Guest blog: a beacon of hope by Sarah DeShields
“O Make Your church, dear Savior, a lamp of purest gold
to bear before the nations Your true light as of old”
-William W. How, 1823-1897
When I started writing last night I took myself on a rant. A blithering, angsty rant about how we have become consumers of worship. That we have adopted the gods of celebrity and placed them in our house. I only got so far, and had to go to bed. Of course it was a restless night, because I have a 4 month old baby who is still not sleeping through the night, but I also just felt restless in my spirit.
Awakening this morning was like breathing a new air. It was like the grace of God was covering me like a blanket, and as I sang to my son in the morning light I felt the gentle nudge of the Holy Spirit saying “I have called you to be a beacon of hope”.
I love the discipline of the Father, because when we are listening well He is gentle with us. I was also reminded about two things: the word from Jesus to the church in Ephesus, where He explains that they had forgotten their first love and if they did not return, He would remove their golden lampstand, their beacon of light unto the world (Revelation 2v2-5). And a word brought to the Renovatus leaders in our early days, from a man who pastors a great church in this city - “Be known for what you are for, not what you are against”.
It’s so easy to rant and rave about what we see going wrong in the church. The world we know is fallen, but the church is expected to be held to a higher way. And yet she is ravaged from the inside by our own cynicism and fear. My dear church, we are called to be a beacon of hope, that shines with light from within.
Now, oftentimes it is right to speak out against things that are awry in the body of Christ. As leaders we often have the uncomfortable charge of correction. If you are a leader in your church, you know what I mean when I say that leading is both a beautiful and inspiring work to be given, and yet can be very difficult when it comes to true discipling. We encounter rebellion, pride, anger, fear and more within the hearts of those we lead. But when we are honest about the fact that those things have also resided in us and see the hand of the Lord continually taking us from freedom to freedom, we yearn to see the same in those we are in community with. So our correction must be spoken safely under the banner of love.
But I don’t speak of healthy pastoral correction here. I speak of the disgruntled criticism of the church from those who claim to follow the Head. I myself am the queen of these. I fall often into the trap of sensing what grieves the Lord’s heart and turning it into a personal vendetta against a church, a movement, or a single person belonging to Christ. Instead of longing and praying for their freedom, or speaking in the love of Jesus and under the timely prompting of the Holy Spirit, I complain about them with others who would agree, till I feel good, justified, holier than thou.
But we are called to be a beacon of hope. Not just to the world, but to one another. Because when we treat one another with the grace and forgiveness we have been given from God Himself, we ARE the light of the world, we are the hope the world is longing for. We are walking in the love of Christ.
If you are dissatisfied with something in the church, instead of grumbling about it with those who would fuel your critical fire, why not sit in the pews between the liars, dreamers and misfits we call the body of Christ and begin to live the opposite of what troubles your spirit, lest we ourselves align with the “accuser of the brethren”. Embrace the bride in all her imperfections, knowing that Jesus is setting her free day by day, making her perfect through what He has already accomplished for her, undeserving as she may be.
As worship pastor at Renovatus, my charge is not to stand on a platform and point fingers at how worship music has fallen prey to consumerism and idolatry. My charge is to mould a worship experience that does not do the same. To lead Renovatus into a worship that is of Spirit and Truth, that revels in community and song, and connects itself with the history of those who have gone before whilst endeavoring to be a people from the future. We’re not there yet perhaps – the Lord is always showing us where performance, pride and perfectionism exist. But we are to be listening well, and while we are full of cynicism and a critical spirit, we may not be able to hear.
Sarah DeShields is the Worship Pastor at Renovatus: A Church for People Under Renovation