I love when people begin to understand more the fuller mission of the church. We aren’t here to be a club or even a mere network of friends. In Christ, we are his embodiment to the world. That makes what we do on Sunday mornings and any other time as the church so important.
So, be careful with the “I language,” particularly in worship. I liked that music. I enjoyed the sermon. I felt good about being in church. Worship isn’t about you. It’s better to consider, What did God tell us? How did our time together prepare us to be the presence of Christ in the world? In what ways did the message edify our walk with Christ?
Those kinds of questions deepen our understanding of the church’s mission.
So, as someone gets that deeper perspective, it’s a bit confusing when I challenge the next step. Church vernacular suggests that we bring God to people. We say it all the time. We bring God to those experiencing homelessness. We bring God to people in need. We bring God to the lost.
Or we might say, “God showed up when we went there!” “God showed up this Sunday.”
Let’s tighten up our language. As United Methodist Christians, part of our understanding of God’s grace is that it precedes our revelation. That is, God is always reaching out to us even before we recognize it. So, you and I don’t bring God anywhere. God is already there! God was already there when you first decided to follow Christ, too.
It’s better to say we bring good news. That’s the gospel: Christ is Lord. We can share the good news to someone in need that the God of all Creation walks with them. Is there with them already to bring comfort and peace.
God doesn’t show up. God is already there. We become aware of God’s presence. It’s better to say we recognized God’s presence.
We see this in the story of Jesus feeding four thousand people.
Mark tells us that Jesus had compassion on the people gathered with him. They had listened to him for three days in this remote place. Now, he was leery of sending them away. They would collapse from hunger as they went home.
He told his disciples of his concern. They responded with practical insight. Their question doesn’t seem to be an unfaithful one. The NIV translates their question like this: But where in this remote place can anyone get enough bread to feed them?
Without explanation, Jesus collects the food they do have available. His first response was to give thanks for the provision that was already there. Before long, the disciples fed thousands of people. And they were satisfied.
God didn’t show up in that moment. Jesus knew to give thanks to God for how the Lord already provided. The disciples didn’t bring God to the people because God was already there. They joined in the work of Jesus to share what was given for all.
And that’s part of our mission as well.
The way God feeds our souls in worship, study and prayer prepares us to share with the world around us. But we aren’t bringing God. We’re sharing the message that Christ is Lord, which brings God’s peace and blessing.