I once heard a guy talking about missions who told a story about a young pastor who built a church in an unchurched community by asking one question: If things were “on earth” as they are “in heaven”, then what would things look like here?
He felt like God had called him to the lowest people group in his country—a group that had just been relocated by the government to a swamp. This pastor, as he read the Bible, felt that our call as Christians was to bring Heaven to earth. It’s what Jesus did while he was on earth—all of His miracles seemed to him to be about bringing the perfection and beauty of Heaven into the brokenness and ugliness of earth. So, as he looked at these lost people, living in the swamp, the first thing He thought was, in Heaven, they would have dry land to walk on. So he set about creating dry land. He built drainage trenches for the water and worked until what was swamp was dry, fertile ground.
He then asked again: What would heaven by like in this place? He said that in Heaven, there is no sickness or pain. These people had any number of treatable ailments, but they were the lowest caste in society, so they had no doctors and couldn’t afford help. This pastor in his “B.C.” days, (before Christ) had been one of the most successful mob bosses in the nation (not that they called it the mob, but that was the general idea) and ran a very successful, if illegal, business. He put his cunning and business skills to use, contacted doctors and dentists and other health professionals in the nearby city and convinced them to come and treat his people.
The story went on as the speaker detailed thing after thing that the young pastor did to bring Heaven to earth for the least of these that he had been called to. The speaker had gone with the pastor to see the former swamp and the people who lived there. As he entered the town, people were along the roads calling out to him, eagerly telling him about the goodness and love of Jesus as he passed by. They had experienced the transformative, amazing love of God first hand and couldn’t wait to share it with others.
The story blew me away. What would Heaven look like here, and now, in my neighborhood, in this person’s life, in this relationship, situation, etc.?
I would love to say I have done a great job of asking that question and then working in response to bring heaven to earth. I haven’t. But I have a neighbor who has. … I’ll explain how tomorrow.