I was invited to present a message to a mid-week bible study at a traditional Methodist church. The associate pastor had heard about me through media channels, purchased a book, and reviewed our web presence.
It is my habit to invest time to build relationships with the leaders of groups who invite me to present. I receive more invitations than I can reasonably accommodate, so one of my filters is this relationship building time. In a church setting, I am operating under the authority of the existing leadership. It is critical we function together within that authority in order to be most effective.
The group I was invited to was doing a study on Heaven using my book as a guide of sorts. Over the weeks and months, a set of questions had been assembled and my task was to present some prepared material and then move into a dialog. Situations like this are among my favorite settings because the format of prepared material combined with opportunities for questions and answers is often fruitful.
During my talk, a young woman came in late, rather hurriedly, and eased into a seat in the back—not wanting to be a distraction. As the dialog time was wrapping up, we began to conclude our thoughts. While people were beginning to pack up materials, I decided to take a risk and asked the woman if she could hang for a bit, which she did. She had a small contingent of people who also chose to wait with her. I asked her if there was anything particularly going on in her life at that time. Turns out, her husband was undergoing treatment for stage-four cancer. She worked full time and was part of the church’s MOPS program. Needless to say, she was someone in need of the presence of the Kingdom of Heaven.
I am always amazed how the Lord works in our lives. She received exactly what she needed, and I was moved by the people in that little church community. When she decided to hang for a bit, it somehow mobilized all kinds of heavenly resources in the flesh and souls of the folks she congregated with week to week. The pastor with a wink and a nod hugged me as I left that night, the church community still surrounding the young woman in comfort. The Kingdom of Heaven at work, first as a bubble after a teaching, and now routinely to care practically for a woman enduring a great challenge—a challenge made lighter by being shared. It is the way the church is intended to function.
Is it possible that all assemblies of Christ followers are empowered to operate the way this little Methodist church group does? Do you have such a group in your life? If not, you should. It is how spiritual formation occurs.