I like to ask people new to our congregation about their first impressions of Village Church. Mary's answer surprised me. "I've been part of a church family for as long as I can remember," she said, "but this is the only church where the pastor blessed his people at the end of the service." She always thought the benediction was the last hymn the congregation sang before returning to the world; she didn't know it was God's blessing on his people.
"When you stretched out your arms and sang a song of blessing over us," she said, "I was moved to tears. You weren't just sending us out to face the world on our own; you were pouring out God's blessing and Spirit on us so that we would be better prepared to face the world."
Benedictions have become one of my favorite pastoral privileges. I can't imagine ending a worship service with, "See you next week," or "You're dismissed," when I can offer a congregation God's blessing instead.
"This is how you are to bless …"
There are many kinds of benedictions. Some pastors write a unique blessing for each Sunday, drawing from the texts of the morning. Scripture itself provides the church with many blessings, including Paul's familiar, "Grace and peace to you from our Lord Jesus Christ." But one blessing is the source and summary of all others.
In Numbers 6:23–26, God instructed Moses that Aaron and his sons were to bless the Israelites in this way: "The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you; the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace."
This blessing was Israel's national ...