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On Sunday, in gatherings throughout the city in which I live (and throughout the world for that matter!), those who affirm their allegiance to Jesus will meet. Words will be shared, songs sung, greetings exchanged, Scripture read, prayer offered. And, invariably, as they do week to week, those who participate will leave saying, “It was good to meet with God today!” or “God was here, wasn’t he?”

But will there be any evidence that those things are so? Yes, the Christians met. Yes, the did stuff–the kind of stuff they typically do on an average Sunday. But will there be any evidence that God was there, that he showed up?

I’ve lived in church circles long enough to realize that we feel the need to tell ourselves that God was there. We want others to become convinced that we are not just talking to ourselves–and maybe we want to convince ourselves that we are not just wasting a few hours that could be otherwise spent. But will there be any evidence that God was present?

In writing about how he understood “ministry” to happen, Paul explained to the Corinthians:

And when I came to you, brethren, I did not come with superiority of speech or of wisdom, proclaiming to you the testimony of God. For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified. I was with you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling,  and my message and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith would not rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God. (1 Corinthians 2:1-5)

A few things stand out to me in what Paul writes. First, he’s clear about the message. The center of the target in what he talks about is Jesus and what Jesus did in dying for us. It’s clear from his letters (read Romans, for example) that those aren’t the only words that Paul would say. But it is equally clear that Jesus–who he is, what he did, how he saves, what he’s like, how we know him–is what consumed Paul’s mind and filled his messages.

The second thing is what Paul was not about. He wasn’t given over to impressing people with words or persuading them as best he could. It isn’t that he wouldn’t speak forthrightly and honestly about the message. He just wasn’t all about leveraging his human skills and talents to be “effective”–even if it were for the sake of the kingdom.

The last thing I notice is the “evidence” thing. Paul writes that his preaching, his message-ing, came with a demonstration of the Spirit and of power. That is, when he shared he not only anticipated but also saw evidence that God was really at work in and through the message about Jesus. Something would happen that could not be explained merely in human terms–and the result would be that people encountered God (really, not just saying they did!) and their faith would rest “in the power of God.” There was something experientially evident in Paul’s “church services” that made it clear that God was there.

So I wonder. As Christians gather–whenever and wherever they will tomorrow–would any outside observer see any evidence that God was also there? Would an observer merely conclude that a bunch of people who claim they know God and who insist they have a “personal relationship” with Jesus and who assert they live because of the Spirit of God did what a bunch of humans do–and nothing more?


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