MEMBERSHIP 101 is about looking deeper into our vows as members of this church and about being challenged to act upon the very commitments we have made to be faithful by our prayers, our presence, our gifts, our service and our witness?”
Today we look at PRESENCE and the bearing it has on both us and the world we are sent to be in ministry to.
WORSHIP GUIDE QUESTIONS & COMMENTARY
YOU’RE NOT GOING TO TALK ABOUT BEING HERE MORE, ARE YOU?
There’s two aspects to presence I want us to examine: 1) being present in attendance, whether worship or programs and 2) being Christ’s presence by being present through ministry.
1) We are present in attendance because we are a fellowship. Because God designed both relationships and our worship-life to be done as a community of people, our presence in worship and in our ministries is key. Not only is it obvious that we must be here in order to accomplish our tasks, but we must also be present because Christ has promised to be with us in worship.
Jesus says in Matthew 18.20 “For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.” The presence of Jesus is much more potent and sure when we align our hearts with His and fellowship together. We have opportunities to align our hearts with Christ through worship, holy communion and prayer, and then we see that He is truly present, and so we meet with Jesus when we celebrate these practices; we are strengthened and nurtured through our desire and our commitment to be here together for Christ and with Christ.
I look back to the example of the apostle Thomas, when Christ appeared to the apostles after his resurrection, and Thomas was not in church. Scripture says, “Now Thomas, one of the Twelve, called the Twin, was not with them when Jesus came” (John 20.24–29). Missing Jesus pained Thomas and he doubted their testimony that has had been with them for several reasons. The simple lesson here is that because Thomas was absent, he failed to see with his own eyes the resurrected Lord. But the deeper lesson here is that Christ desires to be with us, that through His presence we would not only see Him and experience Him, but that through that presence we would be changed by Him. Thomas was changed by that experience, for when he showed up for church the next Sunday and Christ appeared, Thomas exclaimed, “My Lord and my God!” Our presence contributes to our transformation; that transforming work is the work God desires to do because we He loves us, desires to be with us, and seeks to give us peace (John 14.27).
2) The second way of being present is by being the presence of Jesus in the lives of others. As we come together to worship God—giving thanks, seeking peace, and being encouraged—we depart to serve the world as Jesus’ hands and feet in the world. Each time we come to worship or gather together, if we are listening spiritually, we are being shaped into a suitable missionary and being informed as what possible mission God has for us to engage in.
We may come to Wednesday night supper and learn of a situation in the life of a family where we can offer guidance or hope; we may be in Bible study and learn of someone who’s sick and needs a visit or a call; we may be in worship and hear the call of the Holy Spirit to engage in mission or ministry in a new way, so as to bring about holy change in some special way. Regardless, these and many other scenarios are examples of what happens when the people of God are present before God in order to go and be God’s presence through ministry. As Jesus said, “Go into all the world…” (Matthew 28).
JUST HOW ‘PRESENT’ DO I NEED TO BE?
As a pastor, this is the tough part of the message. Every individual, couple, family, small group and congregation plays a part in the success of their faith and of their spiritual growth. Those who grow the least are those who are engaged the least. Those who grow the most are those who are engaged the most. Now here me when I say, “No, it is not about being busy.” Being busy with ‘church stuff’ means that mission and ministry has become a chore. You take several steps back when when ministry becomes a sigh rather than a smile. Yes, ministry for every Christian is tiring, but it shouldn’t burn out your soul. When people get busy and bogged down with ‘church stuff’ they become disillusioned and church begins to represent a heavy weight of worry rather than a freeing activity of love. But finding the places to engage that interest you or contribute to your own or others growth gives us purpose and direction. Being willing to start new ministries and enlist the help of other church members brings life to what may have been lifeless for some.
When you are present, you are opening yourself up to daily possibilities. You’re telling God, “I want to be here because here, I believe you speak.” You’re telling yourself, “This is where I will fill my heart with the good things of God and trust that He will provide.”
WHAT ABOUT ABSENCE? IS IT BAD?
Being absent from church isn’t bad, but making a habit of absence can be bad and has lots of consequences. 1) You miss out on the presence of Jesus in the service and through the fellowship. Christ is here for you, therefore, you must be intentional and put your trust in Christ in His church. 2) Others miss out on what you uniquely have to offer them through Jesus. God has equipped and is still equipping you for a great ministry of love and growth for other people’s sakes. 3) You are missed! Church is Church because of YOU! You are New Liberty; you are what makes up this great fellowship of people whom God has chosen to use for over 141 years! To be a part of such a long standing tradition means that it took much more than a few committed people to make this place a house of worship and a machine for mission in the world. Look around our area, at the names of the streets and the subdivisions—all bearing the name Liberty from the influence this church and it’s longstanding history in this area. Celebrate, Church, as you have a legacy that has paved your way into the future. All you have to do is participate in what the faithful have left for you to be present within.
…Remember that as we take our vows as members, we commit to be faithful in our presence. Be present with Jesus and each other in worship; be present with Jesus and each other in ministry. Let your presence change you and transform the world around you. Amen.