Over the last twelve years, I've visited quite a few Christian groups and churches all over the world and on every continent — except the one that has only penguins and a few scientists. I can say with absolute certainty that every single congregation and group could use a lot more "Ed-ness" in them. In fact, I'm pretty sure the apostle Paul would say that nearly all of us claiming to follow Jesus could use a lot more "Ed-ness" inside us! Let me explain.

If you were to ask non-church folks what church folks are like, what do you think they would say?

  • Too political?
  • Too negative?
  • Too judgmental?
  • They force their opinions on others?
  • They're faultfinders?
  • They think they are better than we are?
  • They think their way of living is better than anyone else's?

These are things unbelievers have said to me, and they are similar to what research has found. Clearly, I believe, they contain enough truth within them to humble us and call us to seek God to change us to better represent Jesus. Now, compare those descriptions with what opponents of the early church said about them and what Paul said should characterize those of us who follow Jesus:

When [their religious critics] saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus (Acts 4:13).

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law (Galatians 5:22-23).

Some of the criticisms leveled against modern believers and churches are probably unfair and overly critical. Many folks forget that believers were the first groups to start schools, build hospitals, and care for the broken and abandoned. Many modern believers and churches are invested in many of the same redemptive activities in their communities. However, the negative perceptions are a reality we must face. So, how do we turn around their opinions?

I think a good dose of "Ed-ness" might change some people's opinion. But what, then, is "Ed-ness"?

Ed is a normal good guy in our small group at church. He has a funny sense of humor, loves to rebuild old Model T Fords, and plays golf. He also bakes and delivers a six-pack of muffins each week. He takes them to folks who haven't found their way back to a church service since COVID-19 emerged. He made sure he wore a mask before the restrictions eased. He takes these muffins to those who have not returned to church since the "all clear" to re-assemble was given.

Here are the essentials about Ed's version of "Ed-ness":

  1. He saw a need to check on and connect with folks who have been absent, so he started doing it. It wasn't a church program. It wasn't a church leader's idea. He saw a need and then went to work meeting it with humor, grace, and creativity.
  2. While he delivers his six-pack of muffins with a simple card, he is really delivering love, concern, and recognition to people who have dropped out of their spiritual relationships. He lets them know they are missed and valued.
  3. Ed is building emotional and spiritual bridges for people to find their way back to friendship, fellowship, and relationships with other believers.

He was shocked to learn that most hadn't just dropped out because they got out of the habit, although that was true of a few. Many had become depressed, lonely, and frozen by fear and reluctance that became their new life framework, their new normal. They discovered that they were cut off from others and didn't have the courage or energy to go back. Ed became a bridge for them to return to life and Christian fellowship again.

I love that Ed is carrying out Paul's message to us in our Verse of the Day:

Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing (1 Thessalonians 5:11).

I am happy to have had his real-life example to share, an example of doing things to fulfill Scripture and bless others.

Look, let's be real about the social and cultural environment around us. We're not going to bring Jesus to the lost world until we learn to make our spiritual relationships with each more delightful and less spiteful. Folks aren't going to want our answers unless our gatherings are focused on blessing and not bashing, building up rather than tearing down each other.

So, if muffins aren't your "thing," then find another "thing." Be creative. Be true to yourself. Be prayerful. Most importantly, find a way to be a blessing to other people. Encourage and build up others. Find your version of "Ed-ness" and live it out. And, if you are already doing some of those kinds of things, then keep on doing it! Way to go! Thank you!

Every single congregation and Christian group I've visited could use a lot more "Ed-ness"!
Our focus in ToGather this week is on encouraging and building up others in Jesus' family. My job is to say "sic 'em" to you (that is, "Keep on doing it!"), thank you for what you are doing to bless others, and "God bless 'Ed-ness'!"

Below, you will find Phil's YouTube ® message followed by the whole ToGather.church worship video. The full worship video celebrates our life in Jesus through song, Communion, blessing, and a message. We pray that you are blessed, encouraged, built up, and inspired to bring our world more "Ed-ness"!

Phil's Message for This Week

Full ToGather Worship Video

Special thanks for the use of images related to Jesus' ministry from The Lumo Project and Free Bible Images for use in both ToGather videos.