Most of the time we really don't know...

Most of the time in ministry, we just don't know... we don't know why most of the people show up on any given week and why others stay away or even disappear. We don't know when the words we have worked so hard to refine will strike something deep in a person's heart or when those same words will be totally misheard - or worse. We don't know when a song will evoke a tear nor do we know why that same song will cause another to shut down. We don't know when God is in the house and we certainly don't know what will communicate something of God's grace for the 80+ people in worship aged 4-95. I'm not fooling: most of the time we just don't know.

That is why on any given Sunday, we act by faith. The unknown preacher in the book of Hebrews puts it like this: Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. Indeed, by faith our ancestors received approval. By faith we understand that the worlds were prepared by the word of God, so that what is seen was made from things that are not visible. Or as my man St. Paul likes to tell us: Now we see as through a glass darkly, later we shall see face to face.

Of the preachers and teachers out there who read these postings, how many
times have you shared a message with a congregation that you considered a disaster - a total dog - that was not only incoherent, but also so disconnected from grace and reality that you were embarrassed to know that those words fell out of your face?  Only to be told afterwards - sometimes months afterwards - oh Pastor your words today (or whenever) really spoke to my heart: you helped me more than you'll ever know. (That's for damn sure, I think to myself, because no matter how hard I try, I will never know.) But I've heard those words spoken tenderly, honestly and sincerely from good hearted people so many times that all I can say is  mostly I don't know. I act by faith in the assurance that God is in control because I am not. (Same thing happens btw when I've thought I really nailed a Sunday morning message - I was certain that my preparation was deep, my prose on fire and my connections to real life were stunning - only to have half the folk nod off half way through! Like I said, I mostly don't know.)

Earlier today I got a message from a colleague who told me how grateful her guest was after being in worship with us. I was stunned.  Blessed, but really knocked on my butt, because what was most moving for this soul was the way our people shared the "Peace of Christ." They spoke with love and authenticity. They looked one another in the eye and searched for the face of the Lord. And they were so engaged... 
I was humbled. Speechless. And as I returned thanks to God I found myself saying: wow, I REALLY don't know most of the time. And that's probably the way it is supposed to be."Let mutual love continue. Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it."

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