Maybe the answer is “everywhere”!
When Lexi Hernandez, the pastor of our Growth Co Campus (a faith community for 20 – 30-year-olds), walks into a room, you are drawn to her. Her energy and passion are contagious and if Lexi isn’t smiling, you know something is up. This week she walked into staff meeting and clearly, something was “off.” We begin every staff meeting discussing where we’ve seen God at work at West. When it was Lexi’s turn, she began to speak but quickly stopped and admitted she was processing/working through a bad experience in a previous meeting and was going to need a minute. In the safe space that the staff provides for one another, we asked her to share with us what had happened that upset her so much.
She was attending a meeting with other church planters and all planters were asked to answer the following question.
“How do you build relationships with people when they just seem to want to come to the worship service and then leave?”
Lexi shared with the group that twice a month they offer “community” opportunities for people to gather and hang out, with no set of spiritual questions or points to discuss. The whole point of the gathering is for it “not” to be a worship service but more of a time to build relationships and connections. For example, this upcoming weekend they are going to a location that has karaoke and various people from Growth Co get up and sing.
Another gentleman shared that his church does the same thing.
In typical West fashion, that was not the “right” answer theologically and apparently “ruffled some feathers” of other pastors in the group.
“Well . . . at our Easter event we are going to make sure that every child knows that there is a true purpose behind it. We explain to each and every child – the empty egg is symbolic of the empty tomb . . . We always make sure that we have the power of Christ behind what we do. We don’t just do things to do them.”
It didn’t take a genius to figure out that the comments were directed at Lexi because she shared that Growth Co “gathers” for the sake of gathering and getting to know one another and building community.
“We make sure we have the power of Christ behind what we do.”
Guess what???? So do we.
I find it interesting and quite ironic that these conversations, anonymous letters, emails are happening right now – this Holy Week.
Sunday we talked about “freeing Jesus” and recognizing that the presence of Jesus/Holy Spirit/God is with us always. Everywhere. And in everything. And everyone!
There are 3 distinct references to the spirit in holy scripture.
It is called ruach, pneuma, and the shekhinah in scriptures.
God’s power . . . wisdom . . . presence.
“God as presence answers alienation and loneliness with love.
God as wisdom answers the loss of time with trust.
God as power answers injustice with empowering hope.” (Butler Bass)
The way we understand all this is through the person of Jesus in Nazareth, Jesus the Christ.
And Jesus was the dwelling place of God.
Just like us.
So if there is a gathering of people who are yearning to grow deeper in their spiritual journey and life, yet they don’t have structured questions around “their faith” . . . . it’s ok. Jesus is still there. It’s called “presence.” And it’s with you now.
The author of the book Freeing Jesus wrote that once she was speaking to a group of clergy colleagues about the future demise of the church and at the end of the speech a pastor criticized her and said, “You never once mentioned the word Jesus. Where is Jesus?”
She replied, “He is everywhere. Always. And in a room full of clergy, I didn’t think I needed to explain that.”
Nor should Lexi.
Can you experience The Presence today?