I’ve been talking about the mission and purpose of the local church lately and saying that at its simplest it seems to be a matter of “bringing heaven to earth.” I get some blank looks when I say that. People have heard other things. So, it was reassuring to hear someone saying the same things I’ve been talking about as I read the testimony of a California pastor named Denny Bellesi in a book called “The Kingdom Assignment.”
“Like many of you, I was raised in the church and grew up believing the Christian faith was only about getting to heaven,” Bellesi writes. “As an active child, I had no interest in death and dying, let alone heaven. I pictured clouds, harps, angels, that kind of thing, and believed it held no relevance whatsover to my life.
“No surprise that church attendance was not a priority for me back then. it was boring and irrelevant. As a young teenager, I remember waking up early on Sunday morning and doing all I could to keep my sister quiet and the television sound turned down low. I even tried setting all the clocks back in hope my parents would oversleep and forget about the whole thing.
“Heaven could wait, as far as I was concerned. There were many more important things to do. It wasn’t until my high school years that Jesus Christ had any real impact on my life. Even then, heaven wasn’t the driving motivation. Heaven was just the frosting on the cake.
“What captivated me was the everyday practicality of trying to live like Jesus.
“I began noticing how often the Kingdom was mentioned in the Gospels. How people related and worked and played and loved one another in the Kingdom. And eventually I began to realize that the kingdom Jesus was referring to wasn’t some faraway heavenly place.
“It was right here, right now.
“Suddenly, everything became clear. Being a Christian wasn’t about getting to heaven, although that was a benefit. It was about becoming part of the Kingdom among us, the one that is far too easy to miss unless we’re looking. I understood for the first time that the Kingdom of God wasn’t a place in the clouds or a dot on a map, but a reality that begins deep within us as we give our lives over to Jesus” (The Kingdom Assignment, Denny and Leesa Bellesi, Zondervan, 2001).
What if heaven could be more than “pie in the sky, by and by,” as the old preachers used to say. What if it could be “something sound, on the ground, while we’re still around”? Wouldn’t you do anything you could to bring heaven to earth? And what’s keeping you?