We started school up again this week! Another year, with Sonlight as our core and already one of their books has me thinking:). We are reading Walk the World's Rim by Betty Baker. In this story, there is a 14 year old Indian boy whose life intersects with Spanish conquistadors. These Spanish people seem to have the gift of healing and this inspires the boy to find out more about their God. Their response, "Our God lives in a stone church in Mexico. You have to come there and learn from the priests to know how to worship Him." As I read this, it really bothered me. Here they are telling this boy that he has to come with them in order to meet with God instead of sharing the truth with him right then and there! But as I have thought about it further, I'm not sure if we are much different than the Spanish conquistadors.
How often do we say to ourselves, how can we get this person to come to church with us? If they would just come and hear our pastor give the sermon of his life, then they will "raise their hand and be saved." Whether we say it with words or not, the way we live our lives shows that we still believe God exists in a building and that our goal as Christians is to get as many non-Christians to cross the threshold as possible.
I'm excitedly reading through Surprised by Oxford (which if you are a fan of my Facebook Page: For His Glory Alone you've already heard about). It is a beautiful memoir of how God's love pulled an intellectual agnostic into His kingdom. I'm only half-way through the story at this point in time, but she has yet to hear one sermon in a church. Do you know how she is learning about God's love? It is through conversations over dinner, in pubs, on an airplane... And it is not, "if you die tonight..." kind of talk. It is asking her questions, sharing how they understand and see God's love in their own lives, encouraging her to read the Bible for herself and leaving her with questions.
What did Jesus say in Matthew 26, "Go out into all the world..." John 1 also tells us that "His light came into the darkness, but the darkness did not understand it..." The point, I hope I am getting across, is that Jesus came to man to set them free. We as His followers, are called to go OUT to them where they are at and bring His light into their darkness. We do not need to "bring them to the light" to save them; the light is already right there next to them.
Whether we want to admit it or not, we have created a hierarchy in the American church today. We think we need the pastors to do the hard work of speaking the truth and leading people to salvation. Don't get me wrong, I love pastors (my Dad is one) and I know that they have an incredibly difficult and important job, but I believe part of the difficulty is a result of placing ALL the burden on them, instead of joining with them in the task God has called ALL of us to do. If you are a Christian, you carry the Holy Spirit inside of you. You can share the love of God with people right where they are at.
I recently listened to a talk by Erwin McManus where he shared how their community of faith encourages and releases their people. He said that when they first started, they would celebrate when people would leave as missionaries to other countries. They soon realized the message they were sending was that the people left behind weren't called by God. They soon switched their methods. Whenever, anyone chooses to join their community, they bring them up to the front, pray over them, anoint them with oil and send them forth as missionaries to their city. They give those individuals a Bible, and ask them to write a name of a non-believer they know in it and give it to that person that week as a step of faith. As I heard him share this, my heart went YES!!!!!!!!!! This is how it should be. The gatherings of the body of Christ on Sunday's should be ACKNOWLEDGING and ENCOURAGING it's people to go forth and be a light in their places of influence. You carry the life-changing gospel with you in your hearts and this Gospel has the power to change people's lives right where they are at!
And so the cherry on top of the Sunday: I've been working on this post for a week now, and as always letting it sit and simmer. This afternoon, my father-in-law shared a beautiful testimony of how he was able to share the love of Christ with someone at this work this week. My father-in-law had been praying for the opportunity to share God's love with someone and "out of the blue" this conversation started and that is exactly what happened.
What if we all were ready, available and expectant to have God allow us to share His love right where we are at?