About two and a half months ago, our church lost a dear Christian brother, Ed Sidebottom, in a backyard accident. Ed was a great blessing to many of the people in our congregation. He wasn’t the most articulate person in the world. But he loved the Lord and he loved people. He had the spiritual gift of helps and was very handy in fixing and building things.
A Life-Giving Presence
In his life, Ed was faithfully present to the Lord and to others. The presence of God’s indwelling Spirit in Ed made Jesus real through him in many different situations and in many people’s lives. I miss him dearly. As I think of Ed and his faithful life, I am reminded of what the local church, the body of Christ is to be all about. We are called to be faithfully present to the Lord and to others. We are to be life-giving.
This seems to be an obvious statement that barely needs to be said. But the truth of the matter is that God’s people have always needed to be reminded that God calls us to relationship with Himself, not only for our own sake, but for the sake of the world. Without this mindset, God’s purposes for the local church will not be realized.
I fellowship with a lot of Pastors from all over Ontario. One of the things that I have observed in theses Pastors’ churches is that vibrant churches always have an outward focus. They have taken the initiative to get to know their surrounding community and have made the sacrificially-loving decision to be a blessing to those outside their church walls. In short, they add value to their neighbourhood and town. They are faithfully present to the Lord and to others.
God Called Abraham’s Descendants To Be A Blessing
When God started his work of redeeming the world, he chose Abraham way back in Genesis 12. It is interesting that when the LORD calls Abraham, he says that he will make Abraham’s descendants into a great nation and that he will bless them greatly (Genesis 12:2). These blessings are not to be hoarded by Abraham and his descendants. Instead, they are called by the Lord to be a great blessing to the whole world (Genesis 12:3).
This passage, Genesis 12:1-3, is the Magna Carta of the nation Israel. The LORD did fulfill his great promise of descendants for the elderly couple of Abraham and Sarah. But it was through many struggles and learning experiences that the Israelites had to learn that their God did not choose them for only their sake but for the sake of the whole world.
Christians believe that the promise of great blessing for Israel and the world was ultimately fulfilled through a particular descendant of Abraham: Jesus of Nazareth. The Church believes that this Jewish Carpenter was not only the long-promised Messiah (or Christ) of the Jewish Scriptures, but that he was the incarnate Son of God.
When Jesus was born into the world, we should not be surprised that his birth announcement was couched in the language of blessing for both Jews and Gentiles. The Jewish prophet, Simeon, took the baby Jesus in his arms and prayed to God: ” For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all nations: a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of your people Israel” (Luke 2:30-32).
The Body of Christ Is Called To Engage And Bless The World
In John’s account of God’s Son, Jesus, coming into the world, he declares: “From the fullness of his grace we have all received one blessing after another” (Jo. 1:16). Again, it is the language of blessing. No wonder that it is the local churches who are seeking to be faithfully present to the Lord and to others that are experiencing the vital new life of the LORD. It is when we are seeking to be a blessing to the LORD and to others that we are being faithful to our calling in Christ.
It is an ironic paradox of the Christian faith that when we seek to give ourselves to the LORD and to others, that we experience the deepest blessings from the LORD. It sure beats the consumeristic-mindset that many Christians and churches labor under. When we approach church with the mindset “What’s in it for me”, we have already been defeated by the spirit of our age. This path only leads to boredom and spiritual immaturity.
Every local church is called by the LORD to give of itself to the surrounding community. The resurrected Christ commissioned his followers in John 20:21: “As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” He then bestowed on them the Holy Spirit (v.22). We are called and equipped by the LORD to an exciting adventure with him outside our church walls.
The local church is not like an intimidating castle surrounded by a large moat. We are not called to throw occasional verbal salvos over the walls of our edifice at all the things that are wrong in society. Instead, we are a missional people who are called to be a blessing to God and to others. We are to be faithfully present and to add value to our neighbours’ lives. I wonder if our neighbours would truly miss us if we were to close our doors? I think every church that has died, the answer would be “No”.
QOTD: Am I a Christian who is faithfully present to the LORD and to others? Is my presence life-giving?