Presence Unto Movement – December 6, 2022 (360/365)

Compassion Philippines

National Pastors’ Conference 2022

Plenary 1: The Centrality of Christ

Facilitated by CB Samuel

Before anything else I just want to share that I’m not recording my thoughts here the same way I was doing things during our own Leadership Conference last September. Here, it’s a little more of a welcome challenge, where I go ahead and write what I write out of memory and not on the fly. Which I think is good, because whatever needs to be remembered is remembered, and I can have peace with what I forgot, saying that it wasn’t meant to be retained.

And in the case of Mr. Samuel, or rather, Mr. Christian (The ‘C’ in his name stands for Christian and apparently in India they’re like China and Japan, where the surnames precede the given name) – I say that it was a bit of a mixed bag with him, but leaning more towards what I resonate with, which was good.

The first thing he had me thinking about was his presentation style, where he had all of us imagine the conversations Peter had with his family when they had the chance, where they talked about this Jesus that he was following. It was a colorful presentation and discussion, and it certainly did not have any sort of insinuations towards legalism.

But that’s not to say that it wasn’t present. Or rather, I think I’ll just go with saying that Mr. Christian had at least one thing right – He didn’t go with someone else’s advice in following Jesus. No, it’s actually pretty simple – He intentionally wanted to know Jesus. See, he asked the person who introduced him to Jesus, ‘what’s next?’; and all he said was for him to read the Bible, pray every day, go to church, and so on… an answer that he wasn’t satisfied with. In his words, these were just add-ons.

Coming from that he immediately went to the Sermon of the Mount, and I honestly thought in his first words, ‘here we go’ – this guy was going to be talking about us doing the impossible, and getting points for trying, isn’t he? …well, not as much as I thought. In fact, I think I learned more than I expected here.

He was talking about how the Gospel is the motivation for change, and the more we read, the more we should be getting out of our comfort zone. He lamented on how everything was about comfort nowadays, and that the church has gotten accustomed to it, adjusting in the name of comfort. And sure, I agreed with that. But what really got to me was where he said that our dive into Christianity and our coming to believing in Jesus Christ ought to have us committing to a new way of doing things; and I certainly agreed with that. This here life we have in Christ is a new life, one that would have us recognizing the infinite and eternal as our reality, versus how we used to see things based on what was finite and ending.

I was a little afraid that he would come to the stage and start lamenting about how the church has gone astray, etc.; He sort of did, but not in the way I expected. No, he went ahead and called out how the church prioritized fixing sound systems more than feeding people. He went ahead and called out how the church prioritized having affluent or influential people to be part of their ‘family’. And if you’re reading this, and if you’re from my church, you know that we’ve been hit pretty hard by that. If this church has gone astray, it’s gone from being a movement to an institution – and again, I agreed with that.

To wrap up this session Mr. Christian mentioned how this Gospel that we have, and this ministry we’ve gotten ourselves into is certainly not one without pain or suffering. In fact, he straight up told everyone in attendance that if we preached a Christ who guaranteed that we would feel no pain, then we would be preaching a downright dirty lie. But I was getting signals from him that we would, or rather, more that we should suffer. He said that the disciples saw how Christ suffered, and he made the assumption that they prepared themselves to suffer that, if not worse fates.

And, as I’ve read in another book from another time, they did suffer. Peter crucified upside down. John suffering from a botched execution on Patmos. One crushed to death. One flayed to death. One beaten to death. I can’t remember what happened to who. But here’s the thing – I don’t think that their disposition was towards the suffering, but, as I preach to my own people and to myself, their focus was on Christ, up to the last moments of their physical bodies functioning.

And that’s the point I gathered from all of this. I’m not to be preaching Christ who says there is no pain. Nor should I preach a Christ who says all is pain. I will preach, that in the pain and out of it, Christ paid the greatest price to be present – The Son of God, King of Kings and Lord of Lords – present in all that happens to us, present in all we make happen.

My final thoughts as I compile and reflect on all of this, from our first session? Christ is not an institution we define, nor is He a historical person we should know. On the other hand, it was Christ who redefined our reality and renewed our minds, and He was the One who, while we were yet sinners, not only knew us, but made the conscious and intentional decision – not only to be born as one of us, but to die for us… and in so doing He rose from the dead, and not only did He rise, but He ascended into heaven, leaving us all as close to Him as we could ever be, by way of the Holy Spirit.

I’m sorry, I got a little carried away there. Now, as in always, Christ is not only the ‘center’, but He is in everything. In fact, I should probably take some time to meditate on how our Christ is actually also as decentralized… but that’s for another time.

There are at least 2 more plenaries today so I’m going to be giving my thoughts on those as we go along.

Until the next post, God bless you.

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