By guest blogger Tom Nebel:
For years I’ve had to take a deep breath whenever anyone asked me what I did for a living. I knew that as soon as I’d say anything about helping to see new churches started I’d receive a patronizing and dismissive smile– and I’d be relegated to some dustbin of irrelevance. It took me a while to come up with a helpful response. I now start by saying, “I’ll only tell you what I do if you give me a chance to tell you why I do it.” That usually cracks the door open long enough for me to make a run at the subject.
Now that I’ve got the listener’s attention I talk about how we live in a hope-starved world. When their head nods—as they invariably do—I say, “I work to bring hope for the here and the hereafter.” People tend to get that. I tell stories of how our new churches in Converge are serving their communities in unusual ways. I say, “I have a front-row seat, seeing people bring hope to a hope-starved world.” Of course, we bring hope for the hereafter as well. So I talk about how most people live without certainty for the life to come, and how that was my story once. And then I remark that people don’t have to play a guessing game about heaven.
Last year about this time I was in Italy, speaking at some events, but we spent about four days doing Rome. Of course, we got to the Vatican Museum (too many statues!) and we meandered through, finally, to the Sistine Chapel, where Michelangelo painted his ceiling masterpiece back in the 1500’s. I’d prepared with some reading and podcasts, so I knew some of the story. Michelangelo did a lot of his work because the Pope had him in a headlock. He was forcefully persuaded to make art, including that of the Chapel. After the ceiling was finished, Michelangelo was “asked” to paint a scene behind the altar. It’s there on the wall. It’s called “The Final Judgment.” It’s a cacophony of angels, demons, saints, the saved, and the damned. It was Michelangelo’s final great work.
Here’s why I tell you that story: Michelangelo was uncertain about his final destiny. Look at the painting and you’ll see his self-portrait on the flayed skin of St. Bartholomew. If you’re interested in more of the story, see this link: http://www.italian-renaissance-art.com/Last-Judgement.html, and scroll down to the part where St. Bartholomew holds his own skin. Art historians assure us that we see Michelangelo there, somewhere between heaven and hell, entirely uncertain of where he’d spend eternity. Wow.
Colleagues: you have the hope of eternity. You have this promise: “He who has the Son has life” (I John 5:12). You are encountering people daily—even religious people—who need that hope. Don’t stumble to explain what you do. Tell people that you’re bringing hope for the here and the hereafter.