A Glimpse of God’s Glory

Over the next few weeks, our team will share with you several signs and examples of vitality we’re seeing in ministry contexts nationwide. With such a diverse network (approximately 1600 pastors, 24 denominations, a majority people of color), it’s a joy to witness surprising movements of the Spirit as well as common threads of what God is doing in such vastly different contexts.

When we approach the work of pastoring, it is important that we admit some audacity in the entire endeavor.  As we are compelled by the Spirit and through our own encounter with the transforming power of the Gospel through Jesus Christ, we are inclined to share this experience with others through both declaration and demonstration.  We endeavor to be disciple makers.  This is our calling, or so we think.  We dare to inspire followers of Jesus who will be faithful in words, deeds, truth, and in love.

But who do we think we are that God would call and equip us for such a work as this?  Who do we think we are that God would invite us to share in this redemptive work?  Who are we to think that God would use our head, hands, hearts, and voices to herald the Good News and to shepherd souls toward Christ?

We say we are the community of the ‘called-out ones’ – the ekklesia – entrusted with the Gospel, empowered by Spirit, bound by love to reflect, and represent God’s presence in the world.

All of this sounds lofty, doesn’t it?  But the truth is that ministry is messy, close, deliberate, inconvenient, heart-rending work. And in most circumstances, all we get is a glimpse of the Holy Spirit working in people’s lives. But can I tell you that it’s a glimpse that is brighter than sunshine!

Let me tell you a story.

Twenty-something years ago, God allowed my family to connect with a child who would very quickly become a part of my family!  Our intention was to be a positive presence, a blessing, and an encouragement.  All the while this child was growing up, we were privileged to be there during tragedies and triumphs.  When things got really hard, thank God that we could be there to hold her hand.  While this bright young lady faced the normal twists and turns that accompany becoming an adolescent – there were other things that were heartbreaking and near devastating.  Somehow, however, she was also possessed by a resilience and persistence that is at least miraculous even if a bit mysterious.

Providence seemed to always be breaking in – giving purpose to pain while also creating in her life an appropriate contrast (I don’t know a better way to say this) that has allowed her to shine more brightly than anyone could have ever imagined.

This past month, this young lady graduated from college.  Despite all the roadblocks and setbacks – she finished!  I remember getting the call years back – loading her up and taking her to college when other plans fell through.  I can remember the blessed inconvenience of it all.  I can remember when she had to leave school under difficult circumstances.  I remember the challenges she endured in between – the uncertainty, and the stumbles.  I can remember watching her fight to hold on to herself when giving up was a most attractive temptation.  But what I don’t remember is what I said to her during these dim moments – not a word!  Funny, isn’t it?   What I do recall is the compulsion to be present – to show up!

The proverb says (at least my version of it) that hope inspires us ‘to plant trees in whose shade we may never sit.’  To me, this is the heart of what it means to be a disciple maker.  Setting aside all the tricks and tactics being hawked so that we can fill pews and plates on any given Sunday – this story reminds me of the slow, deliberate, heart-rending, inconvenient, gut-wrenching, gloriously, life-giving, humbling, and sacred work that is discipleship.  This story reminds me of my ‘why.’

It is ironic that amid my audacity to share in God’s redemptive work and share in welcoming others into the transforming grace of Christ – I was being formed.  While teaching, I became a student.  While seeking to share and encourage, I receive a glimpse of God’s glory that’s brighter than sunshine!

At once, it seems like an unfair exchange.  What a grand, messy, heart-rending, gloriously humbling, privilege this is.  What grace it is to be given to this work!  The greatest challenge, however, is to just keep showing up!  Good things are happening, God is at work and if we pay attention, we can catch a glimpse of God’s glory!

That’s why we have this Scripture text: “No one’s ever seen or heard anything like this, Never so much as imagined anything quite like it— What God has arranged for those who love him.”

1 Corinthians 2:9 (The Message)

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