for any hope that we may have is rooted only in the work of Christ on the cross. Through Him, we are freed from the guilt and shame that we may feel day after day and can live an abundant life through the power of the Holy Spirit. Furthermore, God did not save us alone but saved us with a community of fellow forgiven sinners who are ready and able to help us on our way. Thus, the first part of the book establishes the neediness we feel and how we can cry out for help from God and others. In the second part, Welch begins by reminding that each believer, enabled by the Spirit, can reach out to help those around them. Afterwards, a series of chapters offer specific advice on how to approach others in an effort to connect with them on a deeper level. This may be through thoughtful conversations on a Sunday morning or speaking a kind word to a neighbour overwhelmed by troubling circumstances. Although the book is short and the flow is somewhat sporadic, Welch packs in many years of counselling experience and wisdom into executable steps that every Christian believer can undertake. In fact, the author even provides the script that one can use such as the following example: “‘It might not seem like much, but I am with you in this. I feel the burden and have been praying for your comfort.’” (page 113). It is Welch’s aim to encourage Christians to be ready and eager to stand side by side with those around them by exhorting them through Scripture, praying with them constantly, and engaging them in heart-level conversation.
I would recommend this book to Christians who want to care for those around them but always stop short of doing so. I know fear often grips me when I try to connect with a newcomer or comfort a sick church member. It seems like saying the right words at the right time is an impossible task. In this book, Welch wants to motivate readers to step out in humility and enter into caring relationships with those in their community. A word of advice to readers is that the practical examples and scripts that Welch provides are simply illustrations of how one can approach a situation. To properly care for those around us, we need to pray for wisdom and guidance from the Holy Spirit as we try to navigate the specific circumstances of those we seek to encourage. Using a one-size-fits-all mentality would be inappropriate and likely result in frustration for all parties. However, I do appreciate how Welch makes the book accessible by providing these concrete examples instead of staying in the realm of abstract theory. Welch’s exhortation is simple and clear: as sinners who have experienced the power of the Gospel, we are free to both receive and give help to those that God has placed in our lives.
In compliance with Federal Trade Commission regulations, I was provided a free review copy of this book from Crossway.