To be honest, my sabbatical was meant to be a time of rest. Yet now as I write out some of the things I sensed God sharing with me during this portion of my sabbatical, I sense a real urgency to act. Not a time of peace or tranquility but a time of action and follow-through. Yet, interestingly enough, throughout my entire sabbatical, while God was sharing some of these ‘urgent’ messages with me, I never really felt a need to go back home and become a busy doer, hustling around like a one-armed paper-hanger (as my mother used to say).
As a matter of fact, just the opposite is true. I sensed as I read Eugene Peterson’s newest book, The Pastor: A Memoir, I was being given permission by God to become what Peterson calls, “the unbusy pastor”. A shepherd of God’s people who takes his or her time to focus on God’s presence. A pastor who consciously steps away from the demanding taskmaster known as the 3-B Syndrome (see session 2) and gives more time to listening for the voice of the Lord and listening to the people; finding out what God is doing and then limit myself to just those things.
As I ponder on some of the stuff I’ve shared with you thus far, I sense the Lord, once again, reminding me that the real battle is fairly simple. There really is only one thing that matters to God. His Kingdom presence.
Will I go home from my sabbatical and focus on that one thing, or will I allow the 3-B Syndrome to take over? Will I go back to Iowa and focus my life on becoming a person who simply does his best at practicing the Kingdom presence of God or will I return to my trek of becoming a successful church-growth rancher? Will I help others become people of His Kingdom presence or will I drive people into church programming, encouraging them to get on board the Church, Inc. express? Will I help people link together in the love of Christ, encouraging them to learn the fine art of practicing the Kingdom presence for themselves, or return to the ‘Americanized church’ that focuses on getting big buildings, collecting big bucks, and accumulating more butts in the seats?
If you recall what I shared earlier, I mentioned that God is looking for churches that will focus on storing up the Kingdom presence of God. I asked the Lord to describe that more for me and all I got was the term “Manifest Agape”.
Let me unpack that term just a bit.
‘Manifest’ simply means something that was once hidden or invisible is now readily perceived by our senses, especially by the sense of sight. Manifest means something easily understood or recognized by the mind. When the term is used in reference to God, ‘manifest’ refers to our invisible God acting in such a way that He becomes more visible and understandable to us. Jesus of Nazareth, for example, is the ‘manifest’ revelation of God’s love. Our invisible God reveals (manifests) Himself to an unbelieving world by giving us His ‘flesh and blood’ Son so we earth-dwellers can see and touch God’s heavenly glory.
‘Agape’, of course, is the biblical Greek New Testament word for God’s unconditional love. The ancient Greek language was fortunate in having several words for our English word ‘love’. ‘Eros’, for example, is used when referencing a romantic or sexual love between a man and a woman. ‘Philia’ was used when referring to a brotherly type of love, the common bond between a brother and a sister. But ‘agape’ is used in the New Testament when the authors refer to God’s love. It’s an unconditional, no holes barred, forgiving, never-dying love that holds on even when it’s hard. ‘Agape’ loves even when it is a ‘one-way’ love. Loving a person, treating them with respect and honor, even when that love is not returned in kind.
God’s unconditional love, readily accessible, easily obtained, and overflowing from God’s heart into and through the lives of His people. As I see it, it’s manifest agape that the Lord is looking for us to store up in our lives and in our churches. Anybody want to go hunting for some?