For the past several weeks I have been involved in a personal study of biblical leaders. Currently, I'm digging into the life of Moses. Today I found myself reflecting on Moses' encounter with God after the debacle with the golden calf. Moses is pleading on behalf of the people for God's forgiveness and mercy. He is also deeply concerned that God's presence continues to go with Israel into the future. "Then Moses said, "If your presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here. How will anyone know that you are pleased with me and with your people unless you go with us? What else will distinguish me and your people from all the other people on the face of the earth (Ex 33:15-16)?"
This passage brought the book of Ezekiel to mind. The prophecy begins with judgment and ends with redemption. In chapter 10 the glory of the Lord departs from the temple because of Israel's sin. In chapter 43 the glory of the Lord returns to the temple because of God's gracious renewing activity. Then, in chapter 47 we read of the ever-widening, ever-deepening, life-giving river which flows from the temple. The overall message is clear: rivers of life can only flow from God's presence, and when God is present rivers of life will flow.
Right now I'm helping a church think through a strategic ministry plan. I'm concerned about the lack of a clear vision, articulated mission and explicit values. I do believe that these things matter, and I will do my best to help the church develop these in a God honoring way. But, as helpful as these elements are for the development of an effective ministry, I need to make sure that I help this church understand what is even more important: the presence of God in their ministry.
A church can recognize the importance of vision, mission, values. It can develop simple church strategies. It can recruit teams, train teams, deploy teams. It can seek to become a missional community and engage in a multitude of compassionate projects. But, without the presence of God permeating all of these things, they will ultimately prove to be empty and futile.
And what is good for a ministry, is good for me and you. Does the presence of God fill my life? Can God's glory be seen in me? To paraphrase Moses, "If God's presence is not in me, then I am not different from anyone else."
Lord God, may you be pleased to fill this life.