This week was a great time of getting together with a number of my team leaders and also with a number of people from our congregation. Over the last few months at Bethany North I’ve invited people to “check a box” on a sermon response card and indicate if they want to grab a cup of coffee and talk with me. The response has been exciting, if not a bit overwhelming. But these face-to-face “coffee times” are some of the best parts of being a pastor. Sitting, listening, talking, hearing the stories of how people have been formed. How they have come to find themselves involved at Bethany North. It really has been awesome.
I was with a man this week that was telling me his story of becoming a Christian. He told me how he had always hated Christianity and wanted nothing to do with the church as a young man. The reason for his disdain for the Christian faith? He told me, “My dad was a pastor. He gave everything to the church and wasn’t a good father or husband back home. Everything about his life outside church stunk.” He said these words and my heart sunk. He went on to talk about his radical conversion and his life of faith that followed but his words about his father stuck like an arrow in my heart.
See, though it was only 10 am, this was my 3rd meeting of the morning in my 3rd different Starbucks location. By the time the day was over I had met with 6 people in a total of 4 different coffee shops. I zoomed here and zoomed there doing the “work” of the ministry. But how had I treated my kids in the morning before I left? How was I serving my wife? How was my personal time with God coming along?
Well on this particular morning I had skipped my quiet time with the Lord in order to have my early morning meetings. I skipped out on my time with God in order to do ministry. Do you see the danger that exists here? When we stop going to the fountain of faith (Jesus) and instead consider ourselves dispensers of God’s love, we’ll soon pour and pour and pour until we have nothing left inside. Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t how I’m feeling right now. But this danger is real. It exists. And for the man I sat with, his own faith was deeply scarred by his own father’s inability to manage ministry and family life.
Being a great father is hard. I have good days and not so good days. And being a great husband is sometimes even harder. Marriage takes work and fights and miscommunication and struggles occur. But as people of faith, I think we’ll be measured more by our parenting and our marriages and our friendships than any of our external acts of ministry. People are more concerned with how we behave than what we believe. And this is because it is in our behavior that our true beliefs are revealed. Jesus wasn’t concerned with people’s outward shows of pious religion. He says it here. He cared for people’s hearts. The struggle is to be a person whose faith translates into good fruit…so that our lives won’t “stink” to the world around us.
Our lives are supposed to be like a vine connected to Jesus and we’re supposed to bear good fruit. Sounds cliché right? Until we realize the simple call that our lives are supposed to bear real fruit of good things that are real blessings to a real world. Paul writes it here– be a blessing to the world so that your life will be a testimony to Jesus. How we live is how we love God. Our actions count. We must be the good smell of Christ’s power. In this way our very living becomes the explanation of our faith. This is what it means to “bear witness”. What does your life smell like? Take a sniff today!