The past couple of Sundays I have had the opportunity to preach for pastors that were on vacation and/or involved in leadership of other events that have taken them away from their pulpit. The theme I dealt with was Hope: Our Gift to the World in which I took a look at a central calling of the body of Christ as the incarnation of Christ involved in making a difference in our world bringing hope to the broken, suffering, and disenfranchised (in other words, Salty Service!).
Alan Hirsch in The Forgotten Ways has been really helpful in unpacking what it means to be incarnational, giving four key elements…
- Presence: our lives are our messages, so we cannot take ourselves out of the missional equation
- Proximity: just as Jesus made friends with the people, becoming accessible to them, we have to be engaged – not just sending money or stuff
- Powerlessness: we are called to operate out of humility and servanthood
- Proclamation: the story of the gospel becomes our story – why we do what we do
I didn’t really expect much in response to having a message from a guest pastor, but was I surprised. I had shared a little about my mission experience this summer in Jamaica and encouraged the congregation to find ways to connect doing similar things in their own community. At the conclusion of the worship service a bunch of people gathered around to talk. One was a physician wanting to talk more about how he could be involved in the ministry; one was a social worker who had a group of some 25 younger adults looking for ways to get involved; an elderly lady handed me a card and asked me to call her about having a group she worked with get connected; and one gentleman handed me a brochure about his ministry and offered assistance in providing books for ours.
Now, I don’t have any delusions about the response being due to the quality of the presentation. I’ve listened to some of my messages! I believe that the response had to do with the theme and a basic longing of souls in our churches. Our congregations want to make a difference. People want to be connected to people in meaningful ways. Disciples know that we are called not only to be blessed, but to be a blessing. They also know that when serving as an instrument of God’s blessing they are also blessed. They just don’t know how to make it happen.
That’s where the church comes in.