He's with us always - even at the local festival
Last Saturday (11th) our church took part in the Langley Green Festival, a local event organised by the council and local people. The feed back I have had from both people in the church and those who aren't part of the church has been overwhelmingly positive.
We pitched a marquee on the school playing fields and offered free cream teas, activities for toddlers and older children, a puppet show and some beauty therapy (for women, I think!). We also gave away loads of balloons and stickers with Smile Jesus loves you written on them.
Those who commented to me about the church's involvement remarked on the peaceful atmosphere within the tent and the fact that just about everyone was smiling. That might not seem like a big deal to us, but for many people such an atmosphere can be pretty disarming.
You might wonder what this has got to do with our mission in the world. How does this relate to proclaiming the good news of Jesus. It's really all about being there. We often miss the importance of this in our particular expression of Christianity. We are prone to thinking that the Holy Spirit hasn't shown up unless there are bodies on the floor or that our involvement has been a waste of time unless we have done a gospel presentation.
Whilst we do want to see people powerfully touched by the presence of the Spirit and we are committed to making Christ known (actually we did proclamation and power on Sunday!),we need to remember that our presence in this world is also of great importance.
Why? For a number of reasons:
Firstly, we carry the presence with Christ with us wherever we go. That's why people can feel the difference when they meet us - especially at a corporate event like the festival. People might not always be able to explain what it is they encounter when they meet us, but they do "feel" the difference.
Secondly, if we aren't prepared to spend time with people, we will never have the opportunity to talk to them about Jesus. It doesn't matter how good our preaching and teaching is, how contemporary our websites and slick our flyers are, if we never make contact with people, we will never have the opportunity to share Christ with them. I know all this sounds obvious, but many Christians act as if we can win the lost without ever talking to them!
Thirdly, there is a whole biblical theology about being salt and light (Matthew 5.13-16) and seeking the good of our towns and cities (1 Timothy 2.1-2)that we sometimes forget, but we'll look at this another time.
Finally, I believe it is important to reiterate the importance of getting out among people, as we live in an era, particularly in the Pentecostal / Charismatic world, in which many are seeking the key to revival or the "fix". We watch and read about revival movements across the world and instead of rejoicing in what God is doing we begin to live revival vicariously through tv and magazines. And we begin to reason that if we had that here, we'd have an instant outpouring of the Holy Spirit, with thousands being brought in to God's kingdom.
That is a great dream, and if it happens I'll celebrate. However, if that kind of dream diverts us from doing the hard work of witness in our own backyard, we're in trouble. So next year, if there's a festival, we'll be there. And Jesus will be with us.