No matter how many times I get up to preach and I step to the pulpit confident that God has spoken His message to me, I am always humbled by the leasons learned in the stillness following the sermon. There are just some things that the Heavenly Father must reveal to you that no book, sermon or seminary can. The last few Sundays that I have preached, God has done just that. When I decided to preach on the Book of James following our series on the Book of Romans and Hebrews; I was not ready for the burden that God would place on my heart
The Book of James is all about faith in action. It is about taking our faith beyond mere words and putting the deeds behind them. What this would then do is force me to not only evaluate my own faith in action, but also that of my congregation. Have I been doing an adequate job of ensuring that we showed the World that God exists and the love of of His Son, Jesus Christ? The truth was, I hadn't. I had fallen short.
When I first became the English Ministry Pastor, one of the first sermons I preached was on the expectations of a pastor. In this sermon I explained that I am indeed human and that I would indeed eventually fall short. As good as it sounded as it left my lips from the safety of the pulpit, I was not prepared for the reality when that day would come. The thing is I am sure no one noticed my shortcoming other than myself. No one pulled me aside and said, "Pastor, I think you've missed something;" but God did and that day my heart broke for my congregation. We have been so focused on the internal and growth that we had failed to help the widows and orphans of our generation; the abandonded, the forgotten, the homeless, the sick... (James 1:27) We placed aside our call to Christ to be called out in the name of Christ.
This past Sunday I stood infront of my congregation, reading our vision and mission explaining that the leadership and I had decided that we would start looking into partnering with community care and missions organizations to pair up with. As I began delivering this update with such passion and conviction, all that kept ringing in the back of my mind was, "It's about time". I thank God that he opened my heart to see our community through His eyes. Now my congregation is back on mission, showing the world that God does exist and spreading the love of Christ.
Even after the reflief of feeling like we had gotten back on track, I found myself still sitting in my seat thinking to myself, now you've got it and then I began to reflect on something I had touched on in my sermon. I mentioned our failing, as humans and Christians, to accept all people as they are, flaws and all. As if somehow, we walked into the church building without any blemishes of our own. We cross the street to avoid someone we deem less than. We avoid making eye contact with a homeless person. We fail to mention Christ to a friend in a conversation because, "They just aren't into the religion or Christian thing." Yet, those who seem more approachable or susceptible to the Gospel, we appraoch with great ease. We show favoritism towards those who make us comfortable and cast aside those who would make us step outside our "city gates". (Hebrews 13:11-14) It is time as a church and The Church to cast aside our favoritsm, step outside our "city gates" and show the world our faith!