Somewhere along the Jordan River (probably just north of the Sea of Galilee), among a crowd of people Jesus is baptized by his famous cousin, John the Baptist. He emerges from the water and begins to pray.
And as he was praying, heaven was opened22 and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.” (Luke 3:21-22)
Notice to whom this statement is directed. It is not spoken to John or to the crowd. The statement is addressed to Jesus. It is spoken primarily for his benefit.
It is vitally important to understand that this event occurred at the very beginning of Jesus’ ministry. At this point he hasn’t yet preached a single sermon. He hasn’t yet healed a sick person. He hasn’t yet driven out a single demon. He hasn’t yet performed a single miracle. There has been no public ministry performed whatsoever.
And yet the Father gives him this amazing affirmation. “You are my Son. Whom I love. With you I am well pleased.”
When I first began pastoring, I had a pretty defined philosophy on how to lead a church. It was a philosophy that had been formed and shaped in large part by the current cultural trends of modern American church leadership. The components were as follows:
- Do everything (short of sin) that you can do to attract people to your Sunday morning gatherings.
- Your “wins” must be measurable (e.g. “How many were in attendance?” “How many were newcomers?” “How many got baptized?” “How many went through the Growth Track?” “How many people served at the last outreach?” “How many…?”).
- The biggest “win” of the Sunday morning gathering is getting people “saved.”
- You must get people constantly moving to the “next step” (“Now that you said ‘Yes’ to Jesus, have you registered for water baptism?” “Now that you’ve been baptized, have you joined a small group?” “Now that you’ve joined a small group, have you thought about helping to lead a group next semester?” Et cetera.).
There are other components as well, but you get the drift. Now, I hope I don’t come across as being cynical or dismissive. Because any healthy pastor wants people moving forward, and indeed, there are times when tangible, measurable steps are involved. I am not categorically against any of these things at all. My church certainly utilizes several of these components. But…
From that time Jesus began to preach and say, “Repent [change your old way of thinking] for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” – Matthew 4:17 (AMP)
On May 20th, 1936, Congress passed the Rural Electrification Act as part of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s “New Deal.” At the time, the usage of electricity was commonplace in cities. But most rural areas were still operating without electrical power.
The Rural Electrification Act paved the way with federal funding for the installation of electrical distribution systems in order to serve these rural areas. Immediately, electrical power became available to farms, ranches, and isolated settlements that until then had never experienced its benefit.
Everyday life for these rural folks had the potential to radically change in some of the most fundamental aspects – food preservation, dish-washing, cooking, laundry, bathing, and labor. A whole new world was at hand.